UFYB 223: BURNOUT, DIET CULTURE, AND RADICAL REST: A CONVERSATION WITH CAROLINE DOONER
This week, I’m having a conversation with my amazing friend and author, Caroline Dooner. Many of you will be familiar with her book, The F*ck It Diet, and she has a new book coming out very soon titled Tired as F*ck, which we’re taking a deep dive into on this episode because learning how to practice a radical period of rest is something we all need.
If we have the privilege and luxury of setting our own schedules in our businesses and yet still find it difficult to take time off to actually rest, chances are you are too. Caroline is walking us through the parallels she has found between diet culture and hustle culture in her journey of healing with food, and how her life was the perfect recipe for burnout until she started feeling comfortable saying no and doing less.
Join us this week to discover how burnout manifested for Caroline, and why she didn’t recognize it at the time. We’re exploring the reasons women especially have trouble carving out time to slow down, and why radical rest isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
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What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- What burnout is, and why Caroline didn’t realize she was experiencing it.
- How burnout manifested for Caroline.
- Why changing your circumstance is not the solution for burnout.
- The parallels between diet culture and hustle culture.
- Why women, in particular, have trouble healing burnout.
- What was keeping Caroline filling her time completely and saying yes to everything.
- Caroline’s experience of getting comfortable saying no and doing less.
- The difference between truly resting and engaging in dopamine-seeking behavior.
Listen to the Full Episode:
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- Caroline Dooner: Website | Instagram
- The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy by Caroline Dooner
- Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture by Caroline Dooner
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Unf*ck Your Brain, the only podcast that teaches you how to use psychology, feminism, and coaching, to rewire your brain and get what you want in life. And now here’s your host, Harvard Law School grad, feminist rockstar, and master coach, Kara Loewentheil.
Kara: Okay my chickens, you guys are going to be so excited about this podcast interview. Everybody should lay down and rest while they listen to it because we are here to talk about resting and hustling and diet culture and all the things.
I’m having a conversation with my amazing internet friend at least, Caroline Dooner, who many of you have read her book, The F*ck It Diet. In fact, it was one of the books I give out in my Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching, along with books by Bell Hooks and other amazing authors, so it’s good company to be in.
And Caroline has a new book called Tired as F*ck, because consistent branding is important. So we are going to talk about it. So I was thinking when I was thinking about this conversation, this is the perfect time for me to talk to you about this because I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
So I had this plan originally to take off most of January. I was going to not work in January. And then of course by the time I developed this plan, I had already scheduled this podcast interview and various things.
So it was like, okay, I’m just going to work these three days in January. And then my partner and I got Omicron because everybody we knew got Omicron, despite having been so careful this whole – public health is not a matter of personal responsibility, but we were also being very careful and nevertheless.
So then I had Omicron, then that pushed things back. And then I watched how quickly even the time I did take off, which ended up being one week and then I’ll take off one more week, how quickly that time got spent on things, got planned on things.
It was like, even somebody like me who has the privilege and luxury of being in able to in some ways set my own schedule, and if I decide I want to take a month off, we just figure out how the business will work. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.
And yet it’s still difficult to even get to take time off to actually rest. So that’s one of the reasons I feel like I’m more than ever, I’m like, oh yeah, this really also is like a mindset and orientation problem as well as a structural problem. That’s what we need to talk about. Okay, so tell the people anything about yourself that I did not get to.
Caroline: Well, I consider myself an author. Like, what are you? I guess I’m technically an author, and that’s pretty much it. Storyteller, humorist, someone who spends way too much time on Instagram. I’ve always loved to write but I really kind of took off when I started writing about The F*ck It Diet.
When I was taking myself through my own healing journey with food, the things I was learning about health at every size, that’s what really blew my mind. And that’s when I was like, why don’t we know this? Why is this secret information that you only learn if you are going through some sort of disordered eating or eating disorder and you find the right people?
Because not even everyone in that world is on. So it was just like, this extremely important information that I was learning, it was changing my life, I started writing about it, was writing this blog called The F*ck It Diet. And that grew into what became The F*ck It Diet book.
So that started 10 years ago. I started my F*ck It Diet 10 years ago, started writing 10 years ago. Five years into it, which would be five years ago at this point, I got extremely burnt out. And I had to overhaul – the biggest thing was that I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
I didn’t understand that it was burnout. I thought that there was something wrong with me. I thought I just had to push harder and find a bio hack. I knew at that point thankfully. At that point I was like, in anti-diet mindset. But that’s what I’d done for so long.
