Episode 356

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For many of us, agency ownership means that most of our time and energy goes into our work. Even when trying to sleep, we’re replaying a frustrating conversation we had earlier that day, doomscrolling, or even dreaming about everything on our to-do lists. When we can’t turn off our minds at the end of a long day, we set ourselves up for occupational burnout.

As some of you know, I learned the hard way that staying overly connected to our work can have severe consequences. I brought Dr. Gerry Farris on the podcast today to talk about how we can take care of ourselves to feel better daily, stay mentally strong and healthy, and why taking breaks is so important. With many years as a physician and working with patients who have experienced occupational burnout, Dr. Farris is the perfect person to educate us on how to be smarter about living our overly-connected lives.

Dr. Gerry Farris has been an Emergency physician for 30 years and a Functional Medicine physician for 10 years. His current practice focuses on healthy living and age management and he is a former triathlete who competed for 31 years. His goal is to help patients and persons be healthy, mitigate disease and aging, and live well for a long time. He is a double Board Certified physician with a wealth of experience and knowledge. He is practicing the “Medicine of Tomorrow, Today!”

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
Occupational Burnout

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to know if you’re experiencing occupational burnout or heading in that direction
  • How information overload leads to hypervigilance and why it happens
  • The effects that elevated cortisol levels have on our brains and bodies
  • How to build resilience against neuroinflammation and bodily dysregulation
  • What does burnout recovery look like?
  • Why sleep is one of the most essential things for recovery and burnout prevention
  • What 37 minutes a day can do to improve your overall health
  • How to make healthy lifestyle changes that you can stick to

“I don't think we have quite adapted as a species to the amount of information overload that we're being exposed to.” Dr. Gerry Farris Click To Tweet“We have to understand that if we are going to live the lifestyle we're going to live, we want to live, and have to live in certain cases, that we have to now allocate time for ourselves for recovery.” Dr. Gerry Farris Click To Tweet“We give away our time. We don't honor our own time when we need to honor our own time. We don't get enough downtime.” Dr. Gerry Farris Click To Tweet“We found that we should not work more than three days in a row because of the decline in performance. If we work three-twelves or three-sixteens, it drops off the cliff. We found this out within the first month.” Dr. Gerry Farris Click To Tweet“So what I'm really preaching to you is let's work on being better men, women, and leaders by taking care of ourselves.” Dr. Gerry Farris Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Dr. Gerry Farris:


Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. We have a great episode for you today. I’m going to tell you why I think it’s so important in a minute. Super excited about it. And I think it’s going to be something that you think about for a really long time. But before I do that, let me tell you, we just finalized working out with our friends at Mercer Island Group, the brand new workshop that they’re going to do in January of 2023, which seems so far away, but the reality is it’s only six, seven months away.

Here’s what they’re going to do is they are going to teach us for two days all of the ways that we could improve our written proposals. So, that could be something where somebody has a referral and they just ask you to write a proposal without sending out any information to maybe have a discovery call or a discovery meeting. And then, they ask you to give them a proposal. It could be anything as formal as a response to an RFI or an RFP.

We’re going to talk about case studies and cover letters, and we are going to workshop some of it. So, you can actually learn how to do it better. And then, we’re, for two days, just going to immerse ourselves in how to make our proposals more successful. How do we increase our win rate? So, that workshop is going to be at the tail end of January in Orlando. By the time this episode airs, it will be on the website.

So, if you want to learn more about it and see the dates and all of that thing, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, and under the How We Help tab, you scroll down to Workshops and it’ll be there. So, check that out and don’t miss it because I think it’s going to be awesome. All right. So, I’m going to tell you a little story and some of you were a part of this story, so you’ll recognize it. And others of you, it’ll be new news.

So, life in spring of 2022 for me was really great in a lot of ways, a lot of really good, happy life things happening, but also had some family losses and some family illness and then we’re planning the summit. And there’s just some stressors like all of you have. And I will admit, I have a tendency to be a bit of workaholic.

