On today’s episode, I’m going to be talking to Dr. Joanna Martin about how to create impact without burnout. Joanna is the founder of One of Many. One of Many is an organisation that I’ve been working with now for just over 18 months. I can honestly say that the impact that this work has had on me has been absolutely transformational.
We’re going to really dig deep into this subject around burnout. I know for many of you who will be listening to this episode, you’ll really resonate with that. A lot of what we talk about is different energetic roles that we sometimes play out for ourselves as women, where we feel like we have to be everything to everybody. We have to be a good mum, a good sister, a good friend, a hard worker, look after the household, look after the money, look after everything. And energetically, what can happen is we get ourselves into burnout.
We act in the role of superwoman. I can definitely say that there have been times in my life where I have felt like I’ve been going down that path of trying to do too much all at the same time.
In this interview Joanna and I talk about different power types – soft power types – that we can step into as a woman, as a leader to create impact on the world and in our communities but without getting into burnout. We talk about some of the symptoms of burnout and what you can use, what’s in your emergency kit. Jo shares with us a couple of things that she uses in her community to help you to get out of burnout.
This topic hasn’t come at a better time, because I know that many of you will be feeling particularly overwhelmed this week and this year. Dr. Joanna Martin, her community and her programs have literally been an absolute life changer for me over the last 18 months to two years.
I’m really delighted to introduce her.
How to Reduce Burnout
Welcome Joanna to the podcast today.
Thank you so much, Catherine, it’s such a pleasure to be here. I’m really looking forward to getting to know your community.
Thank you so, so much. So for anyone who hasn’t come across your work, Joanna, tell us a little bit about One of Many and the community that you have built and what that stands for.
Well, I guess it has its roots in when I was a new mum. I’d been an entrepreneur for quite a long time. I’d been a coach for some time since 2003. I started coaching after being a medical doctor via drama school, a host of other weird and odd things, but that’s how long I’ve been doing coaching for.
But when my first child came along, James, which is about seven years ago now, I remember I was sitting in a darkened room breastfeeding him, full of loads of great ideas with no time, of course, to do anything with them. When you’re a new mum, you don’t have time to do anything. One of the things that struck me at that time with this precious little bundle of perfection in my arms was that the world he was stepping into was very much less than perfect.
There was a lot of financial inequity, there was massive issues around climate change, racial injustice. Just everything through the lens of this perfect unblemished, little being, it just showed up to me the imperfections and the challenges of our world in a much greater way.
I think a lot of mothers feel that transition – not exclusively mothers, of course, but there is that moment where you recognise that this is a generational thing. We’re leaving a legacy here. It was at that point that I thought this has got to change. This is something that’s absolutely got to change. There’s a quote that gets bandied around a lot in women’s empowerment spaces from the Dalai Lama that says the Western woman will change the world. He said that at the Vancouver peace summit in 2009.
On the one hand, I absolutely get it. I don’t necessarily think he’s getting at Western women, but women with resources. There’s just as many of those in the UK, the US and the West, as there are in the Middle East, East Asia and Africa. There’s resources everywhere you turn. Women with resources, I think really can make a dramatic difference. I think it’s because we have this mix of compassion and the resourcefulness to be able to bring these two together and impact.
For me, as I was sitting there, in this weird meditative, breastfeeding, spaced out space with James, it dawned on me for the first time that perhaps who those women are is not who I had thought they would be. Perhaps it’s not just the Hillary Clinton’s, the Theresa May’s, the Jacinda Ardern’s of the world. Perhaps it’s actually us, you and I, the women in our communities, my neighbour, my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, when she was alive. It’s we women at a grassroots level. The impact that we can have in our spaces, whether that space is just our family, whether that space is the school that our kids go to, or that space is our community, our local community, or some online community or an organisation or a nation or a global movement. It doesn’t matter what the size of the space is.
I truly believe that if we want to transform the world, it is grassroots women leaders that are required to energise those shifts. But as I looked at most of those women I knew, myself included at that time, we were tearing around like headless chickens. There’s always something to juggle. Someone’s still got to pay the car insurance, organise Christmas presents, book the holiday. Life admin plus our work, whatever our work may be. There’s usually not much time left over to think about actually impacting the world in a positive way.