So long I was like, there must be some supplement I can take, some self-help book that I can get to make me feel less – because before it reached exhaustion, it was apathy. It was dread. It was like, oh my God, looking at my schedule like, ugh, I don’t want to do any of this stuff.
And that is this big misunderstanding. I don’t think we understand as a culture how burnout can manifest. It often manifests as listlessness and irritability and apathy, a difficulty focusing.
Kara: Wait, so can we back up for a second? What do you think burnout is? When we’re talking about burnout, what is that category of thing?
Caroline: I think it is a physical and mental, emotional, whole body, giving up is the wrong word, but breaking point. And I think that for me, I assumed you can only be burnt out if you had a stereotypical 80-hour workweek, been doing that for three years, and you burn out and you need to go lie on a beach for a month and then you’re okay. That’s what I thought it was.
So when it happened to me, I didn’t think it was burnout. I was like, what’s wrong with me? That person over there is doing way more than me, so it can’t be burnout. What I learned and what I realized pretty quickly is that the emotional, mental toll and emotional and mental exhaustion can also burn you out, and it can be a slow leak.
For me, it was something that actually happened over 15 years of just never, ever, ever, ever, ever feeling like I was allowed to relax. Even if I was like, okay, I’m taking the day off or I’m going to take the weekend off, the whole time I was like, I really shouldn’t be. The mental anguish and torture. So the approach to heal can’t just be lying on a beach, though that’s great. It’s awesome. The physical part is awesome too.
Kara: Speak for yourself. I hate the beach. Your mileage may vary, going to Paris for a week.
Caroline: Exactly. That’s the other thing, it’s going to be different for everyone. Everyone has a different cause, everyone has a different situation, everyone has different things in their life that are potentially depleting them.
And so if you find yourself in a similar position, you can’t possibly do what I did. You have to take stock of your own situation and figure out where in your life are you misaligned. Because that’s a huge thing too. If you’re in the wrong relationship, wrong job, wrong career, have all these beliefs about yourself that are extremely stressful, that can lead to burnout as well. And it does.
Kara: I think if I were going to frame what you’re describing in the way that – in the framework of I how I teach and what we talk about on this podcast, I think the place where we overlap in what we’re talking about is – and whatever this experience is which we’re calling burnout, the sort of level of physical, mental, emotional exhaustion in which you end up feeling listless, or apathetic, or not wanting to participate in even the things like…
You put things on your schedule, you think you want to do them, and then you feel that dread of it. Burnout is not a one-size-fits-all condition, one-size-fits-all cause, or one-size-fits-all cure. And I think that mental part is so important.
Because what people often do is like, I just have to take vacation, or I just have to take time off. There are people who are in the scheme of things not necessarily even working that many hours who are having this experience, and then we look at the people who are working 80-hours and feel great, and we think there must be something wrong with us.
But it’s not a one to one. There are people who work 80 hours a week all the time and feel great, and that really is a fit for them and the way they’re thinking about it. So I think I’m always talking about the idea that if you take your – changing your circumstance is not going to be what solves it.
You take yourself on vacation with all your thoughts about how you’re being lazy and selfish and shouldn’t be resting and you aren’t good enough and you need to think about work, and it’s not going to solve your problem.
Caroline: Exactly. Yes.
Kara: So you talk about the parallel between diet culture in the book and hustle culture. My listeners are very familiar with diet culture, but possibly have thought less about hustle culture, although I talk about productivity as a capitalist patriarchy problem quite a bit. So tell us how you see these things.
Caroline: Yeah, so one of the big things when I was trying to unlearn diet culture was this revelation that what I have thought about myself for so long, that I was this irresponsible, horrible food addict who could not get herself together, when what was really going on was hunger. Basic, basic things where it’s like, I thought I was the problem and didn’t realize that it was the state that I was putting myself into that was making me feel this way.
It was such a parallel to when I was so burnt out and I realized, oh my God, I could call myself lazy and I have for years, I could call myself lazy and irresponsible, but what is happening is that I am fucking exhausted. And in a culture that doesn’t understand it, doesn’t honor it, has this one-size-fits-all approach, well, this guy was able to thrive on…
Kara: Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in his time off from his job as an ER doctor.
