From Burnout to Breakthrough with Eileen McDargh

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

In this episode, Eileen McDargh discusses how to overcome burnout by breaking energy-draining thoughts and behaviors.

After the Interview

About Eileen McDargh

Eileen is the author of Your Resiliency GPS. She is also founder and CEO of The Resiliency Group, where she is a keynote speaker, facilitator, and executive coach. Her newest book, Burnout to Breakthrough, is available now.

Eileen is the author of Your Resiliency GPS. She is also founder and CEO of The Resiliency Group, where she is a keynote speaker, facilitator, and executive coach.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.


Deliberate Leaders, I am your host, Allison Dunn, Founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast where we bring you inspiring interviews such as today’s to help you on your leadership journey. I am so excited I get the brand new. This is it’s been rolled out this week. Correct?


Right. Right.


So I get an interview as the book is coming out hot off the press with Eileen McDargh. She is the author of burnout to burn up to break through. And she’s also the author of your resilience, GPS, and she is the founder and CEO of the resilience group, where she is the chief energy officer which I just love, love, love that. She is a keynote speaker, facilitator and also an executive coach. Eileen, it is so great to have you back here with us.


Thank you and thank you for choosing this week because it really is like unwrapping this child and presenting it to the world. And the wonderful thing, Allison, and it was Tuesday and what is today. So two days later, the response from this book in different interviews that I’ve given and the people that have chimed in, I would not have wanted it to be as popular as it is, but it is a thrill. But it’s because of these times. People are really hungry for what we’re talking about, and they’re hungry for the opportunity to talk about this. So, thanks.


Um, so I, you sent it to me a couple of weeks ago, I think you even sent it to me before Ben went into mass production. And there is just so many wonderful nuggets in here. And so I want to make sure like, I’d like to do the high level so your subtitle to the book is building resilience to refill, refuel, recharge, and reclaim what matters. Who did you write this for?


Everybody else. I’ve been talking about resilience specifically over the last 19 years. And in the last three, almost every time I was asked to speak, I don’t care whether it was 200 or 15,000. It was resilience in the context of burnout. And when last year in March, I spoke for the Association of pharmacist. And when 5000 pharmacists stand and applaud, it’s not me, it’s not me Allison is that they were desperate for that kind of information. And right after that, in May, was when the World Health Organization declared burnout in their Classification of Diseases. They didn’t call it a disease, they call it an occupational hazard. globally. Well, this then mean you have to write the book. You’ve been talking about this. You need to write the book. So I wrote it to understand myself and what I’ve been experience as well as some fascinating people who became my case studies in the book. So I really have written it for all of us who want to reclaim the life of work and the work of our life.


Have, you’ve experienced burnout in your career path, and, and I would imagine that every one has at a certain point in time. For me, it’s been at a point where I’m working on a massive project and just the volume of work that needs to happen and it falls on, you know, a team or the shoulders of just a few single people to actually own the deliverable, I guess, for lack of a better word. And just like how you add the resilience and adaptability, you need to push through that pure exhaustion. I know that people are also feeling burnt out right now. And it’s not necessarily through that same type of Like work, turn or burn, but out of I don’t know, like not being able to adapt to what’s going on today. Do you have any guidance for I think we’re experiencing a different type of burnout currently?


