Burnout can be caused by many things – a build up of stress, anxiety, long working hours, poor sleep are some factors.
In Malia Grigg’s case, the nature of her work was a big part of it. As Director of Social Media for The Daily Beast and previously in demanding roles at Comedy Central and Cosmopolitan in New York City, her work usually involved being ON for most of the time she was awake.
The global nature of her role, particularly working in social media, with almost constant updates of stories and responding to posts from readers, made the ability to switch off and mentally rest very difficult.
Burnout is more prevalent now the internet means you can work 24/7
In many jobs, the culture and nature of the work promotes working way past the traditional 9-5 hours. Without recognizing this and responding to it, the result can be very serious consequences for your health and wellbeing. And it can also be quite costly on your finances too, as Malia shares.
In this revealing interview, Malia shares her experience in resisting the clear signs that her health was suffering years before, and focuses on the reason she quit her job due to burnout.
For anyone who has resisted listening to their body and mind telling them to take better care of themselves (physically, mentally and emotionally), this is a unique story of what happens when you let burn out get to the point of needing to quit, and the aftermath that follows.
If you are suffering from burnout, listen to this real life advice from someone that has gone through it and continues to repair from it, so that you can learn from her valuable lessons and rebalance your life now before you have more serious health and happiness consequences.
Malia Griggs website – if you want to get in touch with Malia to discuss your personal burnout story, or if you are interesting in her writing services, use the Contact form on this website.
Below is the entire interview conversation written out in text for those of you that are hard of hearing or want to scan through the content and skip to the juiciest bits for you. We include time stamps too so you know where to skip to!
Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Burn From Within. And on today’s show, I have a wonderful guest, Malia Griggs. Malia is a writer, she’s an editor, she’s a social storyteller. Previously she’s worked at The Daily Beast Comedy Central and Cosmo. And about a year ago she was in her role as Director of Social Media, very, very busy role The Daily Beast and she was receiving Slack messages. We’ll go into in that moment where, where Malia quit. But first of all just want to say hi Malia, how are you? Thanks for, thanks for joining us today on the show.
Hi. Good, thanks for having me. I’m on the opposite end of the time zone from you. So yeah, it’s it’s good. It’s good.
Literally the other side of the world. So, so Malia, you’re in New York, Brooklyn, is that right? Yeah,
Yeah, I’m in Brooklyn. Yep. And you’re in Thailand?
In Thailand? Yes. I will literally on the other side of the world, which is, which is, which is crazy. So I, so I talked a little bit about last year and you, you were at a very, very busy job. I was director of social media and that was the moment where I remember reading an article that you wrote about you know, you, you receiving Slack messages and then you started to basically weep. I think you asked yourself, what is this all for? What is your, so for and then that was the moment where you decided that’s it. I’m quitting. Maybe take us back to that moment. You know, what, what was that like and what was going on in your experience then?
Yeah. I actually, I was sitting at the same table I met now, just my dining table slash one of my desks. I haven’t a real desk, but I just can’t seem to use it. Yeah, I was sitting here and I, it was a period where someone had just left. I’m on my team from burnout. And when that person who I’d hired and who I cared about a lot gave notice the reasons that she voiced to me for leaving, I could hear all of the similarities for what I was experiencing. So she said, you know, it’s a very thankless role. You know, I like my team, I love a lot of my coworkers, but it’s a, it’s an invisible job and we’re working around the clock kind of very punishing news cycle and it’s just kind of feels like, what is this for? And this is what she said to me, essentially.
And when she said it, I, you know, I couldn’t really say to her as her boss, you know, I’m really going through the same, but I just said, I know I, you know, I completely understand. And she also had some health concerns as well, which I identified with. And so that happened in I think March. And I think when that happened, I just, I had come off of this last a spurt of energy where I was really trying at my job. I’d come back from this great motivating leadership conference for women in digital media. And I, you know, was trying to put all of these different projects together and to see some different goals through. And when she left, I just, I kind of realized that the burnout that I had been feeling wasn’t getting better and that my job was going to be to hire on top of everything else.
Which is a boss’s job of course. But then you factor in the new cycle and then you’re basically, I was basically like on call 24, seven. So every time there was any sort of a mass shooting or any sort of breaking news alert, I would need to be on top of it. Which it’s, you know, I’m thinking of right now, but this new cycle and how punishing it must be for anyone working in a newsroom, especially in social media. But anyway, so I hearing that, what happened over the next few weeks is that I was then hiring around the clock. I think I worked at 13 or 14, just straight days. And when I say all day, it’s like I’m, I’m on my phone from 8:00 AM until 11:00 PM every day. Babysitting. I mean I have a staff and they’re, they’re also on, but if the news cycle is at all intense or if anyone gets sick, there was just no any, there was no we didn’t have any, what’s the word?