Caroline: Exactly. And again, just like you said, there are people who absolutely 100% thrive with that kind of a life and that kind of a constant everything, though I will say I would guess that at least some of those people are also running from their own shit.
But I do genuinely – I was talking to someone the other day about this and they were like, “Yeah, well you’re essentially describing what a projector needs.” I don’t know if you know anything about Human Design. I don’t know much, though when I read what a projector was, I was like, oh, needs a lot of rest, all of these things.
But case in point, we are all different. We have different modes that we need to operate in and it’s not to say that the people who can handle a lot more won’t also get burnt out because we’re all pretty much pushing ourselves to our own limits. That’s what we’re expected to do.
And it really can be a recipe for disaster, but the big, big parallel to me between diet culture and hustle culture, and I actually do see diet culture as kind of a subset of hustle culture, it’s this perfectionistic if you just try, if you just do…
Kara: Hustle yourself to the right body.
Caroline: Exactly. So I’d unpacked so much of that stuff and totally changed my life, changed the way I saw everything. And then when I got to this place of burnout, I was like, oh shit, I’m still doing this similar thing, I still have all these beliefs about myself and what I’m supposed to be doing and what I should be doing and how much I should be able to handle in every other area of my life.
Specifically, career, because I had been running my own business for five years. I was doing this hustle thing, which again, nothing wrong with it. I learned so much. If I didn’t do that, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now.
But there came a point where I was like, okay, you learned a lot and you did a lot, but is this going to work? Is this mode actually going to work for you long term? Or is it even going to work for you in the next two years being as totally exhausted as you are? And the answer was no.
And very similar to healing from diet culture, which in my opinion and experience requires this phase of over-correction, this extreme hunger, so to speak, that a lot of people experience, and this real need to kind of prove to your body and your mind that you are truly going to feed it, you are truly on your body’s team, and you’re not going to put it on another diet in six weeks after you have a little experiment of eating food.
You really have to go through this healing phase that can feel really extreme to people. It really eventually does lead to something that looks and feels a lot more like balance. That was what I hoped would be true about what I embarked on, which is what I called my two years of rest.
Kara: Two years.
Caroline: Now, did I lie in bed for two years? No, absolutely not.
Kara: I definitely could lie in bed for at least six weeks I think personally.
Caroline: You probably could. And it would be that extreme pendulum swing of being like, look, I’m fucking tired. I am. And what you were saying in the beginning about you wanting to take off January and then life happened, what’s interesting is that first year of my “rest,” I did so much.
And I didn’t intend to. It was not my intention. My intention was to seriously pare down my life. It was the age of Marie Kondo. So I had…
Kara: Just spark joy.
Caroline: Exactly. So I had just decluttered my closet in my apartment and it literally led to me starting to declutter clothes that I would wear to go to auditions to act. And I was like, okay, all of them.
Kara: Guess I’m not going to audition I guess then.
Caroline: Okay, I guess maybe I’m going to declutter acting too because that’s actually one of the top fucking depleting stressors in my life. And that was an example of these expectations that I’d taken on.
“Well, everyone says I’m really good, oh, well, I really do like it sometimes, I got an agent, I have to do it, I can’t let people down, I have to impress them.” All this shit. And I was miserable.
But I was like, I can’t let myself down. It was all this stuff that I’d taken on and it took me really getting to a point where I was not okay, not able to continue functioning the way that I was trying to function to be like, let’s reprioritize, and what do you really want your life to look like? And what do you really want your day-to-day experiences to be?
Do you want to wake up feeling dread, or do you want to wake up actually enjoying what you have to do? So I was like, okay, I think I have to declutter other parts of my life. I have to declutter the shit that I’m forcing myself to do that I don’t have the energy to do right now.
Maybe I’ll have the energy to do it in a couple years. I don’t know. But right now, I don’t, and it doesn’t spark joy. So I literally did a decluttering of everything in my life and I moved out of New York, which was something I never thought that I would do.
But I was like, I know what I need to do right now for my own wellbeing, I need to be in a place where I can afford to do a little bit less for a little while. I moved to Philadelphia, and I was running The F*ck It Diet business.
I was running workshops, that’s how I was making money, I was writing the book at the time. And then as soon as I got to Philadelphia, I had these acting contacts there. I got called into all these auditions and I was like, I mean, I do like acting, and I just didn’t want to have to be in New York doing that incredible grind. So I got a full season of full-time acting work, I bought a house.
