Stress and Burnout with Shae Sterrett,
The Empowering Process Podcast host, Gail Kraft, speaks with Shae Sterrett, a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, Energy Practitioner, Therapeutic Life Mentor and Retreat Leader, about today’s stressors and the impact to your body and your life.
Shae is a pioneer of the self-awareness industry on a mission to educate the world about how self-awareness is the most important superpower we possess to radically change the way we live, love and lead. She is working hard to change the narrative and smash the stigma about therapy and make sure clients KNOW they deserve mental, physical, energetic, and emotional health and access the right resources to realize that desire. She uses proven, time honored therapeutic methods to help clients make big shifts in their life by mastering clarity in chaos caused by stress, burnout, anxiety, and trauma.
For more information on Yoga Therapy, you can contact Shae Sterrett at:
Short URL: www.shae.us
Gail: Hello everybody, Gail Kraft here with The Empowering Process podcast. And I have a guest with me today, and that is Shae Sterrett. Shae and I are going to talk about stress and burnout. Give me a moment and let me just read her bio because it’s pretty amazing and I can’t memorize it all. So, Shae Sterrett is a Phoenix Rising yoga therapist and energy practitioner, therapeutic life mentor, and retreat leader. An amazing retreat leader, by the way, folks.
As a pioneer of the self-awareness industry, she’s on a mission to educate the world about how self-awareness is the most important superpower we possess, to rapidly change the way we live, love, and lead. She is working hard to change the narrative and smash the stigma about therapy, and make sure her clients know they deserve mental, physical, energetic, and emotional health and access the right resources to realize that desire.
She is using proven, time honored therapeutic methods to help clients make big shifts in their life by mastering clarity and chaos, caused by stress, burnout, anxiety, and trauma, thriving through self-awareness, and discovering freedom and acceptance. So I understand, is the reason why Shae and I kind of connect with one another. Welcome, Shae. Thank you for joining me today.
Shae: Thank you, Gail, for having me, it’s a pleasure to be here with you.
Gail: It’s going to be so much fun. So I’m going to start off with a few stories about me, when it comes to stress and burnout. We’ve all experienced it. Some of us navigate it pretty well, most of us don’t. And so I’m going to talk about a long time before I finally realized what was going on in my life, and then how I can actually transition. And Shae is going to talk about her stories as well.
My first one that I can recall and I was about 12 or 13 years old. And I actually had ulcers, I had digestive issues from the age of eight but in those days, they didn’t look at emotion being the cause of those issues. And so it just got progressively worse, because I believed from the age of two, it was my responsibility to protect my family and keep the balance, and make sure that there was peace and things were in order. So when there was interruption, when there was an uproar, and there were many, I internalized that, internalized that, internalized that. So, I started off pretty young with ulcers.
Then again, at the age of 16, I was in school by seven o’clock, out by 1:00. At work by 1:30, out by 9:00. Home by 9:30, did my homework, up again to do it. And I had a social life, I dated, and enjoyed myself. There was not much time to decompress. And so one time, I had no idea what was going on, I was at the cash register. I worked obviously in a store. And the client wanted to break a 10 into like five ones and a five. I broke out in tears and I couldn’t stop. My poor boss, this guy comes over, he’s like, “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
And I’m like, I knew it wasn’t her fault. I didn’t want him to think that she was doing anything but I didn’t know what was wrong. So he had someone come over and take over and sent me to the break room to get my act together, and then sent me home. My family came over, “Oh my God, did you get fired?” and of course, I cried more because I couldn’t even talk. And I was in a ball of tears the whole weekend long. And it was then that my family said, “Listen, let me talk to you about taking time out for you and recharging, and reconnecting.”
That was the first time I put a label on what was going on, which was stress and burnout. Now this happened periodically, but I learned to find the signs, except for the last major time. And that was the last time I was really in corporate America. And I would come into work, bawling my eyes out at the desk, and I knew what was going on but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I hated where I was. I didn’t trust anyone that I was working with. It was a toxic situation. And I didn’t have what it took to leave.
And I actually got fired because I needed to leave. And often, when you don’t do what you need to do, the universe sets things in motion so that it forces you. And that was the best gift I was ever given because I knew I was not going back to corporate America. And I started consulting and taking control of my own time and taking control of my own choices, and taking control of my own life. So does that sound familiar, Shae, with any of the clients that come to you?