So, I work a lot of hours and I don’t take a lot of time off on the weekends and I carve time out. I will spend time with family and friends for a couple of hours or a half a day, but I am always going a hundred miles an hour. I suspect you recognize yourself in that description. A lot of you are wired a lot like I am. So, it is the summit, we are in Chicago. We have 300 attendees. We have all these sponsors.

I’m feeling incredible pressure to make that experience as amazing as possible for everyone. Have some family stuff going on at the same time that I’m also worried about. So, I’m feeling very fragmented. And so, on Monday, Monday of the summit is what we call Family Days. So, it’s basically for all of the members who are in attendance. We have a half day of learning together, speakers, panels, things like that. And then, we go to dinner.

And it’s such a great day. I’m with 150 people that I know really well that I genuinely love. I am so excited to be with all of them, but I also have to be on. I’m on stage a lot. I’m the conductor of the orchestra, if you will. So, that particular Monday, which was a couple of months ago now, I didn’t do a very good job of taking care of myself. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. I was not staying as hydrated. I was so scattered and stretched.

I didn’t eat very well that day. And again, I’m on. So, I’m high energy the entire day. There’s stuff going on at home that I’m trying to keep track of. And again, a lot of good things, but also a lot of stressful things. So, for many of you, this is like your normal life. Like it’s my normal life. Well, anyway, so the day is really great. We have great panels. Everybody’s feeling high energy. We all go to dinner.

And I’m walking the room. Everybody’s seated for dinner and I’m walking the room, talking to people, almost like, you’re the host of a wedding. That’s what it felt like to me. Like I wanted to make sure I said hi to everybody and saw everybody and hugged everybody. And finally, somebody said, “You know what? You need to sit down and eat.” So, I sat down and I passed out, and I could feel myself getting so lightheaded. I passed out and I hit my head really hard on the floor.

Long story short. So, here I am in front of 150 of my friends who are clients, freak them all out. They call the paramedics, cops come. It was awful. And then, I had the summit still. So, long story short, I stayed in Chicago. I was present at the summit. I gave my keynote, but I felt really lousy. Whenever I didn’t have to be on stage or in front of everybody, I was in my hotel room sleeping, and I felt bad.

I just didn’t feel good. So, I had a headache and I was nauseous and I didn’t get sick or anything like that. So, we were assuming that there was no concussion, but when I got home, my family insisted that I go see a doctor. And long story short, I did have a concussion and it took me six weeks to really recover from that concussion. I slept all the time. It really reduced my screen time because I had to. I just didn’t feel good.

And I now finally am feeling full of energy again, feeling strong, feeling healthy. And I’m telling you all of this because our lives are pressure cookers. And what happened on that Monday night was my body said, “We’ve been trying to get your attention. We’ve been trying to tell you to slow down. We’ve been trying to tell you to not work so much. We’ve been trying to tell you to manage your stress. We’ve been trying to tell you to drink more water and eat healthier and all the things.”

And I, of course just kept pushing and pushing and pushing because I have obligations and I want to do right by everybody and all the things, all the reasons that we give every day these excuses that we give. And at a certain point in time, my body said, “Okay, I’ve thrown a pebble at you. I’ve thrown a rock at you. I’ve thrown a boulder at you. Apparently, I’m going to need to hit you with a mountain and I’m going to need to just knock you on your rear end, literally knock you on your rear end and knock you out to get your attention.”

And that’s exactly what happened. I hope for most of you, you haven’t pushed yourself to that extreme, but I know you all push yourself every single day. I know that you don’t eat as well as you should. I know you work too many hours. Especially right now, I know that many of you are feeling this weight that you can’t quite articulate what it is or why it is, but you feel this heaviness.

And a lot of you have said to me, “I just can’t get my mojo back. We can back after COVID, the business is fine, but I just can’t. I can’t get my enthusiasm back. I can’t get my energy back.” And so, that’s what today’s guest is all about. Dr. Gerry Farris is an ER doc. He is a specialist in all medicine, but particularly this idea of what is holistic integrated medicine when it comes to what we’re doing to ourselves in this high-stress world that we live in.