Kara: So you were bad at resting I think is what we’re saying the first year.
Caroline: I was bad at resting. I was bad at resting. However, what you said about January reminded me of this, but because I had the intention. I really did. I had the intention to rest, I was very, very, very deliberate with the time that I had outside of all of that. And I said no to so much and it was hard.
Kara: Let’s talk about the saying no. Because I think that one of the biggest reasons that women in particular have trouble with this is that they are not comfortable saying no.
Caroline: It’s horrible.
Kara: All of our socialization is to say yes to everything, to do everything, and always be hustling to prove our worth, to make everybody else happy and do all the things. So how did you get to the place where you were comfortable saying no, or were you just excruciatingly uncomfortable and did it anyway?
Caroline: It was a little bit of both because I actually – so I was doing this socially and professionally. I was burnt out on both. I needed to seriously do less socially just because I literally did not have the energy, and I was starting to say no to a lot of the freelance jobs that I had taken on out of this scarcity mentality of, well, if I say no to this then I’ll maybe never get another opportunity.
So I was very clear, I was very clear that I wanted to change up the way that I was operating and the way that I was automatically saying yes. But when it really came down to it, I did struggle with it and what would come up was this guilt.
And so I told myself, okay, the reason I’m giving myself two years is because I have a feeling that it’s going to be really hard to get used to. Again, it’s not going to be lying in my bed for two years. It’s going to be me trying to navigate a slightly slower life, but still working, still doing things, still having to actually be a person in the world and learning how to say no and being really, really aware of whenever that guilt or that anxiety would come up.
It was my almost like healing period to be aware and say okay, if that comes up – because what I wanted was peace. I wanted peace within myself. And when I didn’t have it, the question was why. What do I believe about this random speaking opportunity on someone’s random Instagram page that I don’t even know or care about, that I don’t need to do, that I’m seeing so stressed to say no to it? Why do I feel that way?
And the answer was usually something like if you don’t take this opportunity, no one’s ever going to ask you to do anything again, or this means that you are not cut out to be successful, or you’re whatever. All of these things that were keeping me saying yes, filling my time completely, and not actually able to take that time to decompress and truly rest and become comfortable with doing this.
Kara: Something interesting is coming up for me, which is this is maybe an aside, or it’s going to relevant to some of the audience, but actually, one of the things I’m always really fascinated by is when a thought that was helpful to get you from one place to the next place then becomes a plateau that’s not helpful anymore.
And I actually think, as I’m thinking about this, especially as a business owner, what you’re describing, it’s like some of the thoughts that are helpful when you start out, which is like, even though only 17 people might listen to this, maybe one of them will do something, maybe this will help.
We talk about this in the context of building a business a lot that like, there is a period during which I do think some hustle is required. Hustle is not – that doesn’t mean you should be stressed and shitting on yourself. That’s not hustle.
But there is that go out there and keep taking action even though you’re not getting results, you got to keep going. But as you were talking, I was thinking about today my PR people brought me something that was like, there’s this podcast, whatever, they want to swap and it was a smaller podcast, and I’m really trying to limit the things I do and I didn’t know them. It was just random.
But I noticed my brain being like, well, x amount of people listen, maybe one of them will – and that thought was helpful for me in the beginning when I did 100 podcast interviews in a year and I talked to anybody who wanted to talk to me because maybe one person was going to tell someone and become a client.
But that’s not where I am now. You can end up with that – it’s like we take what was useful, then we turn it into a should, then we feel guilty that we’re not doing it anymore, and then we have to up-level our thinking into this new and different identity.
And if you’re someone who like me or like you or like a lot of my listeners has been hustling their way to achievement for so long, that identity – I think one of the things my colleague Simone Seol was writing about this recently and I thought it was so true.
We think rest is going to feel good. So we’re like, it’s supposed to be relaxing. And then right away, we start hustling again. If you’ve been hustling, rest is going to feel like shit. It’s going to feel horrible, especially if you’ve been hustling to get away from your own negative self-talk. The minute you sit still, your brain is like, here’s something you did in third grade that I think was pretty terrible and I’ve just been waiting to tell you about it.