Shae: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I would say 100% of my clients are stressed, burned out, and dealing with anxiety as a result and don’t know how to rest. Don’t know how to be still and just be. Yeah, absolutely.
Gail: So you got into this type of business, probably because of some of your own experiences. Take us on your journey, if you will.
Shae: Yeah, absolutely. Well, starting back as young as a child, was the way that I kind of conditioned myself to deal with the trauma and some of the abuse that was in my life. And I never really learned how to manage that. And so similar to you, I just went in my… it created discomfort in my body, it created a very, like fight or flight response with most of the things that happened in my life. It created a very perfectionist mindset, which is exhausting and never achievable. And so it’s constantly just keeping up, running into the same habits, the same toxic relationships, just repeating the same things over and over again.
And at one point, I was like, “It’s not the world around me, it’s me,” because unfortunately, the world’s not going to change. Even if you look at corporate America, it really should be the corporations building a better environment, but it’s just not going to happen. And so I feel like, you really have to take a lot of ownership and responsibility, and be brave enough to step into that self-awareness and say, “It’s not you. It’s me, so I’m going to work on me.”
Gail: And honestly, Shae, I think that is the biggest fear clients who come to me have to overcome.
Shae: Yeah, exactly.
Gail: Because it’s, “I know it’s me.” And it’s not, and it’s not, and it is. So go ahead.
Shae: Yeah, no, and I think that’s where some of the acceptance comes in because there have been circumstances in my life where it’s, “I wish I didn’t happen,” or regret or, “I wish I had this in my life.” But the people who were orchestrating those experiences, they were honestly doing the best they could with the life that they had. And so I think one of the biggest things that I’ve been able to really cultivate over the last 10 years is compassion. And more, I think mindfulness and compassion, which I know is talked about so, so much right now, and it might seem a little bit saturated. But it’s just so important.
If you want to move on from the things that have harmed you in the past, either physically, mentally, emotionally, it’s really one of the biggest ways to move past those things, because they’re never going to change, and you’re just going to continue to revisit and go back to those things. And then those things that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago, are going to inform the moment you’re in right now, which is with completely different people, completely different circumstances. And you know the work that I do, which is more of that mind, body therapy, and I don’t know if you’re ready for this in the podcast, but I feel like it’s a good segue.
When I was doing therapeutic interventions, CBT and EMDR, and talk therapy and everything, I felt like they were asking me to just use my mind. “Should, could, would. What are you thinking? Why did it happen? When did it happen? Who is involved?” All the little intricacies. But nobody ever said, “What do you notice in your body right now, as you’re talking about that?”
Gail: And I’ve got to tell you, Shae, I’m sorry to interrupt you.
Shae: No, please.
Gail: So I’m one of those people who, it’s the talk, but I also say, “I want you to keep a journal, and tell me when you feel this, try to back up to the trigger and notice where in your body and what it is that you feel,” because that’s where we need to go.
Gail: Because when you do that… and then I’ll get back to you. When you do that, what happens is you’re able to connect with that feeling because your body will know before anything else. And that’s the gift that Shae brings, is the body knows, man, your body is the most brilliant tool. So go ahead.
Shae: Yeah, it knows and it remembers. So if you had a traumatic event when you were eight years old, and you didn’t complete that stress cycle, if something like that is happening again, that is giving you similar sensations in your body, you’re probably going to react the same exact way as you did when you were eight years old. When you were afraid or scared, or with somebody you didn’t trust. Yeah, because even if you just look at it from like how our bodies work, you have a sensation, which triggers an emotion, which triggers your thoughts. And those three things inform your choices and your actions. And once you make actions that’s creating your reality.
And so, I know there are so many talented therapists and mental health therapists in this country, doing amazing work over the last 200 plus years, but I feel like people are kind of conditioned, like, you go to therapy, and you talk about it. But that’s not enough, you have to bring it to the body. And then luckily, there’s a huge mounting body of research from Bessel Van der Kolk and Michael Lee, one of my mentors, about how to bring the body into the therapeutic process to have more impact.
Gail: I have to tell you, when I was first coaching… I’ve had so many fortunate mentor and collaborator experiences. A friend of mine, who is also a coach, we rented a space together by the beach in San Diego, sorry, guys. So together, we could afford that. And she was very much about the body because she was a personal trainer first. And she’s the one who helped me become aware of how the body… she’s like, “Gail, your clients have got to get into their body. Let me help you get into your body so that you can experience this and understand this.”
