Overcoming Burnout – Meg Leddy
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Guest: Meg Leddy
Release Date: 1/17/2022
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Steve Washuta: Welcome to the Trulyfit podcast where we interview experts in fitness and health to expand our wisdom and wealth. I am your host Steve Washuta, co-founder of truly fit and author of Fitness Business 101. In today’s episode, I speak with Meg Leddy, you can find her at Meg Leddy nine to three on Instagram about burnout. Meg is a physician’s assistant. She’s worked in multiple roles as a physician’s assistant and in the medical community, much like here in our fitness community, they deal with burnout at an extraordinary pace.
Meg has dedicated her time and her life to helping people deal with burnout and really helping you know herself first, realize what burnout is what are the causes of burnout? Who else is experiencing burnout? And how do we as a society, and as individuals really take agency over ourselves and over the things that we can control in order to help ourselves not have this burnout?
So Meg goes over the things that she learned and her journey personally, and her readings and her studies with burnout obviously, in the fitness industry, burnout is a thing I used to work with people let’s say 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week, six days a week sometimes I would work seven days a week, client after client after client I have conversations with my clients I’m I am playing the role of a newscaster, updating them on what’s going on, I’m playing the role of you know, psychologist talking to them about their problems in their life, nutritional counselor talking them about their food, we have to make sure that we understand what’s going on in their lives from every facet.
And we there’s a lot that’s a lot to handle as a personal trainer who maybe thought they were just getting into the industry to help people you know, get bigger biceps and before you know it, you’re playing, you know, an armchair psychologist on a daily basis. And that could lead to burnout, in addition to the fact that we make money per hour, right? So every hour, we’re on the floor, that we’re making more money that way, which leads essentially to, you know, us wanting to work more hours, which leads to burnout.
So there are a lot of reasons why us in the fitness industry, lead to burnout. But also this is now a sort of a global problem. There’s burnout in almost every industry, especially in the medical industry, my wife is in the medical field. So I see this happening from her perspective and her colleague’s perspectives. And I think it’s just an important thing to talk about. This is a societal epidemic of burnout.
People do, do not know how to handle go to work every day, coming home on the weekends and not looking forward to anything. There’s a there’s really good tips and tidbits that Megan I talked about to help yourself if you’re going through burnout or to recognize if your clients are going through burnout, and how to potentially help them. So with no further ado, here is Meg Letty, great to have you here. Why don’t you give the listeners in the audience a background on you and what you do in the health industry?
Meg Leddy: Yeah, Steve, thank you so much for having me on your podcast. And so I am Meg Letty. I’m a physician assistant. I work currently in surgical oncology. I’ve been a physician assistant for about 16 years. I’ve always worked in surgery. It drove me into the ground, honestly, into burnout.
What I did is once I recovered from burnout, I started a podcast and I love doing it. And it’s simple tips and tricks to help people with burnout, and busy people like people that don’t have time to do anything. Because that’s how you feel when you’re burned out. And so my podcast is all about burnout and tips and tricks to get you to get a better life.
Steve Washuta: Well, that’s fantastic. And as you know, I’ve already listened to your podcast. So I know what it’s about. And I know what burnout is. But I think we all have a different view and definition of what burnout is because it is sort of a vague term. Can you give me maybe like a clinical definition and or a Megawati definition of burnout?
Meg Leddy: Yeah, so a great clinical definition of burnout. So Christina Maslach is a PhD out of California who has studied this for her entire career. And she put forth three pillars of burnout. So one is his emotional exhaustion and efficacy as the second one. And then depersonalization. So you know what these mean to me or what it looks like for me when I have burned out depersonalization was that the patients weren’t people to me anymore, which sounds awful.
But you know, a nurse might come to me with a problem and I’d be dealing with a bigger problem and so you know, say a patient was having pain I’d be like, well, the pain never killed anybody right like that can wait. But that’s awful, right? That’s D personalizing that patient and then in efficacy was just, you feel like you’re a cog in the wheel and nothing you do matters, right like nothing. It’s an awful feeling to have like nothing matters.