So I recognised that there was a need for both tools to handle the juggle, and a community where it’s okay to be juggling, failing, hoping, dreaming about change, activating on change, failing at it, winning at it. And just that really loving, safe space that says, do you know what; I can want to change the world and be a single mum who’s currently full-time parenting. I can want to change the world and be way too busy in my job to do anything about it right now. I can want to change the world and be able to activate on it once I get myself sorted.
We’re getting to this point where it has to be first this then that. I wanted to make a space and a stand that we could imperfectly, in parallel, live an impactful life without it meaning more on our plate and burning out because we haven’t got time to wait.
What I love about what you said there Joanna is it’s almost that process of it being okay to go through those ebbs and flows of life.
Right now, I know for many of us, we are in that state where all of a sudden we might have children at home, or we might be furloughed from work. Lots of things are going on in our lives and I love the collective power of women as a community, whether it’s, as you said, in your local communities or in your families, coming together to support each other.
So in terms of the impact then Joanna, that you want to create for these grassroots leaders, when you’ve helped somebody to build that vision and mission without going into burnout, what kind of impact are those grassroots leaders then go on to have in their communities and in the world?
Well, it’s super exciting. Our flagship program that a lot of women get involved in is called Lead the Change. It’s a 12 month program. You are involved with it, Catherine and doing some amazing work. What women go through is a simultaneous, let’s get life sorted across the board on every level, as far as it’s ever possible to achieve that, of course. Then at the same time we start talking about this:
We invite women to take on some project, some social justice project, or community-based project. Sometimes it’s something through their work, but very often it’s something outside of that realm, where they get to practice these new, what we call soft power leadership skills.
The sorts of things that women have mobilised and created and activated during these years with us, since we launched six years ago, are extraordinary.
I’m thinking of Lizann McLaughlin, who was a coach in Ireland. She’s an actress actually in a number of soap operas and things in Ireland. She’s quite famous over there. She had an idea to make her town single-use plastic free. The town had a lot of festivals during the summer and so on back in the days. So Lizann McLaughlin decided that that was her mission. She went around to all of the businesses in the area and the first food festival they had in her town that summer, there was not a single plastic bottle, not a single plastic straw. They got rid of the whole lot by mobilising that.
That was watched by a number of other towns and a number of other councils who went, oh, we should do something like this too. That’s started a bit of a movement inside of One of Many. One of Many For The Environment group are now doing all sorts of little projects in different localities around the world.
I’m also thinking of Sarah Simons, who works in construction. She’s a Designer – Environmental Designer I think is a correct word for what she does, Environmental Architect, that kind of thing. She’s got a day job that she does. When she first started the program she was – I wouldn’t say unfulfilled, but wondering ‘is this it?’ It was a very one dimensional life that she was living through her work.
Through the program she talked about green deserts: that a lot of villages and towns have these big lawns, which are not places of biodiversity. The village green and stuff with just this big green area. They’re effectively for wildlife, deserts. They’re not good for biodiversity. She said, well, in our village I want to transform that into a haven of biodiversity. Again, this got noticed by the wider council and it is now activating across her whole area, which is now feeding into her expertise in her workplace. She’s now getting recognised and being that voice of knowledge, which they never would have known about, into her workspaces.
We’ve had women supporting refugee communities. We’ve had women fundraising for an organisation that I support, The Hunger Project, which is our mission is to end hunger.
We have hundreds and thousands of women in our communities who are all way too busy – I want to be really clear about this! Everybody’s way too busy doing all of this. But when we step out of old paradigm of superwoman, I have to do it all myself and burnout, and step into a new paradigm type thinking of how do I collaborate? How do I do this with and through others? What does it take to hold a space for something and invite others into that space to support and contribute. When we make that shift, we’re seeing women activating on real projects that are making a real difference in a local way and in some cases, national ways as well.
It’s extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary. Humbling to witness.
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Incredible. And that’s the power, isn’t it, about holding that space to bring people together collaboratively. Right now that’s so important.