So, Carole Griggs, by the way, Hi, Carole. And she also wrote an amazing book that nobody really understands, except those of us that are in this field. And would call and say, “Gail, you’re the only one who will understand what I’m going through right now. Can you talk me down?” because when you do that you release so much. So talk about some of the clients that you’ve had. And without any names.
Shae: Of course, yeah, of course.
Gail: And their peak stress, and what that transformation looks like for them.
Shae: And it’s so interesting, I feel like I almost do myself a disservice when I have these appointments with my clients, because like you say, they almost only need one or two sessions with me. Which is awesome for them but I would love to work with people longer. But this work is just so effective and it’s so interesting, what I’m finding. And I think I mentioned this, when I was on the call, a hundred percent of the clients I work with, they have had stress or burnout for more than a decade. It’s showing up in their body as some kind of persistent pain or discomfort.
And they’ll go to massage and a chiropractor, and all those things, which make us feel really good. But it’s something at our core and that massages aren’t going to get to that and chiropractic isn’t going to get to that. And so yeah, they’ve been dealing with it for more than a decade, there’s probably some underlying thing that happened in their childhood that they’ve been conditioned this way. And they’re ready to release it and grow. And some of these, the people I worked with last week, there was a 45 year old parent, there was a 70 year old retired person who says, “I just want to be confident and accept myself.” And I’m like, “You’re 70. We need to do that as quickly as possible.”
Then I was working with a client recently who has lung cancer and so he or she is trying to deal with the stress and anxiety, and burnout. And now here’s this brand new body with this thing inside her that she’s trying to release.
Gail: Can we talk about cancer and stress?
Shae: Yeah, please.
Gail: Yes, please.
Shae: And most chronic disease, not just cancer.
Gail: Oh, that’s what dis-ease is all about. Your body is unbalanced. It’s in dis-ease. And if you continue, your body remembers, and it can only carry so much stress. So I’m going to give an example of a niece of mine who ended up with breast cancer. And I’ll tell you, she carries the weight of the world with her. And I was not surprised at all. And she had a double mastectomy because she had the test of her gene. She had a hysterectomy, trying to stop it from ever coming back. She cut everything out of her body because that is what surgeons will tell you to do. And lo and behold, a few months later when she’s gone through the chemo, and it’s just an incredible experience, she’s still carrying the weight of the world. And I spoke with her mother and said, “She needs to stop carrying the weight of the world because you can get cancer behind your kneecap.” So let’s talk about that coalition.
Shae: Yeah, I was having a conversation with a new client on Tuesday actually about that. She’s talking about these things that are showing up on her physical body. And then I’m doing the intake of, “Wow, this is what’s happened to you over the last six years.” So much, as having a really terrible experience in college at a party, which I’m sure you can figure out what happened and just waking up, and not knowing what happened to her body. And so then the series of behaviors that are happening, the cycles that you and I are both probably pretty familiar with, when something like that happens.
And then you just hit a wall, and you’re like, “I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t know why this pain is showing up in my body.” And here’s six years, here’s why it’s showing up. And because you’re not addressing it, your body is going to manifest the pain that you’re feeling inside, the things that aren’t being dealt with inside, which I know sounds very heavy and very deep. But I feel like in a safe container, it’s something that you can get into very quickly. And again, complete that stress cycle that wasn’t completed before.
Gail: So, you know, Atlas, holding up the world. So imagine if he’s holding up the world. And then holding up the moon, and then holding up Saturn, and then holding up Jupiter, and then holding up Venus. Eventually, his muscles are going to get tired and he’s going to break. And that’s what’s going on because your body can’t take so much, it can’t. It was built to withstand because the fight or flight, but not constantly.
Shae: Exactly. You need to have the fight or flight and you need to have the rest and digest. But right now, I feel like stress is the new normal and you even see that with sleep hygiene, digestive hygiene. People don’t know how to relax. I do these really deep therapy and energy work sessions, and people are still but their fingers are twitching and their toes are twitching, their body is just waiting for the thing that’s coming next. And so I can see that when I’m actually working with people, virtually or in person; they don’t know how to relax. And I feel like there’s a lot of things we could say, like, “Go for a run or go into nature, go for a swim, those are all things you have to do.”