Lifeboats. There was no reinforcement, you know, like I would, I wouldn’t be the one filling in. Which again, I understood was my role that I thought maybe I’m not the person for this job. I had been diagnosed with epilepsy in at the, in this working in the same place a couple of years before that or, yes, a couple of years before that. And I had never really taken a proper medical leave. I think the one that I should have taken then and so all of these things were just coming together at one time. And so I was on my computer and I, it was some sort of, there was nothing that major, there was not a major moment. Like, I don’t remember what the person said to me on Slack that triggered me, but I had been working from home for, you know, maybe two weeks straight because commuting even was exhausting.
And so I was asking to just work remotely while I was covering different people’s shifts. And I had been gone enough crying, you know? No, I guess I hadn’t been crying until that point. So that was the first time I really sort of broke. And I, I did say out loud like, what is this all for? What am I doing? Like, I mean, I really care about the news, you know, and I care about getting stories to people and storytelling and I care about, you know, the people that I’m managing and my coworkers. But I had, I had been putting off my own mental health for so long and the, the things I needed to do to just manage my own anxiety and my burnout. And I realized that at some point you know, it had to be me sometimes at some point I would have to be the one that was quitting and leaving.
And because the second I hired someone else, someone else in my team would inevitably quit because I knew that they were, the rest of them were not very happy either. And so, yeah. Did you realize, did you realize you were on a sustainable path? Is that right? Yeah, I, I think I was definitely burned out between my pre the jobs I’d had prior. I was burned up after Cosmo and I was burned up leaving my job at comedy central, going into news. But I was very, I was, I mean, I’m still young, but I was younger and I was very afraid of not having a job and working in media industries, you know, they’re also rife with layoffs. So there’s that stress. But also just living in New York, working in media having a quote, cool job title and then being surrounded with people who really appear to be hustling at all times and it’s very intimidating and you know, especially I think social media doesn’t, it doesn’t help.
And over the past decade, you know, we’ve increasingly seen that, that pressure especially on Instagram, but you know, on Twitter as well on Facebook at least you see the pressure of what everyone else is doing because they’re posting what they’re doing and you’re feeling like you’re not doing enough. And so you push yourself harder. And I was pushing myself harder. And so all of this burnout had just layered itself, but I was not taking breaks. The time that I took off and you know, it’s the U S so you don’t have, we don’t have much time off. And the time that I was taking off, if I wasn’t seeing my family, which not always relaxing, I loved them, but not always relaxing. I was traveling and trying to see my friends and you know, go on trips because that’s what I really wanted to be doing.
Anyway, so any of us probably want to be doing. So yeah, I didn’t, I just didn’t take time off. And so it all just bubbled up over time. And then I, so then I got epilepsy in 2017, the summer of 2017 I I had been working, so I guess I should say I started working in breaking news the summer of 2016 which was leading into the election, the presidential election. And that was, I mean I definitely, I burned out in that year cause I was, I was new to working such a, a new cycle and especially such an intense news cycle. I mean, I don’t know if you remember the summer of 2016 at least in the States, it was like everyone was on Facebook and it was just constant noise, a bit like what I think Instagram is a little bit like these days and Twitter.
But it was just constant noise. But there was like, at least in the media world, there was a bit of an undercurrent of excitement. I felt you know, the election day and then election day happened and the news cycle got more intense. And then so the following year I ended up having a seizure on the subway. After, after taking a day off, it was stress induced and then within the same month I had another seizure. I hit my head and I got a concussion and a black eye. So I did take about three weeks of medical leave then, but I think mostly it was to heal my black eye. And you know, I went home and saw my parents and I didn’t really stay in one place. And then I meet pretty much immediately in the next few months. I became my boss left and I was promoted to being director of social, so this was the end of 2017.
And so I didn’t address the epilepsy or the underlying stress from the epilepsy, which was caused by anxiety and from burnout. And then I just, I took on more responsibility and I, from the, I, you know, kind of went underground. I bought an apartment at around the same time as well, which I have as a first time homeowner. I didn’t anticipate somewhat nicely how intense that would be and moving and just getting that all together would be and yeah, all, everything just was, I wasn’t seeing my friends. I wasn’t, you know, I was, I think I was not a pleasant person to be around and I was like, I couldn’t cook. I wasn’t exercising. I know I had, I just, it was it was, it just got to a point where I couldn’t, I knew I wanted to see a therapist.
I knew I wanted to be taking better care of myself. I felt like I, I couldn’t do what I was doing and do that and I couldn’t change jobs because I couldn’t figure out what job I should move to. That wouldn’t cause the same problem if I didn’t seriously take time. And I didn’t think that two weeks would be enough. I didn’t think that two weeks between new two jobs would be enough. I knew I needed more. So I felt like quitting was really the only option. If I wanted to maintain any semblance of my health. So I think when the crying happened, go ahead.