How do people then come out of this old paradigm that you’re referring to there and step into the new paradigm? How do they make that shift from overwhelmed to impact in their communities?
I think the first thing is about appreciating the ocean that we’re swimming in. It’s that old metaphor of a fish doesn’t know it’s in water until you take it out.
So we have to, first of all, wake up to the paradigm in which we’re operating to recognise how it is not serving us as women. There is some interesting research done by a guy called Hoffstaedter in 2001. He looked at the relative masculinity and femininity of different nations around the world. Those that were more masculine would celebrate values, such as material success, individualism, competition, those sorts of elements, whereas cultures that were more feminine would celebrate community, collaboration, family, humility, and so forth.
Interestingly in his research, he showed that more feminine communities were better for men and women. It’s not just that the masculine communities are better for men and the feminine community, better for women. Feminine communities work better for everybody when you look at them.
The UK and where we live in Australia, are very masculine countries, we very much celebrate individuals. We very much celebrate wealth and achievement and we make equivalence between that and worth. That someone is more valuable if they’re wealthier, for instance.
We, first of all, live in national cultures, that celebrate those masculine values. Then we’re brought up in families that may also push us towards being high achievers and if I want something done right I’ve got to do it myself. I’m not worthy of love unless I’m getting straight A’s, you know, that sort of stuff.
Then in addition to that, we then go on into workplaces, which the overwhelming majority of workplaces are, of course still driven by those same, very masculine values; individualism, competition, being the number one, the best, et cetera. Even where there is collaboration in those workspaces, the unconscious culture is one of, you will stay and you will push.
It’s rare where you get a compassionate workplace culture. You add all of these together and (for women and men alike, but let’s talk about the impact that has on women) we get three choices.
- We either say, okay, I agree. I’m up for it and we turn into superwoman. Superwoman is the name of the archetype that I think is the archetype of our times. She is high achieving, great at my career, I will do all of the things for all of the people and I’ll do it the best. I know I need to go to the spa because that’s what I do for self-care. So I’ll get to the fucking spa and I’ll get to speed dating, and then dinner’s on the table. It’s a military operation. Bedtime will be done on time. And then we collapse on the couch in a heap of Netflix and red wine.
We can choose to go for it, and a lot of women choose that.
- Some women may have had a mother like that or have a sister like that and they go no. If that’s what being a success looks like, I’m not interested. They go into Anti Superwoman. They check out and they think, well, if that’s the only way to make an impact, I’m not gonna go there.
- Then some of us end up in this funny conflicted place in the middle where we want to make a bigger impact because we care. We deeply care at a soul level. We know Superwoman isn’t the solution, but most of us don’t have another frame of reference. So we end up in this conflicted state of one foot on the accelerator, one foot on the brake saying, go for it, grow my business, make an impact in the world, do something, stop, I can’t, I’m burning out. I need to self-care. I need to prioritise me. I can’t. Go. Stop. Go. Stop.
We end up in a very conflicted place where we just then end up feeling like a failure across everything.
Here at One of Many what we talk about is when you see that the paradigm you’re calling forth these disempowering archetypes.
Back in the eighties everyone said, go be a Superwoman. But now I think we can see that that doesn’t serve us. She (Superwoman) is what has us burnout because she runs on adrenaline.
I think all of us, especially the mothers (though not exclusively the mothers), in the last 48 hours have felt Superwoman. Got to get organised, home schooling, that drive to want to get everything controlled and sorted out.
That’s okay for 15 minutes, maybe even 15 hours or a super busy day. But most of us end up there for 15 months or sometimes 15 years. Superwoman runs on adrenaline and that’s why we burn out. It’s why we’re 60% more likely to suffer job stress and burnout than men are.
That’s my hypothesis, I don’t have the proof on that, but that’s my hypothesis.
That adrenal fatigue, it affects us mentally, physically in every possible way, doesn’t it?
Your background is in the medical side, you were a doctor so you’ve seen the impact this has for women psychologically, mentally, physically.