Gail: It doesn’t heal. That’s maintenance.
Shae: You’re not ever being. Exactly. Or escapism, in some cases. Versus, one of the things I say a lot is, “Okay, how do you feel in your body? Where is it showing up? Where is the edge? Let’s stay with that a little longer.” And teaching people to sit with their discomfort a little bit, so that they can start to move past it or see what’s beneath it. Otherwise, they’re just going to keep running up into it in different circumstances.
Gail: So this has very much to do with one of my favorite subjects, which is the dark side. You have to, I don’t say have to, I must admit, very often, but you have to embrace yourself totally. And so we talk about the light and the dark. I’m talking, you know, emotionally about characteristics, who we are at the core. But also, you’re talking about the energy and the physiology of, you feel great here but that sometimes, you feeling great is burying and hiding the not feeling.
Shae: And I can give you a great example from my own personal experience actually, if you’d like that. I was actually in a training with my teacher, Michael Lee. And we were doing a posture, which is called boat pose. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with yoga, basically you’re lying flat on the ground, which is super vulnerable to begin with. And then you have to lift your legs and your arms up at the same time. So a lot of core strength, a lot of lower back strength, which I’ve always had issues with my back.
And so as soon as I go into that posture, I feel weakness. And so I immediately want to get out of the shape, go into child’s pose, do something that feels good, but I stayed with it because I trust Michael, he always creates a safe container for us. And so I stayed with it. And I was like, “Okay, weakness, what’s below this fear of weakness? Okay, it’s me trying to be a perfectionist for 40 years. It’s me trying to be the perfect mom, be the perfect partner. It’s me not wanting to ask for help from a partner I’ve been with for almost 20 years.”
So if I had gone into child’s pose, who knows if any of that would have come up? But I stayed with it just for a few breaths, and it was like, “Oh my gosh,” this huge download of information, all from a shape that I made in my body; that I’ve made a hundred times. But because we got in deeper and there was a different intention, it was really profound.
Gail: And I love that word intention because it means so much. You can hear a narrative and the same words with the different intention behind them will have a different impact. So, you know the sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me. I’m going to swear here, guys, bullshit. The words fester. The words are like a virus because you’ll start building a story around those words, you’ll start manifesting and exaggerating the emotions around those words; you start to internalize those words because of the intention behind it. Now, conversely, those same words may not have a negative intention, but the receiver will receive that with the intention of negativity. So go ahead.
Shae: As you were talking, it just made me think of that Maya Angelou quote, which is, nobody will remember what you said or what you did, but they’ll remember how you feel. So I think it even goes below the words. Yeah, people are going to remember how you feel. And the words you say to me are going to make me feel a certain way. When you and I are in a space together, I’m always feeling happy and joyful, and intellectual. We’re always having great conversations. And so I feel good in my body.
Gail: Right. I look forward to it, right?
Shae: Yeah, exactly. Versus some of the corporate experiences that I think you and I have both had, where we’re undervalued, underappreciated, crying at our desks, but the hardest working person in the room in some cases, that feeling of working out, forgive the language, ass off for 20 years. And yeah, and that’s going to make me feel like completely different way.
Gail: Exactly. Exactly. So I had some very positive experiences with corporate America and some very negative experiences with corporate America because I’ve climbed the ladder twice very quickly. And in both cases… the first time I didn’t realize, I mean, I was being promoted, offered new jobs. And next thing I know, I’m sitting on the board of directors. And like, these people are shallow. They’re full of bull. They have no idea of how they’re misdirecting their company. And I’m only here because I’m the token woman.
Shae: One of my favorite books is by Kevin Cashman, Leadership from the Inside Out. I think we’ve talked about that book before. Every leader should read that book and do some self-work. And I say that self-awareness improves how you live, love, and lead.
Gail: It absolutely does. I worked a few years later in a matriarchal company, which was at first a mind blower for me, because I worked in patriarchal all the way up till then. But I was fortunate again, to have a mentor who’d say, “Gail, let me show you how you navigate the Book Club,” because that’s what it was called, the Book Club. The ladies, right? And it was so different, and it’s so collaborative. And it was so, do the right thing but in a collaborative way; there was no cramming.
