Community//

Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez of ‘The Burnout Fix’: “Grow Your Emotional Vocabulary”

Grow Your Emotional Vocabulary: One of the most impactful things you can do for your emotional wellness is to build out your emotional vocabulary. Imagine if you were familiar with only three emotions: happy, mad, and anxious. That would mean that whenever you felt something in yourself or perceived someone else’s emotion, you would be […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Grow Your Emotional Vocabulary: One of the most impactful things you can do for your emotional wellness is to build out your emotional vocabulary. Imagine if you were familiar with only three emotions: happy, mad, and anxious. That would mean that whenever you felt something in yourself or perceived someone else’s emotion, you would be inclined to conceptualize those experiences in terms of happy, mad, and anxious. This would be quite limiting in understanding the nuances in your and other’s experiences. When you grow out your emotional vocabulary, you can begin to distinguish finer meanings behind your feelings. In this way, you are allowing your brain to have many more options for predicting, perceiving, and responding to emotions, which empowers your to respond in more useful, effective, and efficient ways.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Silicon Valley based psychologist, executive leadership coach, and author of The Burnout Fix, Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez.

Jacinta M. Jiménez, PsyD, BCC (also known as “Dr. J”) is an award-winning Psychologist, Board-Certified Leadership Coach, and the author of the book, The Burnout Fix. An in-demand speaker, consultant, and coach, she has worked with individuals in top organizations in Silicon Valley and throughout the world. A graduate of Stanford University and the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium, Dr. J is a sought-after expert in bridging the fields of psychology and leadership. She contributes to national news and TV outlets, including CNN/HLN, Business Insider, Forbes, and Fast Company. As the former Global Head of Coaching at BetterUp, she developed groundbreaking science-backed coaching approaches for helping today’s top organizations foster resilience, while also leading a global community of 1500+ international Leadership Coaches in over 58 countries. She holds a certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University and provides consultation on topics related to this important area as well.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Growing up, my father and his family worked picking crops day in and day out for little pay, often existing without a home, as migrant field laborers from Mexico. Thanks to the efforts of his family, I was able to have the chance to pursue my educational dreams and aspirations to make a positive impact on the world. However, throughout my experiences of navigating the fields of academia, technology, and health care, I saw very few Latinas or women of color leaders that looked like me. I wasn’t seeing or hearing my experience or voice represented in the books I read nor in the people whose careers I admired. At first, this was very discouraging for me and I often felt the need to cover parts of myself to fit in, which took a toll on my vitality. Over time however, I’ve learned to lean heavily into a set of pro-resilience practices to keep me moving forward on my path. These experiences have infused in me the importance of resilience, authenticity, and belonging. I want to show others who are underrepresented (especially in the fields of academia, health care, and STEM) that they belong in the arena as well.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Without a doubt, my maternal grandmother. Grandma Mary had tough life. Her mother died when she was young and that meant that she was pulled out of school in the 8th grade to help her family. She eventually ended up working as a maid at a roadside motel. However, my grandmother never saw herself as a maid. Rather, she took it upon herself to be the champion of my education — something she wasn’t privileged enough to have. She would send me a letter every month, without fail, all the way through my postdoctoral graduate work — which is a seriously long time and a lot of letters! In those letters she would tell me how much she loved and believed in me. Through this, she not only infused in me the importance of education towards empowerment, but also just how powerful providing unconditional positive regard to another human can be. My grandmother has since passed, but I will never forget the look of pure joy on her face when she attended my doctoral graduation — it is a moment in time that will be forever framed in my heart. The experience of my grandmother’s unwavering belief in me, combined with my own personal struggles with belonging growing up have shaped my meaningful pursuit in life and work: To educate and empower others through science to live their lives with greater authenticity and vitality.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Much of my training to become a psychologist focused on how to conceptualize and diagnose indicators of mental illness in order to help others get back to baseline functioning. I was desiring to see more research and theory on how we can use psychology to not only get people back to baseline, but to further help them cultivate mental wellness and thrive in work and life. That being said, when I read Flourish, by Dr. Martin Seligman, I was incredibly delighted. In it, Seligman challenges readers to embrace a theory of well-being in which the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing, which what my life’s work is now focused on.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Growing up, my parents instilled in me this quote by poet John Bunyan, “you have not lived a memorable day until you have done something for someone who cannot possibly repay you.” And while I can never fully repay my parents for their scarifies to provide me with a better life than they had, I can pay it forward by working to promote authenticity and belonging at scale through my work.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I just finished writing a book, The Burnout Fix, which offers an evidence-based resilience toolkit to help readers find better, more sustainable ways to succeed at work and life. I started writing in early 2019, with no idea what was to come in 2020. I am hopeful that it will help readers learn practical and easy to apply skills, mindsets, and behaviors to facilitate sustainability in the face of increasing changes in the world. In the book, I also use science to debunk outdated formulas (work harder, hustle more, etc.) of what it takes to be and remain successful in our new world of work. My deepest desire from this work is that these practices help readers create a lasting set of core capabilities to help them buffer against the alarming epidemic of burnout that we are facing. In doing so, readers will be better equipped to show up to their work, families, communities, and lives more energized, empathic, and engaged.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