You could just be replaced. And then emotional exhaustion, I think that’s pretty self-evident. But if I didn’t have anything left, and I think the way that it really showed up for me was that, you know, I’d walk into a patient room and I wouldn’t have any empathy for them. But then when I came home, I didn’t have anything left for my family either. So, it it really, you know, it encompasses a lot.
And so if I had to, you know, do a Megawati definition of burnout, I think for me, it was when I noticed that there wasn’t any joy left in my life, and that there wasn’t, you know, it was my relationships were suffering, and that that really brought it home to me, because I always thought it was just at work, I was just burned out at work. But when it started affecting my other outside life, I that’s when it really kind of hit home for me.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that all makes sense. I was listening to a podcast with a gentleman who like owns some big tech company. And he had a very interesting way of going about, like his employees, where it’s one of these tech companies where they’re playing like, you know, pickleball in the middle of the day, and there’s like kegs everywhere they could do what they want.
He said, there’s like some study that shows, like the autonomy in which you have at your job, meaning, like the ability for you to kind of make decisions. And there’s like a graph, I guess, mixed with the ability for you making a difference is what, what ultimately makes people happy, right? So are at their job, or, or drives into burnout, right? So if I feel like I don’t have either of those things, if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, and I feel like I have no control, then that’s just like the remedy for burnout.
Meg Leddy: Right? And, you know, I’ve read a lot about this, too. And it goes into job satisfaction, right? Like, how much can you control your day. And that’s one of those things that in medicine there, you don’t necessarily have control over your day, because you don’t know what’s coming in or coming at you.
But I think it’s important to point out that, although that may be the case, there are things that you can control, right, you can control kind of your morning before going to work and you know after you get home from work, and that’s where you can kind of look at where to spend your energy on controlling your day.
Steve Washuta: So let’s go back to when you first started experiencing burnout, what were the signs and symptoms? And how did you come to know of this?
Meg Leddy: So I, it goes so far back. So I was in cardiothoracic heart and lung surgery for nine years. And when I first started, my kids were very small, I think Ellie might have been like 18 months, and Emma was maybe two and a half. My kids were very small. You’re kind of in this stage of not sleeping, and then I put the call on top of that.
I don’t think I recognized burnout right away, because I thought this was just life, right? It’s just called, it’s just kids, and eventually, they’ll sleep through the night and things will get better. And it just never did. You know. And the thing that really, I think got to me was when I just didn’t have anybody to turn to, you know, it was like, I’d kind of I lost all my friends because they kept asking me to go out, but you feel like you have no energy to go out. You don’t you’re not doing anything for yourself.
And then you’re just kind of a puddle. Like, you know, my husband was like, I don’t really want to be around you just, that’s when it really hit me. And you know, then it and it’s like the crying in the bathroom stall at work, right? Like there’s one day where everything breaks down. And that was when my daughter told me that she couldn’t call me at work to pick her up from she was at camp was a summer camp.
She said, I can’t call you at work because you’re gonna yell at me. Because you can’t you can’t come get me you’re gonna yell at me. And that was my breaking point. I was like, my kids need to feel comfortable calling me even though I’m in heart and lung surgery. Like if I have to leave and pick them up. They need to feel comfortable calling me.
Steve Washuta: Well, this seems like an insensitive question to ask right after you just finished with that. But this is just me playing devil’s advocate. Aren’t we all tired? Don’t we all? dislike our jobs? In some respects? You know, what was there? I didn’t hear a burnout 40 or 50 years ago. Is this just a millennial thing? Or Or am I wrong?
Meg Leddy: I don’t think this is a millennial thing. I think that things have changed and 40 or 50 years where people may have not truly enjoyed their jobs in the past. But their jobs ended, there was an email, there wasn’t, you know, getting paged in the middle of the night. You know, if you did, let’s just say you are a farmer. I mean, you were out in nature, nature has been proven to help elevate our mood. I mean, there were things that it may have been tough to be a farmer, but your day ended and you got a good night’s sleep.
If you’re in a factory, you know working, you know, you went to the factory, you came home, you spend family time and yeah, you might have been tired but you’re doing a hard day’s work. I think our work never ends for us and I think that is what truly has put us into burnout and just our lack of connectivity, especially with COVID. Right, we haven’t been able to get together in person. And that’s really important for our mental health.
