Julie Wald: “Pencils down”

Pencils down. Choose a time of day when it’s “TIMES UP!”. “Pencils down” as they used to say when I was a kid taking a test in school. Whether you are done or not, you’re done. Other aspects of your life need your attention. Pick a time of the day when you close your laptop, […]

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Pencils down. Choose a time of day when it’s “TIMES UP!”. “Pencils down” as they used to say when I was a kid taking a test in school. Whether you are done or not, you’re done. Other aspects of your life need your attention. Pick a time of the day when you close your laptop, no matter what. Make it consistent by putting it on your calendar and building that habit, daily. It is a liberating feeling to prioritize your own mental health and well-being.

Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Wald.

Julie Wald is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, Inner Wealth: How Wellness Heals, Nurtures, and Optimizes Ultra-Successful People, and the founder of Namaste Wellness. Julie has over twenty-five years of experience as a clinical social worker, yoga and meditation teacher. She’s committed to serving Namaste’s elite clientele of high performing companies and their employees, as well supporting individuals and families who are struggling with stress, mental health or physical challenges.

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?

I knew I wanted to be a social worker and make a career out of helping others when I was a teenager. I began volunteering at a local soup kitchen in Boston, and this experience taught me a lot about myself, including what drives me, what challenges me, what comes most naturally to me, and what brings me joy.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When I first began my career, I worked as a clinical social worker — a job which by nature is intense and high-stress. Over time, using wellness as a tool became not only a nice relief, but a necessity for my personal well-being. I practiced things like yoga, meditation and other self-help modalities and began teaching others these practices as well. While living in New York in 2003, I found myself teaching yoga in the living room of one of the most successful business people in the world, who was still recovering from the trauma of 9/11. We worked together practicing yoga, breathwork and meditation early in the morning three times a week. These practices were truly transformative to this student who decided that all of his employees should have access to the same thing. After this experience, we launched Namaste Wellness, a corporate wellness business and our first program, for this extraordinary leader and firm.

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?

My private clients, who are some of the most intelligent and accomplished people in the world, have been a huge source of encouragement and support. They were a key factor in spreading the word about Namaste early on as they were so excited to share the benefits they had been receiving from our work together. Our business grew entirely word of mouth…30% year over year for a decade! This fact alone has provided me with a sense of self-efficacy and confidence that has kept pushing me forward despite facing various (and many) obstacles through the years.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I made the mistake of believing that because I didn’t study business, I could not be the CEO of my own company. My training and background are in wellness and social work so I thought that leading Namaste would be a job better suited for someone else. However, I then realized that I was acting out of fear and my misconception was truly limiting myself and my potential for growth. My mistake later allowed me to push myself, step-up and become the CEO which has been a tremendously positive experience for myself and for Namaste. I had forgotten two key variables — I am allowed to make mistakes, and I can learn!

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

“Good luck and bad luck are all mixed up because we never know what will happen next.” I love this quote because it builds a sense of trust in the ups and downs of a journey…one door closes and another one opens, so to speak. Something might seem like a really “bad” thing, and then the hardship pushes us to grow and we land in an even more fulfilling place in our lives.

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

We are very excited about the work we are doing with companies as they navigate the slippery mental health terrain that has come along with the pandemic. We learn everyday about the nuanced struggles that organizations, teams and individuals are facing, and we are able to meet them where they are with innovative, ever evolving, evidence-based programming. When employees feel seen and heard by their organization as well as Namaste as their wellness partner, they are able to build resilience and begin the healing process.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?


A drive to serve others

Commitment / “stick-to-itiveness”

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?

I have been coaching high performing leaders for 20 years, as well as their hard-working teams, on how to optimize performance AND optimize well-being. Burnout is an everyday theme we tackle as it is extremely prevalent among our clients and why they seek our help to begin with.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about beating burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?

Burnout is more than being stressed-out…it’s a serious condition that happens to individuals when their work becomes so demanding that they no longer have the resources and capability to adapt and respond. This happens not only with employees, but in situations like caregiving. Burnout doesn’t occur because an individual lacks skill or drive. In fact, it’s often the most dedicated workers who experience burnout, and it’s often the same “strength” or drive that brought them success in the first place that can ultimately lead them to burnout and breakdown. WE say a lot at Namaste — “our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness.”

How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?

The opposite of burnout is feeling fulfilled and energized. When we talk about burnout to employees, we want them to understand that the solution to burnout has to do with caring for yourself and your personal needs so you can show up to work ready to go. A busy day at work should leave you feeling fulfilled, not frustrated. And when you have more work to do, there’s value in recognizing when it’s time to put the computer down and take time for yourself.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?

Burnout, when not treated, can cause a lot of mental and physical health issues. Research shows burnout can cause and/or increase depression, anger, irritability and anxiety. For your physical health, burnout can increase the likelihood of getting heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, respiratory issues and death before the age of 45. Not only are these effects severe for an individuals’ health, but for business leaders, burnout can mean the downfall of their company. Employees who are experiencing burnout will be sub optimized contributors, which will lead to a loss in profits for their organization in the long run.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627926/

From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?

