This Smart Strategy Helps Jen Berry Stay Present at Work and at Home

In her Thrive Questionnaire, the Senior Management Associate at Bridgewater Associates shares the mindset shift that's allowed her to set boundaries, prioritize, and spend time with family.

At Thrive Global, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re inviting women business leaders to share how they Thrive. 

Thrive Global: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about prioritizing your health and well-being?

Jen Berry: The best advice I received was, you can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself first. And I find that is so true. If I don’t take the time to get centered, have some alone time, and give myself the things that I need, I have less to give as a mom, a wife and a friend. We have to learn to be kind to ourselves and to love and care for ourselves as we do for others. If we do that, we will have more to give, not less.

TG: What’s the best advice that you would give women about preventing burnout?

JB: Ask for help and partnership. We tend to put everything on our shoulders and feel like a failure if we can’t do it all and fear that asking for help is putting a burden on others. So we abhor asking for help, sharing the load or letting others do things for us. We need to realize not only that we can’t do it alone, but also that we don’t have to. Believe it or not, others can also get joy from helping us just like we get joy from helping them. Opening up ourselves to that can be liberating and also bring you closer as a family. Sharing the load isn’t being a burden, it is being a partner.

TG: What’s important in your life outside of work? What helps you thrive? With a demanding schedule, how do you make time for these important things? 

JB: I have 4 kids, two puppies, and a husband. They are very important to me, they are my life. I don’t think of it as “making time for them”. I “make time for the other things”. One rule that we have in our family is that my husband and I go home and have dinner with the kids at 5:15 every Tuesday and Thursday. We have a rule of no phones, no devices, no distractions and we have quality time as a family. Those are my boundaries and I figure out work around that to make that quality time to really be present. I find that when I would try to do everything at once (find some time for me, the kids, my husband, work etc) I would try to multitask which would make me stressed and no one gets what they need. While the time I spend with my kids might be less in quantity, it is much higher in quality and they know that I am fully present when I am with them. Amazing things can happen when you are fully present.

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?  

I first prioritize two things at work, the big must dos, and some little things that will impact people in how they think, feel or work. I do the second, because if you only focus on the first, the second will never happen and it can deteriorate your team. So it can be anything from sending a thank you note, doing a team lunch, spending a team meeting doing a developmental exercise, reaching out to a team member to check in on them, etc. These little things really impact the way of being on a team. Then I look at the list and figure out what things I can get help on and have other people do instead of me. Then, finally I go through and think about what things I’m not going to be able to do and escalating those things to the right people. The last thing is the hardest but also the most important. You just have to be realistic on what you can’t do well and let people know. That can help you take those things off of your plate and many times it isn’t a problem. It is the fear about doing that that usually holds us back, the fear that it means we are failing, or that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t needed. But that is usually in our heads and if we can let go of that, we can really do the things we need to in a great way.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct? 

What I learned from my mom’s death and having health issues over the last few years is that you can’t sweat the small stuff and you need to find joy, not negativity wherever you can. Sometimes I think about what I’m thankful for, or think about how I should see these stressful things as challenges vs problems. But the biggest thing is zooming out and understanding that I can’t control what happens to me but I can control how I react to it and the more I can bring light and joy to situations, the better those situations will be.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking so you can feel “unstuck” and move forward?  

A lot of negative thinking I believe comes from our deeply seeded fears. I have a fear of not being good enough and not being wanted. So I whenever my negative thinking comes in and I start to catastrophize or get frustrated, I have to pause.   The first thing that I do, is I ask myself, “do I really believe those fears?”. Sometimes, it might be yes, and then I have to figure out what to do about them. But most times, it is no, and it is instead driven by an insecurity or internal fear that doesn’t actually reflect reality. E.g. my boss not inviting me to a meeting doesn’t’ mean that he hates me, wants to fire me and thinks I’m useless…maybe his admin just forgot to add me…or maybe he knows I’m working on important things and doesn’t want to distract me. So many times we get hung up on preparing for the worst that we lose perspective on the likely. So to feel unstuck, I need to center myself and remember: ask questions, don’t assume the worst. Whatever happens, you can handle it.  You are good enough, so go do great things.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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