Caroline: That’s huge. That’s a huge piece of why I think we can become addicted to busyness and addicted to filling time. Not only because it can lead to – just like you said, I’m so glad that I hustled in the beginning. I’m so glad. That’s exactly what I was supposed to do with that time.
But then I reached that point where I was like, okay, I don’t have to right now, and I don’t want this to be my mode of operating for the rest of my life. That’s not what I want. That’s not my goal. I need to reassess. I think it’s all about reassessing every so often, is what I’m doing still working for me?
But this addiction to busyness I do think is something that we kind of as a culture are encouraged to have. And it’s partially because it can lead to lots of opportunities and lots of visibility, that initial getting yourself off the ground, that initial hustle part that can be so wonderful and important and lead to great things. The other thing is we’re just told that that’s the most responsible and wonderful thing to do.
Kara: Endless hustle, endless achievement. There’s no stopping point. You just keep going. And then once you’ve ruined Earth, you go to space. You just keep going and going.
Caroline: Exactly. So we get all this praise, all this social cred for being this person who’s constantly busy. And all while we’re getting praise, all while getting to avoid all of the shit that we don’t want to have to deal with, all the pain we haven’t processed, all the beliefs that we have about ourselves that if we, just like you said, if we get still, they start to bubble up.
And we’re like, no, this isn’t good. Again, just like healing your relationship with food. Once you allow yourself to start eating, you become extremely hungry and you’re like, oh shit, this is proof that this is bad, this is bad for me, so I should go back to a diet.
That’s exactly what we do with the emotional side of things or the mental side of things where if we haven’t dealt with it, if we haven’t processed it, if we haven’t worked through it, it’s all there.
Kara: I think it’s so important to keep that front of mind because it requires us to tell ourselves the truth. If we believe our own thoughts, and I know you have thoughts about it and I want to talk about how you do this when you really do have a big responsibility, like you’re the primary caregiver to a special needs child or something.
But for many of us, we are attached to the idea of being busy so we don’t have to be alone with our own thoughts or think we’re lazy. And if we’re not honest with ourselves about that attachment, we will just always continue blaming the circumstances and then telling ourselves that we have no volition in it and we can’t do anything about it.
So we have to be I think real about what is our investment in busyness, what’s our investment in hustle. It’s not happening to us. We’re doing it most of the time, so why are we doing that? But can you tell us a little bit about – I mean, you have thoughts on how to heal from exhaustion when you and I could be like, well, I kind of run my own show, let me try to make these changes. Not everybody has that kind of freedom.
Caroline: Right, and that’s one of the things. We’re all in a very different situation and you and I are very lucky in many ways that we really can really change our lives to truly be able to rest.
Kara: Although I want to say also that still is mindset work because you could totally imagine someone in my position being like, I have 10 employees that I have to support, I can’t take a month – what are you talking about? Of course I have to keep hustling, these people have 401Ks and healthcare plans and I’m the face of my business and I’m the brand, I have to keep doing this.
Caroline: That’s the answer because everyone does that. So does that mean that someone who genuinely is the primary caretaker of their elderly sick parent, or disabled child, does that mean that they have genuinely less time than us? Yes, it does.
However, there still is this piece that we have these beliefs about what we are allowed to do, this guilt of well, when I do take time, or when I do find someone to help me, and I do take an hour away, what am I saying to myself? Do I actually allow myself to relax? And do I actually believe that I’m allowed to relax? Do I actually believe that it’s safe to relax?
Kara: Do I even know what relaxing is? Because one of the things I have been thinking about and working on lately, this is also perfect for us having this conversation now is like, the conflation my brain makes between relaxing and dopamine-producing activities, which are not the same thing.
So my brain will say it wants to relax, and what it thinks that means is watch Netflix or scrolling your phone. And that’s not morally bad, but that’s just not actually the same as relaxing. There’s a difference between rest and dopamine-seeking behavior.
And I think that gets so conflated in our society too. The things we talk about as relaxation or resting or fun are mostly just ways of getting dopamine. It’s shopping, watching Netflix, playing on your phone, whatever it is.
Caroline: And so obviously I think both of those things have their place. Totally good for you to be able to veg out, turn off your brain, do something mindless, “guilty pleasures,” all good, all a part of changing the mode. Some people don’t even let themselves do that.
Some people feel guilty over doing that too. That’s something to absolutely unpack. And what so few of us do is truly, truly have downtime where you are not doing anything. Really hard to do. That’s when the shit comes up. That’s when the pain and the emotions will come up. That’s when the mind will go nuts and remind you of all the stupid things you’ve ever done and said.