Yeah. Okay. Well, first let me let me define burnout as Herbert Freudenberger in the 70s to find it because I actually like his definition better than what the World Health Organization did. And he said basically, in a nutshell, it is to exhaust one’s resources, trying to achieve some unrealistic expectation in most on by yourself, or society. So I want you to think about that we are exhausting ourselves mentally. I just can’t think about this anymore. Emotionally. I just can’t. I just can’t hold this anymore or physically. And the unexpected or the, the unrealistic expectation is that we’re supposed to be able to handle this just fine. And the truth of the matter is none of us have ever been through this. It’s not that this was something that happened to my city. This has happened to our world. And we are now being squeezed into this into this box that is called home. And for some of us who’ve been working from home that isn’t that much, but for many people, what we knew what we were comfortable with, and having my colleagues around me, even, you know, even if it was down the hall is gone. So the burnout, I think, is the unrealistic expectation that I’m supposed to be able to handle this, okay. And the truth of the matter is, I get to say, you know what, this is really hard stuff. And from a leadership perspective, I think leaders need to own up to their own feelings to be transparent about this is hard stuff, guys, let’s talk about it. Just before you and I went on, I spoke with someone who is in charge of it. Have a well This initiative here in California, where community colleges, and it has to do with schools of nursing. And in the course of our conversation, we both cried. And we cried. Because there’s some of these things you’re helpless to do anything about. And it just breaks your heart. And then if you really care, and then you’re also feeling guilty, I got to be able to do more, we’ll stop. Can’t do. So here’s my piece of advice. First and foremost, listen to the voices in your head. Because the voices in our head are going to tell us things that are either going to be powerful, and they give us energy or they’re going to deplete energy. And by the way, energy is what resilience is about it is energy management. Do I have the energy to keep on keeping on or is there stuff that drains it? And so what some people say in their heads, I have to do this. I have to do this. I have to I have to be strong? You know what No. I have to do is I have to do the best that I can do. Today, in fact, maybe the best that I can do is what’s here in front of me. And after that, I can go to something else. So our big, big error, I think, is piling all this stuff on top of us. Nobody can see me and I better be able to show how much work I did. And, you know, I’ll count for that. Oh, my gosh, I’ve got three kids that are running over here. And oh, and I got a home school, two of them over here. And the other one is still a toddler. I don’t know where to do it, though. This is like, yes, it is nuts. And so do what you can do, and take small steps. We also need to seek help from each other. And by help from each other, what I mean is doing like you and I are sitting right now we’re talking to each other. you’ve invited me into your house, I’ve invited you into my and we could talk about what’s it What’s this challenge, but then can’t stay there. Give me some ideas of what I can do with this can be small. We don’t have to own all the answers ourselves. So tell me tell me how You might handle that fact, that’s what we’re going to be doing with this group. So just you don’t want to just hear from me. We need to allow people to experience what they’re feeling and then say now, how do we support each other through this. And that’s what a leader I think right now really needs to do is to work on those soft skills, which are the hardest skills management is called listening. It’s called empathy. It’s called transparency. It’s called humility. You do not have all the answers leaders and the people around you want to know that you sit there in that same boat with them. And understand, we’re going to have to have some give and take you can’t have a regular nine to five job if you’ve ever had a nine to five job. What is it? How do we blend together the work that we have, and the other things like the three kids running around here and the two that need homeschooling. So now finally, we get to realize that we’re and life are not separate. They’re intertwined.


When I think of them being intertwined, it’s like the DNA molecule.


Some days you can be over here, but then I got to come over here then I could come over here and the DNA molecule is what gives us who we are.


I am recognizing that where many, almost every business is going through this shift right which is causing an exhaustion of energies resources. How do you how can we talk about how to achieve that breakthrough for people?