From my experience with our corporate clients, the main causes of burnout are a combination of internal and external variables. Internally — a mindset that we “are never enough” or “will never be done” is a dangerous mental climate. Also, a company culture that does not support self-care, or understand the need for work / life balance can contribute to burnout behaviors. Impossible workloads and deadlines are a component of burnout as well.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)

As an individual looking to beat burnout —

  1. Look to build small self-care habits by stacking them on to existing behaviors. For example, if you have coffee every day, try 5 minutes of mindfulness during or right after your coffee, daily. Anxiety about the future can be a driver of burnout, and building the mental muscle of being in the present moment through mindfulness can be very supportive.
  2. Block off a midday time to move — for 20 or 30 minutes. If your company doesn’t offer this virtually or onsite, find a friend and make a virtual date. Whether it’s desk yoga or dance cardio, any kind of movement break will provide a release for pent up stress and re-energize your body and mind for the remainder of the day. I started implementing this personally and it is game changing for me. Sometimes we do this as a team, and sometimes I do it independently. Midday movement removes the pressure to exercise in the morning, which can be hard for parents with kids.
  3. Pencils down. Choose a time of day when it’s “TIMES UP!”. “Pencils down” as they used to say when I was a kid taking a test in school. Whether you are done or not, you’re done. Other aspects of your life need your attention. Pick a time of the day when you close your laptop, no matter what. Make it consistent by putting it on your calendar and building that habit, daily. It is a liberating feeling to prioritize your own mental health and well-being.
  4. Sleep is essential to mental health, physical health and performance. If you’re not sleeping you might as well not go to work at all as far as I’m concerned as it is so essential to thinking and doing. Set a bedtime that is healthy but realistic (I am a 10/10:30–6:15am girl) and stick to it like it’s your real job.
  5. Fuel your body like it’s a Ferrari. Food impacts everything and eating clean (I don’t eat grains, sugar or dairy) is one of the most powerful self-care tools. When we eat clean (define that for yourself) we avoid feeling sluggish, exhausted and foggy. We make better decisions across the board, and even if we have a night with a little less sleep, we can take the hit and bounce back more easily when the food in our body is supporting us rather than draining us. We avoid the slippery slope of needing caffeine and / or alcohol to perk us up or calm us down, and we find a better state of equilibrium from the inside out.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?

Model healthy behavior around work and play, and invite that person to play. Try to awaken this person through motivational interviewing — ask questions like — “how are you feeling about your work / life balance?” or “how are you taking care of yourself these days.” It’s always better when people come to decisions on their own to reverse burnout and sometimes questions like this can lead them to their own conclusions. Otherwise, a frank conversation about what you see may be needed.

What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

Employers can support their team by bringing on a wellness partner like Namaste, or another resource. First, it’s important to provide your employees with the education and knowledge they need in order to build a healthy foundation for mind and body. They can do this by offering educational masterclasses — we offer our clients classes on things like “Integrative Stress Management” and “Building Healthy Habits.” These classes educate and inspire employees around the WHY and HOW of self-care. Next, teams can share in “together action” and participate in group practice sessions. These shared experiences build both skills and relationships. Whether it be a group yoga, meditation or boot camp class, this allows your team to practice what they are learning and bond together as a team. Finally, I recommend offering personalized, one-on-one support where employees can meet with a wellness or nutrition coach so they can build out a schedule that will be suited specifically for their needs. It’s also important for employers to organize all this information in a central location — if your employees can’t find these resources, they won’t use them.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

Educating leaders and human resource professionals on the dangers of burnout as well as the ROI of wellness support for employees is a necessary and ongoing process.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

Oftentimes companies are just trying to “check the box.” They know offering a wellness program looks good, but they don’t really know how much they need it. Because of that, they don’t focus on trying to get their team engaged and therefore they don’t reap the benefits of their wellness program. To avoid this, organizations should have a plan of action to promote and encourage people to participate. For example, an executive joining a yoga class and being vulnerable in front of their team is extremely powerful. As for individuals, a mistake often made in trying to reverse burnout has to do with consistency. Many people are excited about doing a meditation class or a fitness class but practicing one time isn’t enough. To increase consistency to truly help yourself beat burnout, I suggest making a plan that you can stick to. We know that people are 42% more likely to complete a goal which they’ve written down.

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 would inspire a movement where people rate and experience their success based on the amount of Love and Joy they feel and cultivate around them. It seems this would easily solve the burnout problem!

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 would love to have a cup of tea with Arianna Huffington.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit our website and view our blog posts and you can read my #1 Amazon bestseller, “Inner Wealth: How Wellness Heals, Nurtures, and Optimizes Ultra-Successful People.” You can find the link to buy my book here.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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