I was going to ask, so now looking back, if you’re in that position now w what would you do differently in order to maybe stay in your job? Would you do anything differently to be able to do that?
Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about that now, especially that I, you know, I’m a little over nine months out from my job and I feel much better than I did not, you know, like 100%, especially given how the world is right now. But definitely have more perspective and I think I know now that I could not, and I’m taking this mentality into my, my job search now. I think it’s two things. One is that now that I’ve had the experience of being a manager and being the one who makes the the postings for jobs and being on that side and who goes through the resumes and the cover letters, I think I have a better understanding, looking at a job description of what that job description actually might entail. I also know having worked several jobs in media and social media, that having a cool title may not equate much financially or much for your mental health.
Now that you know, what, you know, looking back, what would you do differently in order to be able to perhaps stay in that job? Is there anything you could have done differently to change maybe or your work schedule or set something for a boss or even something to do with your home routine? Yeah, it might be more, more of a sustainable job or career.
I, yes, I, I wish that I had created more emotional distance between myself and my work. And I think I that some of that was because I felt like I was my job and even now I’m, that’s something I’m kind of struggling with. Like who am I without my, without my job? Without a title. And creating that emotional distance, making it just matter a little less because, and knowing, reminding myself that it’s not that your job, my job is not all of who I am. I think I would have really tried, I would wish I had gone back and really made more time to find a therapist. I, I, I, I saw a couple people and I mean, I completely understand that it is very hard on top of everything you do to find someone and let alone find someone that you click with. But I, I think that
If I had spent more time finding someone that worked for me in the periods where things weren’t so bad I would’ve been better equipped when, when, you know, work got more intense. I think also I didn’t advocate enough for myself. And a lot of ways I didn’t I didn’t speak up for myself enough and I wish that I had, I I, I did, you know, I did escalate issues to my bosses over time. And so some of my burnout was because I felt like I saw certain problems repeat themselves and then never get fixed no matter what amount of, you know you know, no, no, no amount of paper trail would be enough for some issues. But I wish that I had I don’t know. I think I wish I had stood up for myself more, but also realized that I was equal to the people that I, that I work with.
I think I definitely had and have a imposter syndrome to a degree and that effected me feeling like like my voice would be valued or that my concerns would be valued. I mean that said there, there were times that I did express myself and it felt like it didn’t really matter. So I you know, there’s to a degree, there’s only so much you can do. But yeah, I think going into whatever I do next, I will be taking this, looking to create emotional distance, but also looking for, I’ll be going into my interviews and asking questions like, so how do you know, what does an average work day look like for you? What times do people generally sign on and sign off? You know, what’s the, what’s the culture of the office? Like what are the things that you value?
I think those are things that I wasn’t asking in interviews earlier, so, yeah, yeah, yeah. And you rate your waste. Quite an interesting point about you, you’re not your job, you know, you’re not your job. And I, I speak to quite a few people who particularly when the in transition in between jobs, some people they feel lost when they’re not in a job in the, in the you know, I spoke to a friend who, who, he was sitting at home, he was on gardening leave, you know, in transition and he just didn’t know what to do. He’s like, I don’t know what to do with gardening leave is when you wait when you’re in between two jobs and you’re given some period in between and in Europe, at school. And you know, people don’t, some people don’t know who they are, like when they’re not in a job. Right. So I mean it’s like an identity issue. What, how, who were you when you were in that job and who are you now?
Yeah. I, I kind of thought of myself as there being like a work Malia and then just home Malia, Malia. And what I, especially when I, when I was promoted, I remember thinking, I can’t command a team where everyone, I look younger than everyone, you know, I’m tech, I’m actually older. But, so I went out and I remember I bought clothing that I felt made me look more like a boss. And I came to work and some of my coworkers made fun of me for a while, but then they got used to it. You know, I had, I bought a pair of heels that I put under my desk and I brought just like fancier clothing than the flannel shirts I was wearing to work with my, you know, just my jeans. And that kind of helped me take on this mindset and you know, to put on that costume.
But then I think that costume extended beyond just being a costume to a degree. So I think I was acting in a way that’s my cat. Just, I don’t know if you heard that, but, okay. Can you hear it? The cat? Could you alright. Yeah. Okay. He may hope I’ll just, he may do that again. You know, so I felt like I was kind of acting in a way. I mean, there are elements of my humor that were there. I’m, you know, I like injecting humor and you know, to my candor work. But I just, I felt like the goo, the Greeley, the true, the truly goofy essence of myself was gone. The things that, I dunno, they make creative, we’re kind of gone. I ha okay.