One thing that’s been a really big influence for me has been starting a regular Loving Kindness Mediation (LKM) practice. Similar to how some meditations bring your attention to the breath over and over again, in this meditation, you bring your attention to a set of wishes for yourself and others. Common phrases in a Loving Kindness Meditation include: may you be safe, may you feel healthy, may you feel happy, may you leave with ease. You start by focusing on applying these phrases towards yourself and then build up to thinking of others while repeating these phrases. Perhaps one of the key things it is useful for is to escape the chronic sense of self-absorption that many of us find ourselves in. Instead of staying wrapped up in our own to do list or concerns, it offers us a way to step out of our self-focus. Research on the benefits of this particular type of meditation include: Increased positive emotions and decreases negative emotion, increased feelings of social connection, activation of empathy in the brain, and reduced self-criticism.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Balance Stress with Rest: One of the most important habits to develop to build optimum physical wellness is to learn how to balance stress with rest. Stress in small doses is not a bad thing, it can actually stimulate growth. The real culprit is chronic stress without recovery. As a species, humans are not wired to experience extended periods of stress. Rather, we were designed to experience stress for short times when faced with threats in our environment (such as a bear walking towards us). Once we navigated the situation, we had time to recover and allow our nervous system to relax. However, in modern day life, with the advent of technology, more and more people are finding themselves faced with stressors that are inducing sympathetic nervous system activation for substantial periods of time. Chronic nervous system activation without the counterbalance of recovery can result in many harmful psychical alignments. To avoid this, I encourage my clients to embrace this mantra: when you stress, you must rest. If you know you’re going to experience a particularly stressful event in your day, be sure to schedule breaks (even micro moments) to intentionally calm your nervous system. One of the single most impactful ways to do this is to focus on your breath. Your breath is connected to your nervous system in many ways. Just by lengthening your exhales, you can calm yourself down in minutes. I recommend the practice coherent breathing (slowing your breath to a rate of five breaths per minute). Research shows that breathing practices can also benefit the body by decreasing stress and regulating the body’s level of cortisol, a stress hormone. It can also strengthen your immune system and even reduce activation of pain sensors in the brain.

Practice Self-Compassion: Part of being human is that life isn’t always going to be easy and you aren’t going to get everything right. Challenges and mistakes are guaranteed. Learning to be kind to yourself during difficult times can help to circumvent developing negative perceptions of oneself. What’s great about this practice is it is quite simple: when you catch yourself being overly critical or judgmental, simply pause and begin to talk to yourself as you would to a close friend or family member who is going through a similar situation. This practice allows you to acknowledge when you’re struggling, to be more understanding (versus self-critical) when faced with a challenge, and to recognize that you’re not alone in the difficulties your face or the mistakes you make. There is quite amount of research that demonstrates a strong positive correlation between mental wellbeing and self-compassion, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms of distress, reduced emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation.