And what do we do to balance all of the things, all the pressures that we’re putting on our body, and what are the consequences if we don’t do anything? So, I have a very personal vested interest in this topic because of what’s happened lately. And I have a very vested interest in this topic because I talk to all of you every day, and I hear your stress and your frustration and your short-temperedness and your lack of joy around the work.

And so, I really want Gerry to talk to us about how we take better care of ourselves, how we manage in this stress, pressure cooker world that we live in so that we don’t pass out in front of 150 clients. And we don’t trigger other health issues that have consequences much bigger than we want to deal with. So, that’s what this is. So, I want to get right to it.

I want to introduce you to Gerry and have him tell us what’s going on in our bodies when it manifests itself in the ways that we’re all seeing. All right. So, let’s do it. Gerry, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Thank you, Drew. It’s really exciting to be here.

Drew McLellan:

The topic of burnout and all the stress that business owners and other business people are under is such a hot topic. I can’t wait to dig into this with you, but before we do that, why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about your background and how you came to have this depth of expertise?

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Absolutely. So, folks, the reason I do the work I do is because I went through some of the things and at the time I went through it, there was no answers. What do they say, when you want to find the solution to a problem, you have to go through it yourself. To give you my background, I’ve been a physician for now, 30 years. I have been an ER doctor for 30 years.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. There’s a little source of burnout, I bet.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Yeah. So, I’ve done my share of nights and weekends and holidays and chaos and COVID and all of that good stuff. Also, I aspired to be a masters athlete. So, I was a triathlete for 31 years. And I actually had the honor to race on US team at one time as a masters athlete. And that was another reason I became very familiar with burnout is when you’re trying to train as an athlete and raise a family and work as a doctor, I can tell you something gibs.

So, what I’m going to try to take you all through is really part of my experience because when I went through it 20 years ago or so, nobody had any answers. You go see somebody and they’re just like, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ll put you on antidepressant.” I’m like, “I don’t need an antidepressant. I need a solution to the problem.” So, this embarked me into the world of now what we call functional and integrative medicine, which I’ve been practicing for the last 12 years.

What that really entails is this idea of how do we really be health, how do we take care of ourselves? Because I can tell you working in healthcare, the healthcare system is a disaster. We know it. And I always bring this up, this is salient, this is less about me, but we spend so much more per patient in the United States on healthcare yet our health outcomes are pitiful.

My mantra now is we’re trying to teach people, how do you be healthy? How do you live this life at warp speed? And we’ll get into this. We’re having to live at warp speed.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Every day.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Whether it’s self-induced or just societal-induced or whether it’s just the lifestyle we lead. As we talk about this topic, you’ll see where I’m going with this. So, again, 30 years as a doctor, 12 years doing this practice of integrative medicine, trying to help people be healthy, former athlete, been through it, done it, seen it, and now, what we’re really working on is how do we help others?

Because physician burnout is huge, and I’m involved in a research study with it right now. So, this is where all this becomes very timely. And all I’m going to do is translate the same information to your listeners today.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s awesome. I’ve been doing this work for a really long time and it’s always been a pressure cooker job, but certainly, the last several years have taken a tremendous toll on the folks that are listening to this podcast and that we get to work with, just in terms of feels like there’s never a letup. There’s always more of a thing. So, let’s talk a little bit about burnout and how does somebody know if they are burnt out? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Again, one of the big things you start to see is this overwhelming sense of fatigue. And most of us are all type A, AA, AAA personalities. And our whole mantra through life is we’re just going to power through. And it’s this, I’m fatigued, now I’m not sleeping well, I’m not rested when I’m sleeping. And then, it starts to move into the irritability phase.

Then we start to get irritable with our loved ones and we get irritable and we snap, and we have very short tempers with our coworkers and little things set us off. So, we start to build this pattern and, “Well, Dr. Farris is always on edge. Why is he always on edge?”