Okay. That’s my cat. Okay. Let me come. I have to like repeat this last I dunno. I used to, I used to love writing and I, I mean I do love writing, but I used to really love writing and then photography and painting and drawing and acting and I was into improv for a bit and I wanted to do stand up and all of these things, I felt like I didn’t have time to do because I was, my job was just taking up so much of my energy. The time that it, I mean a lot of nights I had to be home, you know, if there was a debate or any sort of political event or for as the Oscars or you know, which again, this is part, you know, par for the core par for course. But then when you add on the insanity of having mass shootings all the time it’s, it’s just becomes, and then the impeachment, it’s just a lot. It’s a lot for any, any journalists and it’s a lot for someone who’s covering social media. And then on top of that, social media is more than it sounds. So yeah, the, the, I think the parts of me were the things that I loved when I was a little younger and then couldn’t, didn’t have any space for. So I guess, yeah, now I have more time. I have lots of time for that. People’s like quarantined activities or just my daily life now. So, yeah.
So I mean what, what would be like an ideal work week for you now is that of all of these elements of your, your, of who you really are. And you want, you want to have them in your work. Why is that important?
I think what I’m looking for now and I, I think I also expect that my needs are going to change over time. I think I, this experience has made me think a little less about the pressure of, you know, I have to be in a job and I have to be promoted in that job and then promote and then keep moving and moving and going up this ladder. And I’m starting to accept that maybe I’m not going up a ladder, I’m just changing different, you know, professions. I think a lot of us, a lot of millennials are going through that, especially living in the city. And I think for leaving myself with the pressure of I have to get promoted, I have to, you know, that that kind of, that’s helped. I had a lot of that leading up to this, but after this, I’m kind of accepting whatever I do next may not be, might be a new kind of job or but I, I guess what I, what I would be looking for is more structure.
I’m looking, I think more for like a nine to five, not like a nine to five, you know, just that I need to have structured sign in and sign out times. I don’t, when I’m off the clock, I want to be off the clock and I would like to, I want a job where it seems like that would be the case. So I think that means that not breaking news a job that has deadlines that you can see in advance and you know, projects that you can work on. And I’m looking for more ownership as well. I think as I, I really liked managing, but with coming, the problem with being a manager or I guess the tradeoff is often you can’t be as creative creative as you’d like to be. And so I think I’d like to return to being more creative.
I’m not completely sure what that means or what that looks like. And I think that that is giving me a not trouble in my job search, but it’s just I’m taking more time and being more considerate with each posting that I’m looking at and each application that I send out and cover letter I write. Then I might’ve been before because I’m more in the process of saying no to things than I’ve ever been. And I think that feels uncomfortable, but it also means that I’ve learned about myself and I know that, that, you know, that’s a lot of a result of having taken this time. Okay. Well, I mean, what do you think about the notion of work that energizes you versus work that takes energy away from you? Do you think that if your, if your, the tasks that you do or things that you really enjoy and more part of you as a, as an identity that you can actually work longer?
Or do you think that everyone has a certain limit in terms of the amount of work that they can do? I think it’s kind of both. I think it’s both. I think that I both I, so when I say nine to five, that doesn’t mean that’ll never work outside that nine to five box. If I really, if it’s a project I’m really passionate about, I’m in a job, I’m passionate about, you know, maybe let’s say it’s at a startup and it’s just me and one other person. But it’s for a cause I really care about. I, I am, I, I think I should be able to have, I think that excitement will, will be able to feel me through a lot. And it has in the past, I’ve certainly, you know, there have been times in my jobs where I was excited and I had that energy.
But I also think even for the people who are, you know, who completely love their jobs and are very excited you still kind of need to put in a little limit for yourself where you burn out. I think I, being on social media now, I’m, you know, I’m still feeling these twinges of envy when I see people that seem to be very high activity, you know, they’re, they’re running marathons and they’re, you know, dah, dah, this and that on top of everything they’re doing. And I, I kind of, I envy them, but then I remember that, you know, there’s probably something that they’re not addressing. You know, there’s something that, that they can be spending a little more time on as well. I mean, not to like make my tube my own. Yeah. Everyone quit their jobs. No, not, it’s just that I, you can love, it’s okay to, how do I best say this?
You can both love your job and need a break from your job. I think living in New York actually teaches you that I love New York, but I love New York because when I leave New York, it’s, you know, every experience I have is so interesting and exotic. Even just like going outside of the city seems interesting because it’s so different. But then eventually I end up usually wanting to go back to New York. And so that’s how I know. I think that I, I love New York, at least right now. We’ll see after this quarantine situation plays out. But yeah, you can, you can absolutely love your job, but you have to, you have to make time to take breaks, especially when you don’t think you need them. When you think you’re, Oh, I’m fine. You know, I’m tired, but I’m fine. I don’t know. I, I tend to think you’re not being completely honest with yourself.