That’s it. There’s only so long you can operate that way before you get tired. We go through these phases of tired but wired. You’re tired, you’re in that Superwoman state, but your adrenaline is coursing so much that you can’t switch off. You can’t get to sleep.
Then we start seeing the tell tale signs of burnout. Every three months having a cold but crashing out for a couple of days. Then eventually we get to that brain fog and fatigue and all of those sorts of things. We are very susceptible to that.
If we want to have more impact, but we don’t want to have more of the perceived cost of that impact, which we get if we act more from Superwoman, we need a completely new way of operating. That’s what we talk about at One of Many.
Your original question was how do we make that shift? The first shift we have to make is almost to re-install a new operating system inside our biology, which is coming from a place of what we call soft power. We talk about five women’s power types.
If we can activate each of them in the way that we operate in the world, rather than coming from Superwoman or Victim or Bitch or Martyr, who are her cousins that are usually hot on her tails.
Instead of that, we come from our Queen energy. She that can see the vision for the realm, that can bring a community together to be able to work towards a common vision.
We operate from our Mother energy of unconditional love, of compassion, of nourishment, of safety and providing safety for people.
If we work from our Lover energy that centres in our own self-care and takes care of this one body that we’ve been given, nourishes this body, enjoys life, has pleasure and replenishes.
If we come from our Sorceress energy, which is that part of us that connects to our purpose in the world and is connected to source, God, highest self, whatever it is we call that, can work with intuition and with the unseen forces that come to our aid.
I mean, through a global pandemic, the most reliable staff member on my team at the moment is Source. We’re just a team of humans, but we can count on that support. We can count on that unconscious support. There have been so many miracles for us over the last 12 months. It’s been insane. When we tune into that Sorceress energy, we can all activate that.
And of course the Warrioress energy because we all need a little bit of that. Amazonian Wonder Woman to get shit done, to fight the fights that need fighting. Then at the end of it, to shake it off, to play, to have some fun, knowing that we’re not in that Superwoman all the time, but to be in that expanded awareness state.
We operate with those power types and we help women to embody them, to get them as the place they come from as their default. Making that one shift then gives them access to all the resources to grow their impact and do everything else that they want to do in the world.
Just describing those soft power types. They have been a very pivotal part of my journey over the last 18 months. My highest soft power type is Sorceress and one of my lowest when I first started was Queen. I would be good at linking to my intuition.
Mother was my second highest. I was always very good at giving to others, but not to myself. My automatic go-to strength and leadership came into bringing people together intuitively, knowing and feeling what felt right. That’s how I guide everything I do in my business.
But the challenge for me was I’m a massive over giver. I undercharged in my business and this very much links into what we talk about in our community, around our relationship with money because it’s all interlinked. I know that for many of you that you may be feeling that this is really interesting.
I’ve been running on Superwoman for six years and rather than stopping myself, the world has stopped me and threw me in different directions.
What are the signs, physically and maybe emotionally, that we need to be aware of that we might be heading towards burnout? Are there any tools or things that you could share, Joanna around what could we do if we’re feeling like that right now?
Absolutely. Early warning signs are that sense that you’re just a bit off your game. It’s mental, brain fatigue. Executive functioning is a limited resource. I always break it down by saying there’s only so many decisions you can make in any 24 hour period of time before you have to stop.
At particularly stressful times, especially during a global pandemic in the last 10 months where we’ve had to make 18 decisions just about how to go to the supermarket, which in the past it would have just been, do I need to go or don’t I, everything else was automatic. That is why many of us are at burnout now, especially facing this next wave.
I’m very present to our NHS workers and so on, who are on their knees. They’re depleted. It can start with just being off your game, that feeling a little rough and brain fog, not being as good at making decisions. If it progresses past that it can go into physical symptoms of catching colds that really floor you, or just waking up with a hangover, even though you didn’t drink anything the night before. Emotionality, being easily triggered into emotions can be another way that it presents itself. Someone says something to you and you just end up weeping. You know it’s an overreaction but you feel powerless to do anything about it.