Drew McLellan:

Which I think a lot of agency owners, they’re hearing that from their employees, like, “You’re always on edge or I’m anxious to even come talk to you because I already know it’s going to escalate.” And nobody wants to show up that way.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

No. So, again, fatigue, sleep dysregulation, and we really going to hit on that hard. And then, we can really take it further because I can now run certain laboratory tests on you to show you where you are in life. So, we can start to do the diagnostics and look under the hood, not like what your doctor’s doing. Where we can really look under the hood and go, “Well, gee, Drew, this is what your body’s telling you.”

And then, what we’ll get into later is this idea of biometric monitoring, which is now becoming a very fascinating piece of it, where I can monitor myself day to day or week to week and start to see where my patterns are. Am I getting worse? Am I getting better? So, that’s the broad how does that happen.

Drew McLellan:

So, has burnout always been a thing, or is this a modern phenomenon do you think?

Dr. Gerry Farris:

I really think that this is much more of a modern phenomenon, and I’ll tell you why. Now, if you look at us from an evolutionary standpoint, we were mostly in the beginning hunter-gatherers, and then we became industrialized. So, we were still either farmers or factory workers, and we did more manual labor. There were still the cerebral people.

There were still the leaders that did more of the cerebral work. But we’re in a pretty simple society up through the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. And then, we had the advent of computers, data, input, and just the accessibility to constant information.

Drew McLellan:

And more information than we could possibly consume.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

And then, it’s addicting. It’s addicting. So, what ended up happening is, I don’t think we have quite adapted as a species to the amount of information overload that we’re being exposed to. And we can take this further and talk about EMF and I’m happy to discuss all these things, but the point is, we’re getting just so much data all the time. And what do you process? Because the brain wants to process everything and you got to kick in what’s important which is not important. So, we start to move into this idea that we call hypervigilance. I need to expound on hypervigilance a little bit. Okay?

Now, we need to be aware of things going on. Obviously, if you go into a new city, you don’t know the area, you’re vigilant. Because you don’t want to go down the wrong street. You don’t want to go on the bad area of town. So, that’s vigilance where it’s good. But the brain doesn’t know when we start to get exposed to all this data, what do I really need to be paying attention to? We don’t put the filters on.

So, now, we stay in this constant state of upregulation of something called cortisol, which is a really important stress hormone. We have overload of epinephrine and some of these neurotransmitters because we’re now being forced to run at a processing speed that is much higher than we were maybe ready for.

I don’t know if this resonates with your listeners, but this is what we began to see. I saw this as an athlete when I started to overtrain. It’s the same idea. It’s, how are we adapting to the stimulus that’s being placed on us.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and you’re right. With our phones and all the other ways we can get information, nobody ever unplugs really. It’s always on. My daughter used the phrase the other day, doom scrolling, where you are just caught in this perpetual loop of reading bad news. To some extent, we’re all doing that.

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Right. In my work, when clients come to see me, I always ask them this question, what is the first thing you do in the morning? What is the last thing you do before you go to bed? Now, I get it. But at some point, we have to give our brain a rest. And when we don’t give our brain a rest and we don’t recover, we start to create this problem called neuroinflammation.

And we got to talk about neuroinflammation because neuroinflammation, and I will tell you, is what goes on to create diseases that we don’t want to talk about. That’s the Alzheimer’s and the Parkinson’s and some mental illness as well. So, we’re not shutting off. We’re just not shutting off.

Drew McLellan:

So, how do we shut off? We can all talk about putting down a phone or whatever. But to your point, we are moving at hyper-warp speed. That’s not going to slow down if anything is going to pick up. So, how do we build resilience and how do we take better care of ourself?

Dr. Gerry Farris:

Incredibly great question. And that’s what we’re going to jump into now. Because part of this when I originally did this, the title of the talk was What Are You Doing to Your Brain and What Are You Doing for Your Brain? And I got asked a lot of questions about what are we doing to our brain. Again, we’ve started to touch on it. And then, they said, “What do you mean, I’m supposed to be doing something for my brain?”

Well, think about it. We go to the gym, we lift weights. That’s good for us. But do we put any effort into the care of one of the most important parts of our body. I need everybody to think about this just for a moment and just soak it in. We’re asking the engine to really push really hard yet we don’t want to rest the engine. And then, we wonder why the engin