Kara: And that’s what we’re all avoiding. So we can have this time off – I think one of the things I’m taking away from this conversation that I just want to let you understand but I want to articulate for everybody is like, there’s literally no way to truly rest and restore without dealing with all your negative self-talk.
Caroline: And that’s the truth.
Kara: Whether you’re spending an hour a day on it or an hour a week on it or an hour a month, whatever the amount of time it is that you’re going to spend on this stuff, you can take time off from work, engage in a bunch – and when I say dopamine-seeking behavior, that’s not a bad thing. I’m just wanting to be clear with myself about which thing I’m doing.
This is rest time, this is dopamine time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just two different things. But there’s no way you can take time off, do things that distract you from yourself, go back to work, you can be in that cycle forever. You’ll never feel rested.
And I think paradoxically, one of the things that I always find surprising is in some ways how little – I don’t mean to sell this as you only need three minutes a day of rest and you’ll feel great. But when you truly rest, it’s surprising how much even I think a little bit of that reinvigorates you compared to what you think you’ll need.
Caroline: This thing that I started doing when I was going through The F*ck It Diet and then I continued during my two years of rest was this 10-minute lie down. And people will read it and be like, okay…
Kara: I’m burnt out, I need more than 10 minutes.
Caroline: Exactly. And yes, you probably do, but it’s this time where I try to be very clear, don’t do anything else.
Kara: It’s not 10 minutes looking at your phone. We’re not scrolling in bed.
Caroline: Exactly. It’s 10 minutes with your eyes closed, breathing, being alive. You will have thoughts, you will have emotions, sometimes you’ll feel great, sometimes you’ll feel horrible. That’s all you have to do.
People have said, “I can’t even believe how much it can reinvigorate me.” And some people were like, “Is it okay that I fall asleep for 45 minutes every time?” And I’m like, yeah, you’re really tired. That’s what that means and that’s okay.
Your body is smart. It’s doing it on purpose. But usually, that’s not the case. People are like, “I can’t believe it, I’m able to get up and keep going and I’m okay.” So those kind of things can actually help so much. And rethinking about the way that we go about, and reprioritizing, and understanding that those little moments of slowing down can really feed us so much, and we’re usually not taking them and avoiding it completely.
Kara: Right. And that’s totally what people are like about all sorts of things. It’s that all-or-nothing, if I’m just going to go for a 10-minute walk, it’s not worth it. But I’m supposed to be going to Pilates five times a week, so if I’m just going to go for a 10-minute walk, then fuck it. It’s that same mentality applied to rest.
And I think there are ways in which I think yes, it still might be fun to try to take a month off from work sometime, or two months, or a year, but then there’s also ways in which I’m like, possibly if you put down your phone for two hours and just actually went for a walk, you might not need a whole month off.
There’s this perfectionist thinking of it’s just the same old diet thinking of okay, so then I need to take a month off where I do absolutely nothing is the same in some ways as like, I need to have the perfect diet. Maybe just lie down for 10 minutes, try that, see how you feel.
Caroline: Exactly. And that’s why when I was like okay, I’m going to take two years of rest and the reason that I’m taking a full two years is because I have a feeling it’s going to take me a long time to figure it out and to actually work through my shit. And just like you said that it’s a mindset thing, that’s what it was for me. Because I wasn’t just lying down, I wasn’t just doing nothing.
Kara: You weren’t like, I have gone to the mountain for two years and I’m not interacting with human society.
Caroline: Right. I was trying to figure out what the fuck I was doing to my own self with my own brain. That’s what I was trying to figure out. Because I knew that I had to combat – the goal was to re-enter life with a better approach.
Kara: And in truth, based on what you’re saying, two years of rest is a great phrase and concept but just so people listening aren’t like, I can’t just take two years off, you were working, you bought a house, you moved. You were like, it’s not two years of doing nothing. It’s two years of Marie Kondo-ing.
Caroline: So that first year was very busy though, I was doing all these shows, getting home at 11 and people would go out and get drinks and I’d be like, no, I’m fucking exhausted. Oh, so I actually never answered one of your questions.
I literally told my friends I am burnt out, I am taking two years of rest. I know that sounds ridiculous, I’ll still do things sometimes but if I’m not as social, please don’t take it personally. There’s something wrong with me, I’m really, really tired.