Okay, so between burnout and and breakthrough is breakaway. So you got to break out. So think of this as being the burnout is the jail cell itself. All these emotions, it’s exhaustion, it’s irritability. It’s an inability to concentrate. It’s not caring about anything anymore about being short tempered, about overdoing, whether it’s food, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever it is, that’s the jail. The breakthrough is when you get out of the GLD. So now I’m walking free to break out, they have to realize what’s keeping me in this place. So this is where I say, Okay, what are the things? What are the things that I might be saying to myself? And doing that, you know what, in the scheme of things, there’s really not smart. It’s like this one person saying, I should have been able to, to prepare them better for this pandemic. Well, no, because no one did. No one knew. So let that one go. What do we hold on to that just drains our energy, what our activities that we’re doing because it’s the way we’ve always done it. Now is a great time, particularly for smart leaders. They’ll say as we sit around the zoom meeting, what are some things right now that you’re questioning? You’re saying why are we doing this? This is truly add value. Is there a better way to do this? Why am I doing this maybe led speed doing this because she’s got more skill at this than I do. So we begin to look at what is the stuff that keeps us in this place. So it’s both our own personal triggers, which can be what we’re saying to ourselves, it can be technology triggers that hold us back, because all of a sudden, oh my god, there’s another email there’s an there’s a text message on how to get the text message. And so we’ve got all this technology and maybe the technology freezes and oh my god, I’m supposed to have a zoom call and I can’t get out because the internet went down. And we freaked ourselves out on that. Okay, it’s down. It’s gonna come back. Another way that we that we sabotage herself and we find ourselves really In the place of what is caretaker overload, and that could be the little kids. Or it could be the fact that a number of us are caring for aging parents. And that’s an additional burden. It doesn’t mean you abandon them. But you have to say, How do I give myself break out of that? So I can break through? How do I break out. And the last one, which I think is really important is, if this could lead to this feeling of burnout is that I’m doing all of these things. And the truth of the matter is, none of this means anything to me. Right? doing work that at the end of the day doesn’t matter. So you created your coaching practice, you created this podcast, because it has meaning for you. And that meaning is what you can contribute to the greater universe. A bet if you were sitting answering the phone, or doing some kind of technology you have because I can’t do this. I don’t like this. It doesn’t filll my heart. So one of our opportunities, which is a way of is what is it that all things being equal, I can put even a little bit in my life? Like, oh, yeah, that feels good. That fills my heart.


Um, that made that breaks my heart to think about the fact that I could be doing something that doesn’t, you know, I really resonate with what you just said, because I do have so much control over what I get to do and what I choose to do in my life, and that I’m in a fortunate position to do that, but I am recognizing that I do see that, that need, or finding that meaning in an area of parts of lives of people that I, you know, seen working in roles that they didn’t create, right? They’re doing what they’re told they’re following the systems we’ve given them. So that’s a really powerful suggestion for anyone and everyone who’s listening especially if you’ve created your own environment in your own world. And if you’re not loving it.


Right, so we’re really lucky with this Alli. Yeah, look, we can still wherever you find yourself, how do you transform what you do in a way so that you see it as a bigger picture? I remember years ago there was this guy who was managing the thermodynamic plant for a manufacturing environment. He had a thermal Okay, so we’re talking pipes, guys, right? You know, we’re talking to the steam the thermodynamic plant that lets the manufacturing roll along. He got the surgical suits, the surgical stuff, he had a more surgical suits and he said, doctors handle the pipes in the body.


We handle the pipes in the company.


He reframed it, and gave it meaning. And so just because at face value, it looks like it is meaningless doesn’t mean that it cannot be meaningful.


That is a super powerful challenge that I would like to be the action item for every listener is how can you make it more meaningful? Our buying that’s awesome. I love that. One of the quotes that I have that you like to say is forget balance, start sailing. And I believe we brought up this quote, possibly in a previous interview and so I just I loved it so much. I want to make sure that we have that as a core. What do you mean by that?


Okay, all words, put pictures in our hips. So Alison right now, if I am going to ask you hold up your hands and show me what balance looks like. What does that look like? Hold up your hands. Alright. So for everybody looking at Allison, her hands are going back and forth. it replicates the scale of justice. So the notion of balance is that life is equal. Life is never equal. It’s never been equal. So even the word balance is raw. Let me give you another word instead of balancing our life, sailing or life. And if you think about sailing, if you were in a little one person sailboat, every time we start up on the sailboat, when the wind changes direction, what do we have to do on our sailboat Allison?


We have to adjust our sails, right? To come about with move. Well, this happens to us all the time. If you think of a sailboat, sailboat, so go from point A to point B in a straight line. They’re always zig and zag and zig and zag him as well. Life is like that.


Sometimes we can panted and oh my gosh, it changed over here. So if I look at it as sailing, I’m not looking at equality. I’m saying how is it that I am connected to the important parts of my boat, it’s in the disconnection that I fall out of the boat. And connection is translated into energy and time. So There are times in which on the emotional part of my boat, like if I’m caring for an aging Mother, I’m gonna spend a ton of energy over here, but I cannot abandon my physical self. I can’t abandon the other relationships, I can’t abandon my work might not spend as much time on it might not do so.