We are. As humans, we need to have a community, and we crave community. It’s how we stayed alive when we were cavemen. And when we don’t have that, and we think we have it through social media, but it’s not the same. This is all contributing to burnout. And this is why I think so many people feel like, Oh, isn’t this just normal? Well, it’s not, it’s not normal. We’re not living in normal times. And we’ve had technology come so far, and our brains and our bodies have not caught up.
Steve Washuta: You made so many great points there. But I just want to hit on one first is the number of variables that we deal with today. It’s just, it’s unprecedented. Right? So yeah, of course, it was hard 120 years ago, if you were former, but really the variables that you were up against what was the weather, and that’s it, everything else is just you waking up, you starting your day, when you need to you end your day when you needed to, obviously, there’s financials involved, as far as you know, how much you know, a seed that you can lay down and things of that nature.
But now, you know, you wake up and it’s like, okay, well, my alarm didn’t go off at the right time. And now I’m running behind Oh, the water heaters are broken. So I can’t shower this morning. You know, the coffee pot didn’t go off properly, and my kid is crying. I you know, the car, I didn’t get gas the night before. Then you get to work. One of your colleagues called out sick last second.
Now you’re short-staffed there. Somebody forgot to order the needles. And now we don’t have any 25 gauge needles. So we can’t give the tetanus shots. So whatever these things are going on. It’s just it’s it’s unlimited variables. And that’s, you know, technology is a blessing and a curse in that respect.
Meg Leddy: Yep, totally agree. And so, you know, I think burnout is real. And I think a lot of people are experiencing it in many different facets, and in many different levels. Right. So it’s,
Steve Washuta: is quitting an answer to this? Is it ever an answer? Is it sometimes always, what is your thought on just saying, you know, what, I’ve had enough amount of the next job.
Meg Leddy: So I think that’s a that’s a loaded question. So I think you have to take a step back before quitting, and figure out what you truly want. And that goes back to your core values, figuring out who you are, and what you truly want from your job in your life. And if the job does not align, or, or you ask, and they cannot align with what you need, then I think that looking for another position is an option.
But running away, meaning just saying I quit, I can’t do this anymore. Running to another position that you haven’t thought about, it’s just another way to pay the bills. There isn’t anything better about it or more aligned with your core values, that doesn’t help the situation, you’re going to end up burned out again because you’re not aligning with what you really need. And so there has to be a thought process before moving on, if that’s the answer,
Steve Washuta: that makes sense. It’s like, you know, breaking up with your significant other and then finding someone else who has the same exact flaws, and starting over again, right, unless you’re assessing the situation and knowing Okay, I have to stay away from this and go towards this, then what is the point?
Right, yeah, it’s it’s a bigger process than just quitting. It’s, it’s assessing everything. So how did you manage your initial burnout? What were the first steps that you took to try to, you know, quell that burnout slightly?
Meg Leddy: Well, so you’re gonna love this. My friend reached out to me and was doing this exercise. And she was like, You know what, I want to be supportive of you. Like, just, you know, can you do this with me? And it was one of these things where I was so tired and so burnt out, I was like, take my credit card information because it’s going to take me longer to say no, than to say yes to.
So I was like, take it. And so I started this health group, started doing some exercise, got a healthy shake into my diet in the morning was offered through this whole system. And that was the piece that helped me on my journey. It was that little bit of like it. I mean, I probably worked out maybe 20 minutes, like three times a week when I started. And I just did this shake every day, and it was 60 seconds to make the shake in the morning. But that was the piece that helped me on my way.
Steve Washuta: I think it’s both physical and psychological too. Because obviously, having proper nutrients in you and caring about your body and working out. That’s all great, but you also took time to do something for yourself, right? You took that time to sort of gear down or gear up whatever it is before or after work, and I think that’s an important piece.
Meg Leddy: Well, and I think the big part for me was telling my brain or my subconscious that I was worth it right. Like I was worth taking this time out of my day or taking this much money and giving it just to me, not to my family, not to my kids. Not to anybody else, which I haven’t done for a very long time.