So there was this understanding within my personal life and then I already said before, but with any work stuff, it was like, let’s get quiet and work through this guilt and stress and these shoulds that are coming up every time I have an opportunity that I have to decide yes or no.
Kara: Totally. I actually feel like I’m almost – I obviously work and work hard despite what my brain tells me I do. I also have a lot of empty time in my schedule. I live alone, I don’t have kids, I make my own schedule.
But the truth is I can either feel really energized and plugged in, or I can feel totally burnt out, depending on the way that I’m thinking about my life and how I’m spending all of that off time. And again, there’s both of us would be the first people to be like, yeah, there’s no moral weight.
Watch Netflix all day if you want, every day for a year if you want. Do whatever you want. It’s not a moral issue. You have to get through the part where it feels uncomfortable to actually not be doing anything. And I think one of the reasons we go to those more numbing out behaviors when we’re trying to take time off is because we’re so uncomfortable resting.
So I feel like the good – since I like to be concrete takeaway, one way of summing up some of this is like, schedule a small amount of time in your schedule that you’re going to literally do nothing and do not expect it to feel good right away.
Kara: It’s not going to feel great. It might feel bad for a while.
Caroline: It probably will.
Kara: It probably will, and that’s okay. You are probably – not you. All of us, all of our brains are wrong, just like our brains are wrong about how much we can get done on a project if we actually just sit down and work on it for an hour. Because your brain is always like, I need a clear week on my calendar, I need no – and in the end it’s like, 75 minutes of work that you thought you needed the whole week to do.
The same is true of anything where we have big dramatic thoughts about it. Clear a little bit of time, practice a little bit at a time, and when we say rest, we mean don’t look at your phone, don’t look at whatever. Literally do nothing. Expect it to be uncomfortable. But be willing to see what comes up.
And if you’re a podcast listener of mine, then do some thought work on whatever came up afterwards. When the 10 minutes is up, go do a thought download, do a model, see what was going on. But burnout really is – it’s not that it doesn’t have physical effects, but it is a state of mind.
You can do whatever adrenal gland protocol you want, but if your thoughts are I’m a piece of shit who’s lazy and terrible and I don’t deserve to rest, probably not going to solve your problem.
Caroline: That’s it. And that’s what I came to. I was like, again, I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried everything to fix this feeling that I have, this exhaustion that I have. The problem is my mind, the way I’m operating, the way I see everything, the way I’m treating myself in my own brain subconsciously. I didn’t even realize it was happening.
Kara: Right. And that is such a parallel to diet culture because the truth is when you look at the world, there are people who are happy and healthy on every random diet in the world. And it’s all because whatever works for them and their thought process around it. It’s not because there’s one correct thing that’s going to fix everybody.
Kara: Amen. Every time we talk – they all heard it because we release…
Caroline: I love it.
Kara: But it’s basically just us being like, yes, that and also.
Caroline: I agree with you.
Kara: Amen again.
Caroline: That was when you were talking about do not expect yourself to overhaul every single thing. Give yourself the most manageable little things to do. The other thing, I just want to say, this addiction to productivity is – it’s like anything.
Where is that line between the good thing and then when it becomes this problem for you? Obviously productivity is a wonderful thing. It feels really good. It’s amazing to have goals. All those things are good or in the very least neutral.
Kara: It’s like anything. You can use it for good or evil.
Caroline: Exactly. It’s like, when is it running away with you? When are you letting it destroy you?
Kara: Totally. And my listeners have heard it a million times, me being like, you can make a million dollars, you can do whatever, it’s not going to change the way you feel about yourself. That’s the work you got to do from the inside. Alright, where can people find your book? Is it out? When is it out? Where can they get it?
Caroline: It’s coming out February 8th. So I’m not sure when this is coming out but it’s coming out February 8th. You can go to thefuckitdiet.com/tired and you can read the beginning.
Kara: You can get it all in there. You’re like, F*ck It Diet and Tired, I have all the things.
Caroline: Exactly. You can read the beginning, see if it jives with you, see if you like the writing style. And you can find me @thefuckitdiet on Instagram.
Kara: Go buy her book. Got to get those early numbers up. Thank you for coming on, Caroline. We’ll put all that in the show notes.
Caroline: Thank you so much for having me, Kara.
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