But I, I am connected somehow consciously choosing that for right now at this phase of my life, it a lot of my energy is going into law. So this notion of sailing, is to say, how can I be the commander of my ship? While I can’t adjust the wind, I can adjust the sails. And here’s the other thing. Just like there are cycles of the tide, phases of the moon, so too are their cycles of our life. And if that’s true, no truer words were ever spoken, then this too shall pass. So right now we don’t have a past date for this pandemic, which I think is what makes people very anxious because we’d like to share a little bit wins that over went over. You know what? I don’t know. So right now what is it that I need to be? To be faithful to my, to my values to my integrity to my clients? How do I sell now? And by the way, the only way you can sell a boat is in the moment? Correct?


That’s all you have.


So what is it I want to do today? What takes my energy? What refuels that energy? And let me suggest one of the best ways for all of those who are listening, watching that we begin to refuel that energy, frankly, is with your physical body is the one thing that we really do have some kind of control over. And that has to do with everything from sleep, nutrition, exercise, recreation, which by the way, if you break that word apart is to recreate it doesn’t mean you have to do you know, I Okay, maybe I’m only getting four hours. Can I go for five? What if I tried for ah Lord Lafitte duck, what if I tried for seven hours with sleep? Oh, maybe I could do that.


Maybe my recreation is just to walk up the street here in my neighborhood and see if Western bluebirds are in the nest yet. And then come back. So it’s how do we get this physical body in control. And we can do it that way. The other thing is our physical surroundings. If in fact, everybody’s working at home, and now all of a sudden, all this stuff is piled down in the distance or at the sink and you can’t find a kitchen counter because your spouse has got their stuff on the kitchen counter. Stop. Okay, let’s see what kind of order we can get here. What kind of boundaries can we set, so maybe you get the kitchen table for the first two hours of the day. I’m going to get them for the next two hours of the day. And we’re going to put everything away. If you notice we’re in my office right now. I try to keep things fairly organized because when it becomes disorganized, I can feel myself starting to hyperventilate, like I’m where to go, where to go. So this idea of creating this physical space that has a sense of a sense of order, and then I’ve been control, not all this other stuff flying around. And even if you don’t know where to put it, put it under the desk. I mean, think about it when this pandemic first started, and everyone was in lockdown, I think was like March 15. In the first couple weeks, what did we hear about our colleagues doing? They’re cleaning out their closet?


Yep. They were cleaning the garage.


They were saying Okay, I gotta do something. I am going to put order I’ve want to do this all they took the junk drawer that we all have in the kitchen or in the den and toss it out. So what do I have this one right. And there is something by getting rid of what we don’t need. Oh, good.


Oh, it’s you can even feel lighter. Yeah.


Some of my greatest times of inspiration and when I lack it, I go and put order to something because it gives my my creativity a channel to be released. So I much like you I start to hyperventilate, if my face is not, you know, organized and clean and so to doing that give recharges me in a big way.


All right.


And Eileen, I’m just curious, what is your favorite chapter or topic of the book? Like where like what was that? Like? Oh my gosh, this is this. There’s a lot of gems in here. Don’t get me wrong, but do you have a favorite?


You know what that’s kind of like saying which of your favorite shows love the most?


That’s like saying cuz this is my seventh book. I say which book do you love the most and go well, I love each one of them, but for a different reason. Yeah.


That is that is really that’s really hard. Yeah, I think I think I like, oh, excuse me, I’m gonna sneeze for a minute to the to listen to me and there’s nothing wrong with me.


Every now and then I sneeze. I like the chapter, which is chapter 11 on hands, it’s called set of fence or be defenseless. And it is about that boundary setting. Yeah. And when I think about the boundary setting, we, we often find it hard to create boundaries for ourselves, particularly women, Alli, because we have this nurturing instinct, I think, and I have to take care of everybody. So creating that boundary, I think is really important. And of course, then the very last chapter which was which was to me it was All about the power of meaning, which we talked about earlier. And to step back and say at this phase of my life, what is it that that I feel that I, there’s meaning to it. And again, it doesn’t have to be big, small things. This is another way of talking about what could I do that at least feels my heart even when you see people there, you’re six feet away or whatever they are, and you wave at them and smile.