Steve Washuta: And I think to the personal trainers, which is the vast majority of my audience, that is a genuine pitch to people who, who are, let’s say, in the medical field to make a lot of money or make a good, good salary, but yet they’re burnt out is to say, again, this is genuine, you’re not trying to like coax them into something.
You’re just saying, you need to take care of yourself, you know, what is the point of having all of this money? If by the time you get to whatever age, you were so burnt out physically and psychologically, which then, in turn, wears on your body, right? And then we start to break down and have sickness, we know that so many sicknesses are tied to like stress-related things. So spend a little bit of money come personal train with me, and I’ll make sure that that, that we lessen the burnout.
Meg Leddy: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I would say that, I am not sure about this. And maybe you can speak to this, but especially as a mom, I think it was really hard for me to pull the trigger on spending money, we’re like, I feel like my husband is a little bit i don’t know this, but I feel like it’s a little bit easier.
But so I think it’s really important, especially moms that, you know, really are not investing in themselves. I mean, who are taking care of not only their patients but their families. I mean, they really need to invest in themselves.
Steve Washuta: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And, you know, full disclosure, you and I have talked in the past before, and you know, that, you know, my wife who’s in the medical field that also experienced burnout, and she, you know, sometimes she’ll know, there’s a $17 monthly gym membership that she’ll be like, I’m not really sure I’m like, Are you kidding me? Like, like, you need this, even if you got there, once a month, it would be worth it forget about, you know, once or twice a week like no like this, this has to be spent this is for your mental and physical health, which in turn, allows you to bring in money, right, you’re not gonna be able to bring in money unless you’re spending the money on yourself.
So I agree with you completely, I think there is a, there is a sense that there’s, there’s another way to fix this, and I’ll find it, but it’s not going to be spending money. And sometimes that’s the best way to fix it. Because I call it the hot dog steak theory where if you buy a pack of dollar hot dogs, not that you should be doing this, but if you do at you might look in your like your drawer in your refrigerator, and you have to throw them out because they’ve been there for like four months, right?
They were on sale or whatever. But if you bought a $24 T bone steak, you know, that’s not making it more than 12 hours because you spent the money. So you’re going to use that item so that you get you know, the feeling that you’ve got your money’s worth.
Meg Leddy: I totally agree. Yep. Especially if you don’t want to spend money, spend the money, you will take advantage of it.
Steve Washuta: So I’m glad we talked about that, you know, that sort of the nutrition exercise component. We didn’t talk about sleep. But that should be obvious, right? If you’re not sleeping properly, that’s an issue, you’re going to be birthed out. Do you have anything else to add? As far as like, the sleep component to burnout?
Meg Leddy: Absolutely. Sleep is huge. I can’t tell you when I started getting more sleep, what it did for me and what it did for my patients and what my day looked like. So I mean, the biggest thing I did was I took back my sleep at 9pm. I was like, That’s it, I’m done. I’m going to bed at 9pm TV’s off. And once I made that decision, it’s been the best decision, you know, just one of the best decisions that are helped me control kind of what’s going on during the day.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that makes sense. And we again, we talked before, limiting curveballs controlling things as much as you can is important. And that that is something that we can control. Now, some people have so much anxiety, they’re waking up in the middle of the night. And that’s a whole nother set of sleep issues.
But going to sleep late. Is it your problem, right? You’re doing something wrong, you’re staying up too late, and you’re not getting the right things done. And I know there are people who say, Well, you know, I get home from work late, I am burnt out. I’m so tired. I need three or four hours for me for my time. And I get that. But spending that me-time up too late is just going to start that snowball effect of you being more burnt out. Am I Am I wrong?
Meg Leddy: Yeah. And you know, I think a lot of that knee time, quote-unquote, is watching a show that doesn’t move you forward. Or you know, you’re spending time on your phone that really, it’s really wasteful. I mean, when I started looking at where my time was going, you can start picking up on where your time is almost wasteful. It’s not helping. It’s not good me time. Good Meantime, is me getting a good night’s sleep. Hands down. Absolutely.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, I think that’s a that’s well put. And I hope, I hope people actually listen to that because that’s something of all of the tips I give my clients that the clients I work with, not the personal trainers. It goes in one ear and out the other.