Most people haven’t ever really taken off a week just to stay at home and sleep and catch up on things. I think most a lot of people, especially very ambitious people really what’s the word? Really critique themselves for taking any sort of breaks. It doesn’t come naturally to just sit around and do nothing or do very little. It’s just a feeling of I’m not being productive enough. Why didn’t I do more with my day off? That’s a conversation I have a lot with people still having it and it’s a feeling that I’m still fighting and struggling with. But yeah.
What would you say is purposeful work for you?
Well work, work that has meaning that you, and also that you might be excited about. Cause you mentioned earlier that, you know, if you’re working for a startup for example, and it’s something that meant something to you, then you might put in a little bit more, more time for that and have more energy for it. What would that be like for you?
I think it’s work that builds communities between people. And so I think when I say storytelling, some of that is, it can be as literal as sharing people’s stories, but also like using social media to better connect communities of people so that they, you know, there’s more empathy, more goals are being accomplished. I mean, even right now, like I’m kind of, I’m idling, but I’m keeping busy by you know, making sure that reaching out to my local yoga yoga studio from my hometown and, you know, cause they, they’re now having to move online and seeing if there’s any sort of strategy help they might need. Or I have a friend who’s starting up plant business because she lost her, you know, some of her restaurant work and she has a son and I, you know, I can see what her talents are and how to translate them to social.
So, you know, I’m just trying to pitch it in that way and I’m now thinking about that and then how to kind of pivot that. I think more towards consulting work. But I think it’s that connection. Yeah. And I think also writing for me, like I, when I, I knew I wanted to write an article about burnout at some point it took me a while to write it because I wanted to really mean it, you know, and really feel what you’re, what you feel coming out of that. And that process has been really gratifying actually. And putting that, putting that article out into the world and having people respond to me and write to me about their own burnout makes me feel a little better too because it makes me feel a little alone because, you know, I’m, I may be writing the article that I’m still, it’s still scary.
And it can, it doesn’t stop being a little scary. But having those conversations, being able to open them, that means a lot to me. I just haven’t quite figured out, you know, concretely what job title best matches that and I don’t know that it’s going to, it might take me 10 20. I may never, there may never just be one title. I mean, just keep evolving, but I think that that’s okay. And that’s, that’s where I’m at is accepting that that’s, that’s good. And that’s fine. Yeah. You have a direction that your you’re going towards. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think that coming out of, Oh, go ahead. What were you just that coming out of this time? Because I purposefully, with this time I knew after I quit my job that I didn’t really, I mean also financially I didn’t think that I could travel, but I also knew that I needed to just rest and I needed to figure out what it would feel like to just have no alarms in the morning and to not have huge looming tasks so I could just recalibrate my body and my brain and I don’t, yeah, I don’t think when people take off time or quit their jobs that they spend as much time doing that as they maybe could be doing or perhaps should it be doing in a way.
I’m not saying I’m not knocking travel. I would have loved to have gone. And you know, of course you know, some a month long vacation of a kind, but having that time where you’re just sitting still and listening to yourself is really important because once you’re, you listened to yourself and you better understand yourself, then you know, even if whatever you want to do next isn’t so concrete, you have a better year for what you need. Whereas before you might’ve, you know, you might be so burned out that you just aren’t having the conversations you need to be having with yourself because you’re tired and you know, you’re, you’re not in your best shape. So yeah, I think I’m in a better place to have those conversations with myself than ever before. So say let’s talk about my recovery from burnout. So it’s been almost a year, is that right?
Just a little over nine months. Yeah. Yeah, I, my last day off, or my first day off of work was July 4th, so July 3rd last year was when I was my last day at my job and I was remote of course. Yeah. That was a little surreal. And so since then, you’ve done like a few kind of freelance writing gigs, is that right? Yeah, I’ve done some consulting. I’m freelancing and writing. I’ve consulted with reporters and about social media and how to best use social media. And I’ve done just little consulting projects for, you know, people who are starting up their businesses writing about burnout. And I don’t know, just sort of, yeah, just, I mean, doing all the retooling of my website and all of the personal things that come along, but I’ve kept busy. But I think the first three and a half, four months, I really, I was just sleeping a lot, you know, I would sleep in very late, you know, 14 hours a day.
I would taking naps every afternoon and I thought like, this is going to go on forever. And about five or six months I kind of, I stopped napping as much and then I got a therapist. And I’ve also was keeping, this is not something that I can put on a resume, but I was keeping these very intense journals of my time. That was something I really wanted to do and that I’m continuing to do. So I was painting a lot and writing a lot, so that felt good for me. As well. So I kept, I kept busy. I’m also cooking because cooking, doing all these things I just had never had time to do. And Oh, I hung something up in my apartment cause I hadn’t done that since, you know, you know, like eight months or something. There was nothing in my living room.