Or this is and I am ashamed to say I never thought about doing this. I run in the morning, every morning. And I can go down I live at the beach so I can go down this trail and I’m on a boardwalk and then and very few people are ever around so I’m safe. But here is one of the landscape people for the city. And he’s all decked up nice got the like the leaf blower and he’s blowing the sand off the off of the ramp. And I looked him in the eye. And I said, thank you so much for doing that. We’re really making this you know, we’re not going to get sand in our eyes when the wind blows. Thank you. You should have seen Alli what I imagined because I could only see his eyes, the smile on his face. Probably nobody ever stopped to say thank you for doing this stop. But I saw and I’m ashamed to say how many times have I seen these workers and I don’t say thanks.


I tell you what it made running back up to the hill a little bit easier. I bet it did.


I don’t know that I have a favorite chapter. But one of the things that I have truly appreciated as you came to the close of the book is that you address humor and one of the things that I’ve recognized in my team and in my home environment, that as long as we’re smiling and giggling and laughing, everything is okay. It’s true. Having the energy to understand that as a perspective, right?


Oh, it is. I mean, think about it. The shortest distance between two people is laughter. For sure know if I can get somebody laugh with me, we just created some kind of a bond. Well, if I can find things that I’m going to laugh at, and somebody said the other day, this isn’t a pandemic, it is a pound demmick because they’re eating everything that they have within the house, you know, it’s, it’s a pandemic, we can find things that we just want to that we’re just going to laugh at. And they can still I think, I mean, look at the assortment of memes and things that are coming to us over email that the one that I guess it still just cracks me up and you probably thought it was like this little, no, no PowerPoint, or JPEG or something. And it said, You told me that to go Shopping All I needed was mask and gloves.




Everybody else had on clothes.


That just cracked me up. I thought it was so funny. And so people are making fun of, but it gives thinking fun of what’s happening, not treating it lightly.


It is serious. But is that sense of humor that say, Oh my goodness, that’s true. And you go to Trader Joe’s like I do look at the things at Trader Joe’s does to put some humor in there.


A great, a really great job.


This morning. I was I am inside my office today and there was a gentleman who was walking by and he had a nice big mask on because he’s out in our public streets. And his mask was bigger than the pair of shorts that he was wearing. So I think so. completely white, you know, on suntan big mask and teeny, teeny teeny little shorts and it just gave such a giggle, walking his dog. It was fantastic. That’s very funny.


Absolutely. Look, we look for that.


And that’s one of the things you say in the book is my friend Karen Buxton gave us this quote she said, How do you look? How do you look for the funny and it is there if we practice what is for sure? No, what is that? What is that piece of humor? If I don’t know if you’ve seen this, I don’t know where you get them. But these masks and they’re big. And on the mask, it’s like this to a guilty like smile.


Baboons face or, you know, something that Oh my God, that’s, that’s funny. That’s funny.


I mean, it is always such a pleasure to connect with you. I do want to encourage folks to get their copy. Where can they get it and buy in when?


It was officially out Tuesday. Today’s Thursday. You Get it through Amazon, you can get it through Barnes and Noble. It is both in the Kindle have it edition, the print edition and the auditory. You know, so there’s an you can have one of those three ways. It’s, they’ll get it out to you just ASAP unless it’s Kindle, in which case you have it immediately. And I would dearly love if any of your listeners or viewers would write a review.


Five Star no when finished the book and I owe you a five star review. Yes.


Thank you. We’ll put a link to the Amazon, where they can get it on Amazon. Eileen, always such a pleasure. Thank you so much. Congratulations on your book!


Alli and I expect to hear a report from your adventure that you promised coming up soon.


I promise I will when we get back. Thank you so much. Talk to you soon. Okay, bye.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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