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Over the weekend, the 2018 three-day WELL Summit took place in NYC at the Brooklyn EXPO Center in Greenpoint. The space was filled from top to bottom with women of all backgrounds, all sharing a love of health and wellness. Whatever you may have been coming to see, your interest was certainly piqued — if not overloaded — by all the sessions and vendors in one space. Like healthy snacks? There were delicious, compact salads that could be bought from Corner Harvest, sumptuous soups from aha Pure Foods, sweet dried fruit snacks from Watermelon Road (the watermelon and lemonade combination was divine), bites from Moon Cycle Bakery and more. If you needed some sharp new workout clothes, Athleta was in the space, as well as K-Deer. For those who wanted specific treatments they may not always have access to, women’s healthcare company Kindbody was there to encourage guests to take tests to see where they stand in terms of their ovarian reserve. There were also vitamin supplement shots, cryotherapy facials, and rapid recovery treatment boots by other vendors. There were also beauty products, jewelry and even a chance to get in a workout in thanks to Athleta and Hydrow‘s rowing machine that simulates live outdoor workouts.

But if those WELL Summit perks weren’t enough (including a sick swag bag to take home), the actual speakers and sessions provided were the biggest treat. My favorite in particular was a session I didn’t even think I could relate to that actually left me realizing, 1. I could use a therapist, and 2. I’ve been causing myself to deal with burnout because of my twisted way of looking at what hard work and success is. I’m sure you will be able to relate.

Jenny D. Brice, MFT, MPH led a talk on Friday afternoon called Shine Bright Without Burning Out: Mental Health for Entrepreneurs. I’m not an entrepreneur (yet…), but burnout is a reality for any creative working, or anyone for that matter, working especially hard at a 9-to-5 and putting self-care last.

Jenny D. Brice

Brice noted the ways in which we tend to push ourselves to be overwhelmed. We stop focusing on our feelings, we mute the symptoms of burnout and mistake it for “resilience,” and because of that, we eventually find our physical health suffering (including dealing with things as simple as fatigue or a cold), as well as our mental health, and even our relationships. Who hasn’t been there?

It happens because we tend to tie our value and self-worth to the work we do, our achievements, and the businesses we create (she calls it the Enough-ness Deficit Narrative). We mistake constant struggle as a sign of good, tangible hard work (Distorted Resilience Narrative). We justify burning the midnight oil trying to make our dreams come true by looking at it as an effort to push ourselves as far away as possible from where we came from (Scarcity Narrative). And in my own case, we believe that if we don’t make certain sacrifices for the betterment of the team or for our overall dream, who will (Batman/Savior Narrative)? It all leads to us putting our ambitions at the forefront, and in turn, allowing our self-care and our physical and mental health status to falter. But Brice put it best: “Self-awareness is your superpower.” Paying attention to the way we think, the way we feel, the way we speak to ourselves, finding ways to cope (including not being afraid to ask for help), and learning to be more mindful can literally save us.

We are a culture of hustlers, people who believe that if you aren’t pushing yourself all the time, every time, you’re not working as hard as you should; If you don’t have the trappings and success of people you see on social media, you’re failing yourself; If you aren’t exhausted by the end of the work day, you have somehow failed to pull your weight and help your team. But to be proud  hustlers, we tend to put our health and well-being on the backburner. That’s a mistake, because as Brice shared, you shine your brightest not solely based on the accomplishments you have to show for yourself, but when you are doing so from the inside out. Start by shining from within, first.

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