So yeah, I was keeping busy with some tasks, but I mean, in terms of finances, I had some savings. But also I had, you know, I, I am in debt to my parents for a very long time. Yeah, that, that part has not been easy. I have a lot of anxiety about that. But it’s just a day by day. It’s a day by day, you know, it ebbs and flows. I feel very privileged to have that lucky and fortunate and like it was necessary. But yeah, it’s certainly, you know, my parent, my parents are retired, so it’s yeah, it’s not always easy. Is there anything you’d advise other men or women who are thinking about quitting their job due to burnout? What could they prepare for in order to to stop that recovery process in a healthy way?
Yeah, I mean, if you’re, I think everyone’s level of burnout is different, but if you’re in a position where you’re burned out, but you can last a little longer, especially again, given everything that’s going on, I’m not encouraging everyone to just quit their jobs cause I, I, there’s not as much stability as there might’ve been, you know, a few months ago even. But so if you can save as much as you can you know, try to have some sort of a nest egg again, that’s not going to be possible for everyone. But I think if you have any sort of ability to get assistance from your family or even from friends and it’s a conversation, I mean it’ll be a tough conversation, but if it’s one that you’re able to have, it’s worth, I think it’s worth having. Just, I just really think about your mental health and think about, you know, what, if you don’t take care of this long term, you know, is there, is there a possibility you’ll crash much later?
And then the financial aspect of that will be far worse. And you know, you know, if you’re also in a place like I felt like I was in a place where I was, I was unmarried and you know, I didn’t have enough children to consider. There weren’t like, that wasn’t in the mix as well. So, you know, that’s all, these are all things to take into consideration. But I think if quitting isn’t feasible for you, which it isn’t for everyone, then at least look to take, try and take more breaks or consider if you do have any time off. Maybe not putting it towards a trip, which again, you may not be putting it towards a trip anytime, anytime, too soon. But even when you’re able to think about taking that time to just have a day where you just do what you want to do and if you don’t do everything you want to do, that’s okay too. Creating more, like intentionally more time like that for yourself, that’s unstructured. And that isn’t requiring anything of you. Putting that, trying to find space for that I think is important and it was something I wasn’t doing before. So even if you’re not able to completely pull the plug on a job, because not everyone is just being more mindful of that, you know, that you need that.
Well, obviously you you quit on July 4th last year. So you’ve had, you’ve had a little bit more time to kind of work out how to rebalance your life and, and I guess what’s important as well for your physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing. There’s a lot of people now that are in like, you, they’re in the lockdown period of, of the Corona virus. And they’re starting to reflect. They’re starting to think, well, okay, I’m, I’m not in my job all the time now. Like I might, might, might’ve been before. From what you’ve learned over the last few months what would you say for people who are now in lockdown to do with their time in order to maybe rebalance their life so that you know, they, they take, they take more time for their wellbeing. What would
I think just Jess, take a moment, really take a moment. I, I’m seeing a lot of, I mean, I mean grain of salt because I’m looking at social media. So there are probably, I’m sure plenty of people who are leaving social media and will continue to leave social media and take a break from it. But I definitely see an impulse to rush to do activities and to fill schedules with lots of zoom catch-ups with people and zoom exercise classes and bread baking and they’re all, you know, I, which is great puzzling. And there’s just like a, there’s like all of these things selling out. And I, I think that some of these things are just people feeling anxious and wanting to fill that anxiety with an activity, which is completely fine. But I guess consider just having time where you’re not on your phone, you’re not on, you’re not watching TV.
And some of these activities are great. I think like cooking is a good one. Reading a book, a paper book maybe would be a good one. All of these activities that seem kind of quaint and nostalgic. Maybe he’s trying to not think of them as being quaint and nostalgic and just quarantine activities, activities that you could actually just continue to keep in your life. So maybe think of this time as a time where you start working on these, building these habits that are more self focused. Like, you know, maybe it’s maybe you want to run or start doing yoga or I mean these things all I know sound kind of like self carry, which I feel sort of self conscious about. But I think even though there’s a very corporate self care idea with skincare and sheep mask and things, it’s still the, the fundamentals are there, you know, there’s still good structure.
So like activities, looking for activities, looking to build activities and habits that you can continue to carry on with you through this time and hopefully transitioning to whatever’s to come. Because I think whatever is happening in the future, you know, there will be beauty, but it’s going to be tough too. And so taking that time to maybe start a daily journal practice, even or I’m sort of losing my train of thought here, but you know, I basically build down, so you want to build habits that you can keep with you through this and habits that bring you back to yourself a bit more. Even if you’re living with someone, like making sure you take that time away from your roommate or your partner to just do something for yourself. That’s not involving a screen of some kind. You mentioned in our previous conversation that you’d love to book a, I think it’s called how to do nothing by Jenny O’Dell.