And there’s a baseline effect that I’ve talked about a lot where people think their baseline is already at, let’s say a high level like 90 or 100% of their optimum energy or clarity and it’s usually not even close. They’re just they’re running on fumes and they don’t know they’re running on fumes because they haven’t taken a step back to sleep properly and assess all those other things.
Meg Leddy: Yeah, I mean, you’re preaching to the choir. I didn’t know how good I could feel until I made these changes. I mean, you do you think like, Okay, I’m pretty good, I might be a little tired. But I’m pretty good. My energy and concentration and clarity. Since I’ve made these changes is a place where I didn’t think I could get to,
Steve Washuta: I imagine, again, my wife being in the medical field, that clarity component to is so important. Because what happens is, you’re not making mistakes at work when you’re not second-guessing yourself, and everything is going better at work. Therefore, at the end of the day, it’s just an easier process to go home. Rather than say, like, oh, I had, I only got 20 of the 25 things done. And I might have not even done them all correctly.
Meg Leddy: Right. And, you know, being more efficient I’m definitely more efficient, which allows me to close my notes more quickly. Because it is it’s just mental clarity, I’m not getting pulled away, or and my brain can stay on task, and I can finish things and get home on time.
Steve Washuta: So we already hit on some of them. But let’s talk about other like external factors that lead to burnout that could potentially be controlled, that we that people need to notice in their day to day loss.
Meg Leddy: Yeah, I think, you know, there’s so many factors that like can feed into burnout. I do think, especially in medicine, where I come from, it’s just, you get pummeled, I mean, meaning you could be writing a note, getting a page, somebody comes and says, I need you in this room, it feels like it’s coming from all directions.
The big thing for at least medicine, burnout is that, you know, some of those, again, when I got some mental clarity around them, you can start avoiding some of those, you know, so I’ve started doing things preemptively that have helped me, you know, like preparing notes and preparing orders and doing things preemptively. Also, when I do order, putting in the notes section, like any question they could possibly have, so then I don’t get the page, you know, you there are things that you can do to kind of preemptively like help your day.
So that’s been great. But also I think, you know, again, we talked before. Having good food in your day, I mean, I definitely make sure I pack a lunch, it’s good food. And I also think about my day. So on Wednesdays, we have a meeting from 12 to one. And so I know that’s a day that it is not gonna be easy for me to eat a salad, right. Like it’s, it’s, I’m going to be on this meeting and doing things.
And so I pack things that I can eat very quickly, like some hard-boiled eggs, and you know, some carrots and things like that, that I can just kind of shove in my mouth, and it’ll keep me going. But just having a little forethought can help your day go so much more smoothly, and get you out the door and home where you want to be and where you want to spend your time. So yeah, I think just a little bit of planning helps so much.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that’s great information. And it seems like obvious, but people just don’t do it. And they just show up to work and expect everything to be, you know, ready unsettled. You know, in our industry. You know, if you do that if you’re a personal trainer and just show up to the gym and you and you don’t have a plan, that could be a problem. Because maybe you had a small plan where you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna go use the cable machine with my client today, you get to the gym and the cable machines broke it.
Well, if you were to got there 10 minutes early, maybe you had a chance to switch routines and think about what else you could have done. But if you get there one minute, early, or one minute late, you’re screwed. There’s nothing to do. And you know, I do think there’s a two there’s and you could speak to this.
This is my next question here. Like, like the weekends, the time of a component, like how do we deal with that, as personal trainers, then I’ll tell you, what we struggle with the most is that we spend, you know, at any given time, I might see 10 People in 10 hours. And I’m doing nothing but talking for 10 hours. I’m a therapist, I’m a news reporter. I am. I’m a therapist, and I am I an expert in science in nutrition.
I am a gossip King. everything right? So you spend 10 hours talking to people. And it’s just like, at the end of the day? Do I have like the energy to go and talk to my partner or anybody else? No. And, you know, how do you deal with the downtime you’re actually given? How do we use that to recover?
Meg Leddy: Yeah, that is a great question. And so, you know, and I think this is all about knowing your partner too, because there are definitely times where myself or my husband will come home. And we can say to each other like I need tonight or where he’s talking at work. He’s a golf pro. So he is talking at work all day. He’s a therapist. I was clapping because I was like, I know exactly. Um, but yeah, he’ll come home and he’ll just be spent and the last thing he wants to do is talk more.