The other side of the emotionality is numbness can set in. If I feel like I’m in my family, but I’m not there. They seem to be having some lovely family connections with each other and I’m this weird observer on the outside that’s not being impacted by the joy or not being impacted by the cuteness then I’m full of emotion. Even though it’s not spilling out, what I’m doing is keeping a lid on it because there’s so much in there. It might be frustration. It might be fear. It might be grief. It might be shame. Doesn’t matter what the emotion is, but we put a lid on it.
Annie Stoker, my content collaborator and our Head of Coaching, talks about it being like a beach ball. If you try and keep a beach ball under water, it takes a lot of energy. It keeps trying to pop up. If you feel that sense of numbness that you are distanced from life, or you don’t feel feelings, it’s likely that you’ve got a lid on how much feeling is inside.
All of these are early warning signs that if you don’t do something about dealing with all of the emotion that’s inside, the fact that you are still going fast and still trying to perform, then you’re likely going to end up at the later signs, which is, and this is what we hear for people who get to ME and chronic fatigue, where they just wake up one day and they can’t get out of bed anymore. They just can not go to work, or it might present itself as another health crisis, like a big endometriosis flare up or the neck goes out and they end up on really bad painkillers.
I know for many women in our community, they might have a heart attack or they might get a cancer diagnosis. They’re the late stages. It’s serves us. If you know you’ve been in that state for a while, or if any of this rings true, it is the time to make some changes right now.
I know that one of the tools that One of Many provide to their communities, it’s like an emergency toolkit. I actually have a comfort box that I’ve created for myself. In this little shoe box I have a blanket, I have a candle, I’ve got my favourite book in there, I’ve got photographs. It’s my go-to real emergency kit for if I’m feeling really emotionally flooded and overwhelmed. I go to that box. I’ll take myself off and I’ll tell my family what I’m doing. They don’t come and interrupt me for the next 45 minutes or however long I need. I just saturate myself in things that just make me feel loved.
I know that One of Many, you talk about a number of different tools that you have in your programs, but is there maybe one that you could share today, Joanna for if someone’s feeling like that right now.
What’s the one little thing they could do from that little emergency toolkit that could help them to reduce some of that overwhelm and burnout for themselves?
Beautiful. One of the most well used tools that we have is our overwhelmed first aid kit.
The overwhelmed first aid kit is when we get to that point, we’re either overwhelmed with emotion or overwhelmed with the amount on our to-do list. How do we approach that? It’s 10 steps. I won’t go through all 10, but let me tell you the first couple, because it’s the first couple that are really critical and important.
- The first one is to stop.
If you’re feeling like that, especially if you tend towards Martyr energy. I know my go-to disempowering archetype is Martyr. The busier I get, the more I think I have to do for everybody else and the lower down the list I go. It’s like a self perpetuating cycle.
For those of us who do that, the first thing we’ve got to do is stop, really interrupt the pattern. I don’t just mean stop, go make a cup of tea. I mean, stop, walk away from the computer, get away from the situation. If it’s a confrontation with somebody really remove yourself from the space of the thing, whatever is the tipping point that’s getting you over there at that time. If you’ve just had a huge argument with your spouse or whatever, give yourself time away from whatever that thing is.
The amount of time that you need to stop for will be dependent on a lot of things. But the best thing you can do is give yourself at least 45 minutes to an hour. We all think ‘I haven’t got time to give myself 45 minutes or an hour’, but if you took 45 minutes or an hour to stop and then take emergency replenishment, if you did need to come back in the afternoon and get things done, or you did need to come back, even after dinner that night and get things done, you will be able to do it far better than if you try and push through on the top of a weight of stuff.
- The second step then is to do some emergency replenishment.
It might be make tea. I like to get outside in nature. For me, I power out in Warrioress into the fields outside. Rain, hail, or shine. It’s usually frustration that tips me over the edge so I stride out that frustration. By the time I get around to this grove of trees over the way, I can step into Sorceress energy, I feel grounded. I connect to source and I just bring that in.
Usually if I’ve had to activate my overwhelm first aid kit on any day, that night, I will do a big dance it out session.
We do a dynamic meditation that Annie Stoker leads in our community. She does that once a month. It’s a practice that I use weekly, sometimes twice weekly myself. It’s a way of getting emotions out of the body and moving through.