Is that right? Yeah, that’s it. Yeah, I love that book. I think I did by Barack Obama. Yeah. It’s one of his that’s not where I, I mean I was reading the book and then he had recommended it and I felt very proud of myself. No she just, she, she’s, she’s, I think she’s an art. Don’t quote me on, she’s an art. She’s like an art, not an art teacher, but like our professor at a college. And she’s writing about basically the, how did it, nothing. It’s resisting the attention economy. So the attention economy being all of the screens that you own. So the fact that you could sit and like I’m sitting in my living room right now and there was a TV, I have a computer, I have a phone. I mean I could have, you know, some sort of an iPad around to and all of these screens are constantly competing for your attention and everywhere you go, they’re competing for your attention.
And for some people there may be this feeling of, you know what? Screw screens, I’m going to give it all up. I’m going to know, run away and join a commune or start a commune. But she talks about how running away and starting a commune, which I kind of think of is like the bread baking doesn’t solve the problem. And it’s not, doesn’t, it doesn’t solve the problem for most people. Cause not everyone can run and join the commune. So she talks about this idea of resisting the attention economy and looking for like a third space and creating a third space. So it means that you have to be the one to say, okay, I’m putting my phone down at this time and I’m not, or, you know, I’m going to respect the limits that I set the apps in my phone, or like I charge my phone in a different room from the one I sleep in so that I have to get out of bed and I’m not in my bed reading my phone for hours.
I’m creating those kinds of habits of yourself consciously. So it’s kind of inviting you are to be the one who makes those decisions for yourself because companies are not going to do that. And Apple’s not going to do that. They’re not going, they want you to use their, your phone as much as possible. So the only person who can really stop you is, is you. And that’s, that’s basically the gist of it. But I think she also talks about how in general, it’s just hard for people to do nothing. Like they don’t know what that means and we’re always trying to fill it as opposed to just sitting that feels somehow more uncomfortable for most people than many things, which is kind of funny in a way.
Yeah. So do you think being able to disconnect and that and setting routines and habits to disconnect maybe every day or at least several times a week that that can help with preventing by now especially, I mean, there’s a lot of people that I’ve spoken to previous interviews as well that said, I’m just connected. I was connected 24, seven because I was working in a global organization and I was on call all the time. It is that the power of those habits of, of disconnecting. How important do you think that is to, to prevent burnout in the future for you?
I mean, I think they’re crucial and I think more people have to start doing it. I think it’s kind of like the idea of wearing a mask right now. Like in New York, it’s kind of, I mean it’s enforced, but some people aren’t doing it and you kind of want to say, just wear the mask, you know, for yourself to for everyone else as well. And it kind of has that effect. I think you don’t realize how much limiting your access to that will impact the way you interact with other people as well and the kind of interactions that you’re looking to have. And hopefully they’re a bit more meaningful. But I think it’s really, yeah, I think it’s, I think people underestimate how much burnout there comes from screens. I also think, you know, we ha we haven’t had them long enough that we really know the longterm impacts on our health of having phones and you know, computers and being so on.
I can say I think my memory’s not the same as it would be if I didn’t have my phone to memorize all phone numbers for me and, you know, to answer all questions. We’re certainly reliant in a way, but also just mentally we’re reliant. I think it means that our brands are not quite as sharp as they could be in a way. Again, don’t go, I’m not a neurologist, like don’t, don’t quote me on that, but I’m like more than certain, more, I’m quite certain there are studies that back me up on this or that will back me up on this in the future. Yeah, I think it’s just sort of as underlying like an undercurrent. It’s an undercurrent and everything. And I think that, how did it, nothing book gets on this subject as well, but it’s it’s like you can’t, like I can’t read a poll book right now.
Like, I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished the last fourth of how to do thing because I can’t, my attention span is so shot that every time I sit down to read it, I go, Oh man, I can’t read this book and play music at the same time because that’s against the book. And so then I ended up, I just keep getting distracted and I’m like, Oh, the irony that I can’t finish this book about how I can’t finish this book. Yeah, like our attention spans are so shot. So it’s like almost like a muscle that we have to work on building back up in the way that you would train for a race as a runner. It’s like we have to train our attention spans too, back to what they were. I mean, they’re never going to go back to the way they were when we were much younger. But yeah, I think it’s the impact of screens and social media burnout is, is huge. I mean, yeah, I think burnout existed always for people, but, you know, cause my parents might say, well, we were burned out, you know, tough, tough luck. I’m like, yeah, but you didn’t have phones, you know, you didn’t have all of these demands at all times. You know, you didn’t have constant messaging about things you should be doing and events you’re missing out on and you know, things you should participate in. So it’s a lot.