And so just knowing that and then, you know, again, if he needs his rest time, he we might go for a walk and not talk but again, incorporating something healthy without the talking and it’s not sitting down and watching TV all night, right, which a lot of people think is how they’re going to recharge it that isn’t necessarily what recharges you having a good food having a good meal.
So I really will always try to put some good dinner on the table and be really invested in that. And that is where we invest time to talking to our kids and talking to each other. And then letting people you know, kind of do their own thing. But over the weekends, I think for us, it’s very important. We try to spend a family day on Sunday.
My husband works weekends. And when he has a Sunday off, I try to make sure that Sunday is our family day, like there aren’t chores to do. I mean, he might have to mow the lawn, but we really try to spend it as a family day and put our efforts into that, which makes my Saturday pretty busy to get everything done. But I know that I get a reward of resting on Sunday with getting those things done on Saturday. And so really knowing where to put your energy and what your reward is for it, it helps me get through.
Steve Washuta: I think setting those boundaries, which is what I heard from you too similar, you have these family days on Sundays is important. Sometimes people are afraid to do that. Whether it’s other external family members or its friends or other things going on or even work, right trying to contact you.
Sometimes you just have to say no, I like this is my time alone, whether it’s my individual time alone, and you tell your family, I need to go on a 40-minute jog. And you know, here’s the baby, I’m out. Or, or if it’s you and your family and you say I’m turning my cell phone off, because I don’t care. I’m not on call. And I don’t care if you know, my Aunt Sally wants to catch up with me because I just I don’t have the mental energy to do that.
Meg Leddy: Right. And it’s okay to do that. I think a lot of people do not give themselves permission to do it. And it’s okay. Really, if you’re not on call if you’re a medical professional, and nobody’s gonna die. It’s okay to shut your phone off. To not answer that email within 30 minutes of getting the email, right.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, and again, we talked prior to this, and I think part of the problem is people who are very, who are overachievers and who are successful, and who, who always want to take the next step, sometimes can’t tell themselves, it’s okay to just do nothing. But doing nothing will allow you to be more productive in those times you’re doing other things.
Meg Leddy: Yeah. And that, you know, just to touch on that there is science behind adult play. You know, there’s a guy that that studied adult play. And how important it is and how important it is to your brain to help you seek creative solutions to issues or challenges you’re having, and getting play in which I was like, I don’t need to play you know, but it has changed my world. It is amazing how it changes your brain and how much fun you have doing it.
Steve Washuta: This has been fantastic information. Can you tell us a bit more about your podcasts? What is an episode like? What do you typically cover?
Meg Leddy: Yeah, so my podcasts are for busy people. And so they are not long. So they range anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, I think is the longest one I’ve ever had. And I get right to the heart of it. I try to give you tips that you can really put into your day immediately. These are not hard things. These are things that you just you can walk through your life and help. Let it let these tips help support you through. And they can really change the neuroscience of your brain. Which is which is really where we need to make an impact to help with burnout.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, and trainers should know that. Because we know that it takes however long you know, whatever, seven days, two or three weeks to start these processes to become normalized in your brain. Firing the neurons and getting things normalized. So where can we find everything? Meg, Letty and your podcast?
Meg Leddy: Yeah, so, my podcast is on all the major podcast, Apple Spotify. It’s called burnout. What I’ve learned so far with Meg Letty, I am on Instagram Mega 3923. You can follow me there. Honestly, if if you guys can just listen to one podcast. I swear it will speak to your soul if you’re feeling burnt out.
Steve Washuta: Well, I echo those thoughts. I’ve listened to it. And it’s a great podcast and I’m sure down the road, we’ll maybe take one particular thing about burnout or we’ll do like a five-step thing and be a bit more precise. And we’ll unpack it again here at the podcast. That’d be great. Thanks. All right.
Steve Washuta: Thanks for joining us on the Trulyfit podcast. Please subscribe, rate, and review on your listening platform. Feel free to email us as we’d love to hear from you.
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