Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast…
I’ve been thinking a lot about energy, burnout and mental health lately - so in searching through our database of inbound questions for this here show, I was hunting and pecking for questions on this subject...and I found a lot.
This is something many of you are dealing with and want to discuss. These are very personal subjects, but I think it can help to have a larger discussion so that you, the individual at home, can know you are not alone in this battle for mental health and energy and the battle against burnout.
I picked this one from jane in Ohio -- but really I could have picked 20 others. Before I get into Jane’s question, know that you can send me your career-focused questions either by connecting with me on LinkedIn and messaging me there or by emailing be at bclapp at workinsports.com --
Here’s Jane’s really good question --
“Hi Brian, I’m a big fan of the podcast and the knowledge you share - you have helped me immensely in my career.
I have a topic for you to discuss on your show.
In the first few months of quarantine, I framed my mind around the idea that this would be just a few months, and I could get through it. I took a pay cut but kept my job, and I’ve sat in my apartment essentially by myself for 3 months, but I kept telling myself it was temporary.
The longer this drags on, the more I feel myself losing hope. I don’t mean suicidal or anything that dramatic, but I would use terms like depressed, confused, frustrated, and kind of burnt out. I’m not looking to you to solve me in a clinical sense, I just want to have the conversation so that others know they aren’t alone if they are feeling the same way”
Hey Jane, first off thanks for your email, showing this level of vulnerability and putting yourself out there is impressive, so thank you.
First I’ll share a couple of personal anecdotes then we’ll get into a little more robust ideas on how to handle this. I want to stress beforehand, I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist and if you are feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts, please I beg you talk to someone. Someone you love, someone with expertise - just talk to someone. Another voice matters.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout, energy, and mental health lately.
Energy is an important topic to me -- and think of energy like spirit, enthusiasm and excitement -- not necessarily the ability to run a marathon.
I believe, we all have things in our life that provide us energy. We gain energy from certain experiences, lifestyles, endeavors, challenges -- I know people who gain energy from social experiences, so they needed to have a balance of work and workplace social engagement. I know people that gain energy from completing a complex task, so they always kept a Rubix cube with them, or a book of puzzles, I know others that gain energy from their environment -- so a walk in the woods or a run makes them feel energized.
I think learning this about yourself is one of the most important goals you can have in life.
What gives you strength, energy, vitality enthusiasm?
Pay attention to your body and your energy levels and understand what makes them grow and change and diminish and flourish.
When you figure this out, lean into those experiences.
I battle some seasonal depression -- maybe depression isn’t the right word, but when the sun goes down early and the weather is cold, I lose my energy focus and “want to”. I am solar-powered, I love the green of the trees, the noises of nature, the sun on my body. That makes me feel energized. So with that in mind, and our current situation I have been worried about my own mental state when things turn grey again. I know that I have to focus on getting outside no matter the weather. I have to make that time each day. If I spend the day locked to my computer or at my desk, I will struggle for a few days afterward.
Not servicing my needs -- lingers.
I also know about myself that I need to teach and mentor others. When I coach sports, I get really really energized. Like I feel charged, like electricity is pouring through my veins -- so I have learned over the last 5-7 years that I have to find ways to replicate this feeling...which is why I transitioned in my career to focus more on career development, mentoring and teaching via content.
When I speak in a class, whether it’s 10 students or 400, I feel that energy, it boosts me. Especially, when they are all listening and asking questions.
I have learned this about myself -- if I can’t coach, I speak in classes and I create more helpful content. If the sun isn’t out, I still need to force myself to get outside and be in nature.
You need to figure this out for yourself. What gives you energy?
And, if you feel like social engagement is something that gives you energy -- don’t stop at “well, I can’t be around people now, so I guess I huddle in the corner and cry myself to sleep”
No, get creative.
Last week I was talking to my friend and former guest on the show Dan Kaufmann, who is the New York Jets Director of Corporate Partnerships -- and he told me that he schedules meetings with people every morning between 8-10. 30-minute windows, just to catch up a chat and see what’s going on in their world. No business, no big deals -- just to catch up.
He said he needs this, and he finds that everyone he’s talking to likes it too. He and I jumped on a call last week and I’ll be honest, it was awesome. He knows this is something he needs, so he seeks it out.
Last week I also interviewed friend of the show and returning champion, Carl Manteau, Sr. Director of Group Sales for the Chicago Blackhawks -- Carl was our first ever guest on this show, so I decided to bring him back for episode 300 which is this Wednesday and trust me it’s another great interview … Carl is one of the smartest, most creative and attuned people I know.
Part of our conversation revolved around mental health - I won’t share everything we talked about, but we discussed how people in sales generate their energy from two major factors, closing deals and the joy and fulfillment they bring others - servicing their needs and providing them entertainment. So how does someone who thrives on closing deals and servicing others replace that energy?
One of the major conclusions we came to collectively, is that you have to tell people what you need -- but even before that, you have to identify what you need. That’s what this discussion is about -- your mental health, your energy, and enthusiasm, your ability to battle burnout, coms from knowing what you need.
So what is it?
We tell our kids all the time to pay attention to how their body feels after they eat. Stick with me here. Part of the reason is, my wife and I had no idea until we were in our 30s that we both had certain food allergies. We never connected the dots that when we ate certain things we may have loved it initially, but then for the next 4 hours, all you wanted to do was take a nap. Right? We’ve all been there.
BUT, if you pay attention to these things, you can often find patterns. When I eat X, I feel like shit. My wife it was gluten. She had an allergy test done, and as you can guess… she’s allergic to gluten. She doesn’t eat bread, noodles and other glutenous products anymore and her energy level is different.
We tell our kids to pay attention to how their body feels and see if there are patterns.
Spread this advice past food.
We as a people, as a society as beings … don’t pay attention enough to how you feel and what is driving that feeling.
I often talk about how the job of a manager is to put their employees in a situation where they can succeed. Set them up for success.
Well guess what, you are your manager...you have to learn and understand and communicate, what you need to succeed. What do you need? What makes you thrive? What makes you feel good?
Study yourself! Learn yourself! That is where mental health starts.
Before we wrap this up, I want to have a quick discussion on burnout. Jane in her question mentions feeling burned out and it’s easy to see why.
The more we see people losing their jobs, or taking pay cuts, or waiting in line for unemployment, or getting evicted -- the more we think we have to work harder than ever before. Unfortunately, this is not sustainable. The longer and harder you work the less productive you become. It is a proven fact that people are more productive is they work 45 minutes and take a 15-minute break.
Seriously proven fact -- if you work straight on through, you become less and less competent and efficient as the day goes on. In side-by-side trials, the person who took breaks was more effective and accomplished more than the person who worked straight through.
Again, I made this mistake personally. When I was the News Director at Fox sports Northwest -- I thought I had to be there in the morning for the executive meetings and be there at night for our 10 pm show. I thought if I worked really hard and “paid my dues” it would pay off in the long run.
All it did was burn me out, and make me want to quit the television business. I wasn’t as effective, I wasn’t as kind, I wasn’t as tolerant. My employes saw the worst version of me. I was burnt out.
I went thought this - I messed it up and I look back now wishing I could have done things differently. Paid attention to my energy levels, understood how to charge myself, and set myself up for success. But I didn’t, I failed...and now I share this all with you in the hops you will do better.
Thanks, everyone and thank you, Jane, for a great question