And at one point, a gentleman who was a 20 year servicemen came in and was my boss. And we had a meeting. It’s like, “Gail, I want you to do this.” And like, “Oh, this has to be done first. And so this week, I want to wrap this up and finish this. That can wait.” “No, you need to do this.” “You know, we’re in a matriarchal organization. I’m going to do what I feel is right. So no,” and I went and did what I had to do. And then the next week, he’s like, “I told you…” and I’m like, “And I told you, I was going to finish this first,” which was actually more important.
And those days, I smoked, and he and I were out having a cigarette. And I looked at him, I said, “Why on earth did you choose a matriarchal organization as your first company to work for after coming out of the military for 20 years? Do you not see there’s a disconnect here?” And he did leave a few years later because he did not progress like he thought he should. You need to understand the culture that you’re in and either adapt or leave.
Shae: Yeah, absolutely. And I worked with some amazing people. I was at the company for 20 years, my partner still works there. But it just felt like I was hitting my head up against a wall, like, “I’m gonna be sitting behind this desk until I die.” which is, that’s not freedom. And while you were talking, the other thing that was coming up was this aspect of like finding your voice. Like, you could have said, “Okay, I’m going to drop everything right now and do this for you,” but because I’m sure you had some mentoring, and you did some self-work, and you could stand in your confidence and use your voice, you were able to say, “That’s not right. I may do it this way,” and that’s the right way to do it.
And I do feel like stress is going to be even worse if you can’t use your voice and say no, when you want to say no, and say yes, when you want to say yes. I think it just makes things worse when people don’t know how to use their voice, or feel like they can’t, or because they’re feeling something in their body. Like, I can remember the visceral experience of wanting to say something, and my body saying, “Don’t do it. It’s scary.” And so I had to bridge that gap between and being able to, yes, to talk.
Gail: And there’s so much behind using your voice. First of all, be clear about your parameters, what’s cool, and what’s not cool for you. Second of all, in expressing your voice, you do it without blame. Like you said earlier, we’re all just doing the best that we can with the tools that we have, and the upbringing that we have and the knowledge that we have, we’re doing the best that we can. Basically, people are not out to hurt you. They want to do good. They want to form relationships.
And process your emotion first. That doesn’t mean stop. Then sit down have an adult conversation about, “Okay, so this is what I’ve just finished processing. Not you made me feel. So I was triggered, and I’ve processed it, and here’s what I’ve processed. And here’s what’s not cool for me. Here are my boundaries. Here’s what my expectation…” Expectation and boundaries are two different things.
Shae: Yes, absolutely.
Gail: No one can fill your expectations. That’s exhausting for the other person. And that’s where relationships fall apart because they start off with, “We’re filling each other’s expectations and life is beautiful,” and I might even change in order to make you happy. But after a while, I’m like, “This is not being who I am,” and so I drop my guard. And now you’re expecting or you’re like, “What the heck’s going on?” You’re used to owning it. So the more that you can bring yourself forward, whether the relationship is a career or with another person, friendship is a relationship, really process where you’re coming from first.
Gail: And that releases stress.
Shae: Yeah, and we talked about this a little bit, I think, in one of our previous conversations, talking about core values and personal vision statement. What do you stand for? What is important to you? Because that is a great foundation for any change you want to make in your life and any conversation that you want to have with anybody. But I feel like sometimes people don’t know what that is. They don’t have that internal compass.
Gail: They do not, they do not. But if you want your internal compass, if you want to find out what’s going on, if you want to relieve stress and burnout, like Shae said, she doesn’t have to have you at her studio. This can be done remotely. So Shae, tell us how people can get in touch with you if they want more. And I will put that information within the description.
Shae: Yeah, thank you, Gail. So I have a short and sweet website. It’s shae.us. And yeah, I offer a complimentary discovery call to learn if it’s a good fit. And yeah, I can usually get people in within seven days, which I like to mention, because the waiting list for most therapists is six to eight weeks. But I’ve designed my schedule so I always have a free day every week, just for new clients because there’s a huge mental health crisis out there and people need support. Gail: They do and COVID brought that actually, to the forefront. So thank you again, everybody. This is Gail Kraft from The Empowering Process podcast. This is amazing. I need Shae to come back when she has more time, so that we can talk some more. There’s so much brilliance in this woman. And if this brought something up for you, by all means, let us know. If you know someone that this might help, please do direct them here or share this with them. Your comments are always welcome. Thank you everybody. Have a great day. Bye-bye.