The key thing is stop. The second thing is replenish. You’ve got to put something in the tank. It doesn’t have to be a full tank. You can’t go from six years of Superwoman and burnout to a full tank in 45 minutes. That’s not possible. But you can get enough juice in the tank to be able to see the wood for the trees that day. That’s the key distinction.
Then you grab a pen and paper and you dump out on that list every decision that is bugging you, every issue that you’re frustrated by, every action you’ve got to take. Dump it all out and then we teach you how to prioritise what has to be done today, what can be left for a few days, and what’s actually pretty low priority. Then we say, go replenish again because you just used up the tiny little bit of juice that you put in the tank. Go replenish again and then do just those things that need to be done today. The rest gets left.
Then you’ve got to activate some longer term strategies to keep you out of Superwoman and into replenishment and the soft power types for the future.
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Thank you so much. There’s so many little pearls of wisdom in there. I know we talked about the power of journaling here previously, and we’ve had a lady who I was introduced to from the One of Many community.
Journaling for me was one of those things that didn’t feel natural because I used to write diaries as a child and I remember my diaries being found and read. I was really embarrassed and it was all in there. So the thought of actually journaling was like, oh goodness, I can’t possibly do that, but actually understanding what resources you have available to you already inside and the power of just listening to that voice and being able to tune into what is your unconscious telling you that can actually help you through that current challenge.
Then obviously bringing the power of people around you to support you with that. It’s just been an absolutely incredible journey. I know Joanna, that you have also got an awesome free challenge coming up in your community.
It’s called Activate 2021 where we’re really present to the fact that we’re in this odd situation at the moment: we’ve just had a new year and everyone’s got that energy of wanting fresh start, new leaf. But if we’re actually truthful with ourselves, we all can just tell that the only thing that changed was the date!
If we’re even slightly under any other illusions, the government changed everything a couple of days ago here in the UK for us just to prove that that was the case. So we’re in this weird and ambivalent state at the beginning of 2021.
There’s all these fabulous Facebook memes of, “2021 you’ve got a pretty easy remit. All you’ve got to do is be better than 2020. You can do it”. It’s that time where we want to be planning for the year. It’s that time where we want to be starting on something new. We feel we’ve got some energy for that.
Some of us are still on our knees from last year and really don’t and probably won’t by the end of the week after three days of homeschooling.
We’re talking in the activate week and we’re calling it a challenge, but don’t worry, it’s not going to be challenging! It’s going to be really supporting you to do the work that you need to do to let go of 2020. The hurt, the anger, the frustration, the fear and to embrace what we learned about ourselves, the great lessons and the gratitude from last year, and to be able to look forward to a horizon, even beyond 2021, which is how far we need to look for our navigation at the moment.
It’s impossible to plan three months out right now, but it is possible to navigate from source energy much further out. The actual challenge starts on Monday and I’ll be live in a Facebook group Monday through Friday, then culminating in a visioning and planning workshop next Saturday, which is a two hour workshop that that we will be leading together. It’ll take us through everything we’ll need to be able to do to start this year without over expectations of ourselves, but equally without checking out because it’s all too hard to think about the future.
I just want to finish today’s interview Joanna by saying a massive thank you for the work that you have created in this world because I know you haven’t just had an impact on me, but on my friends, my family, and all the other ladies that you have helped to inspire and lead. I just wanted to say a massive thank you.
And thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me Catherine, and it’s a real honour. I see the work that you’re doing in the world and how much you’re impacting your community and helping them to step into their power around their money and their finances.
It is just such a beautiful, beautiful opportunity, I think, for all of us in this space to work with each other, hold each other, buoy each other up because it’s the only way we can do it. So I thank you for your work and thank you for the acknowledgement. I appreciate it.
I’m getting quite emotional. This is the impact that your work has on me. Thank you so, so much for your time today. It’s been super interesting.
If you’re reading this later and you’ve missed the Activate challenge, then we have popped some additional resources that we’ve talked about in today’s episode into the show notes.
I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of Joanna as well as we invite her to integrate her incredible work into our community too.
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