Invest in Relationships: A that study examined data from more than 309,000 people found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50 percent. This risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and is a greater than obesity and physical inactivity! On the flip side, solid connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity. Remember, solid relationships are not just a nice to have, they’re an essential component for a healthy, vibrant life.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Oftentimes when thinking about setting up healthy habits, we only think about the behavior and/or processes we want to change rather than our values, identity, and the bigger why behind what we do. To truly stick to new habits, taking time to focus on your identity and values can go a long way in making them stick. When approaching a behavior change goal with a client, I engage them in 3 key steps: Why, what, and how. This first step involves articulating the way in which this change reflects one’s core values. For example, one of my clients, who was working to engage in more healthy dietary choices, highly valued family. Through our work together, we were able to connect eating better to this value. Specifically, being healthier meant he could become more active with his children and ultimately live longer to be there for his family. This shift in perspective was very powerful for him as it tied his eating choices to his identity as someone who values family. I often have my clients write their “why” out and put it on their phones, their bathroom mirror, and any other place where they can see it and be reminded of it often. Once the “why” is clear, the “what” and the “how” often are much easier to facilitate.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Grow Your Emotional Vocabulary: One of the most impactful things you can do for your emotional wellness is to build out your emotional vocabulary. Imagine if you were familiar with only three emotions: happy, mad, and anxious. That would mean that whenever you felt something in yourself or perceived someone else’s emotion, you would be inclined to conceptualize those experiences in terms of happy, mad, and anxious. This would be quite limiting in understanding the nuances in your and other’s experiences. When you grow out your emotional vocabulary, you can begin to distinguish finer meanings behind your feelings. In this way, you are allowing your brain to have many more options for predicting, perceiving, and responding to emotions, which empowers your to respond in more useful, effective, and efficient ways.

Take Care of Your Gut Microbiome: You have trillions of bacteria in your gut, which is collectively known as the microbiome. These microbes can affect not only the GI system, but also your mind. Gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin and hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood. It’s important to point out that just as gut bacteria affect the brain, the brain can also have significant influences on your gut microbiome. The mind and body are inherently connected, we must invest in taking care of both.

Practice Gratitude: Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable to you, being thankful for what you have, and showing this appreciation to others. More specifically, the word gratitude is said to have derived from the Latin word gratia, which means graciousness or gratefulness. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with positive emotions, improved health, increased ability to deal with adversity, and even stronger relationships. Practicing gratitude can be done in many ways, including writing a thank you note, keeping a gratitude journal, or simply picking a time every week to sit down and write things that went well.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Embrace Meaning and Purpose: Cultivating meaning and purpose is one of the most powerful things you can do for your overall wellness. This takes time, but it is well worth the effort. Without a clear “why” behind your life and your actions, your motivation can be impacted.

Regularly Engage in Reflection: John Dewey, an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer is known for the quote, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” Making time for self-reflection is a great way to nurture and improve your for self-awareness and spiritual wellness. Inner strength, principles, and beliefs grow in clarity when we take time to deeply understand who we are and who we are not. One way to do this is to engage in journaling at least two times per a month. During this time, you can ask yourself questions such as: who do I want to become? What gives me hope? What do I need to let go of? What do I need more of? Do my values guide my decisions and actions? Why or why not?

Practice the Art of Forgiveness: Holding on tightly to grievances can not only be damaging for your spiritual health, but your mental and physical health as well. Research has found that the act of forgiveness can help lower your risk of heart attack; improve cholesterol levels and sleep; reduce blood pressure; and decrease levels of anxiety and depression. Although the process of forgiveness can take time, as you let go of grudges, little by little it will become easier. Oftentimes, deep meaning can come from this process. Eventually, you may even feel lighter. Holding onto things that bring us pain hold us back from living our personal life to the fullest; as the Zen Proverb states, “let go, or be dragged.”

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I strongly believe that in order to maintain our health, vitality, and well-being in our new world of work and life, we must actively work with (instead of against) our capacities as human beings. We are human beings, not machines. When we deny our humanity for the sake of overwork and/or productivity, not only do we suffer, but our families, communities, and companies do too. Our capacities as humans must be recognized and honored. This means actively investing in pro-resilience practices that allowed us to survive and thrive for centuries as a species — how we think, feel, behave, relate to others, and maintain our physical reserves. These practices are no longer ‘nice-to-haves’ in our increasingly complex world, they are non-negotiables.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I dream of having lunch with Ariana Huffington to talk with her about the burnout epidemic and what we can leverage from the field of behavioral science to help buffer against it. Her work has been beyond inspirational and pivotal in challenging outdated formulas of what it takes to be and stay successful in work and life.

America Ferrera is another person I look up to tremendously. She is a trailblazer for many Latinas like myself. Her opening speech at the Women’s March on Washington was incredibly inspiring for me; I’d like to thank her for representing Latinas and promoting women empowerment in such in such a positive light.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me and sign up for my newsletter at www.drjacintajimenez.com. My book, The Burnout Fix, is for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and bookstores. I hope you check it out!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

LQ and Emotional Eating

by Chris Wise
Community//

How Conscious Eating Liberates You from Emotional Eating

by Tracie Strucker
Community//

Why Being F.I.T. is Essential to Thriving Through COVID19

by Dr. Michael Mantell
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.