[Inaudible] What, what, what do you think was has been surprising for you since you’ve, you know, gone through burnout? I remember you, you you mentioned about some things were just [inaudible], just too much. Even things like meditation. We’re, we’re actually stressing you out.
Yeah. I think what I, I think I went in thinking, I remember I said, Oh, I just, it’ll take about three months and then I’ll have another job. I really did not have a sense of how tired I was. I think, yeah, I anticipated that I would be much higher functioning much faster. And I think for, again, it’s burnout can be different for different people, but for me it was so deep that felt like almost for each job that I’d had, I had to sleep for a month. So, you know, after the end of the three months, and you know, the three major places I’d worked, I kind of get sleep. I slept them out. And then I got a therapist and then I started that. So I’ve been in therapy for, I don’t know, five or six months now, which has been very helpful.
And just started having conversations about things that I hadn’t thought about in years. But yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t anticipate how long this could, this would take. And yet, like, I mean, it’s getting to the point where it’s maybe a little uncomfortable, especially given all the news, but then at the same time, I’m finally starting to just feel very confident in myself in a way that I wasn’t nine months ago. And so I mean I can continue like this and still I think continue growing so, and meditating. I’m still not meditating every day. Like I want to be. I’m saying I’m meditating maybe four times a week, just better, you know? And so we’ll see how long it takes to get me to every day. But yeah, it’s taken me a very long time also to be able to tell myself that it’s okay that I don’t meditate every day.
No one really, no one cares. It’s just me. How do you your time just thinking about what are the things that I really need in my life at all times? Like what are my non negotiables? Basically? maybe it’s like I need to exercise twice a week or once a week, or maybe that’s like one of those things, or I need to be able to see my family, you know, every three months or what, you know, what are those things? And once you have a better sense of those things, I think then you can kind of try and make more time for those things. But I think we can easily, we can casually say like, Oh, family’s important to me or exercises. These things are important to me, but if you don’t sort of sit down and get a lay of the land and have that, have that conversation with yourself it’s harder to figure out how to schedule that time and for yourself.
So I think do that first and then, you know, then you can look at your job and think like, well, one of those things am I able to get done, might be none of the things. And if that’s the case, can I have a conversation with my manager? Or are there way, are there things that I can delegate to other people? Are there, which, you know, I don’t, some people are not great at delegating that, you know, that’s something to learn. Are there tasks that I feel strongly about but you know, if someone else does it and it’s not perfect and it gets done, will I get more sleep and be able to accomplish one of my goals? You know, looking for ways to create more space for yourself. I think sometimes we think with our jobs, no, it has to be me or things will be terrible if I don’t get it done or if it’s not this way.
And it’s like zap the Hill, you want to burn out on, you know, think about that. Is that your Hill that you want to burn out on? I mean, that’s fine, but maybe that’s the question. You should be asking yourself more like, does this really, do we really care about the spreadsheet or whatever it is. It’s probably more than a spreadsheet, but you know, you can fill that in. How do you how do people get in touch with you? On what, what, who would you, who would you like to compare from? Barack Obama? No, Michelle, well, I am Malia and his daughter’s named Malia and you can talk about that. I have a website, it’s Malia Greg’s dot com. There is a little contact bubble which people reach out to me through. I mean, you can always, you can reach out to me through social media as well.
I’ll check my messages, but I’m in a phase where, and I might deactivate some accounts for a bit, so it’s probably more reliable through my, through my website. I have people send me like career questions, which I shouldn’t open myself up too much to that. But like, it’s, you know, it’s interesting to get into any, you know, if you’re feeling burned out and you, I really don’t, you know, you feel like you don’t have anyone in your life that understands that you can reach out to me. I certainly understand that. Also, if you don’t have someone in your life that you can talk to about burnout, that’s something we should, you should think about. You know, that’s something we should discuss. Really though. I mean, yeah, I guess people who are burned out. Also just if you have, Oh, if you’re like a young, like a young journalist as well, or as someone who’s entering it, considering working in social media and just curious about it, you know, I’m happy to respond because I think I didn’t, I didn’t think I was going into social media when I graduated college because that wasn’t, it wasn’t really a thing.
And if I could go back and tell younger me or a 22 year old me, I’d probably say, just take it easy. And remember, you do not have to put everything on social media and not everything needs to be an article. You do not have to put everything on the internet. In fact, maybe consider just having a lot of experiences that are not ones you catalog. Yeah, young people, I’m young but younger than me. People recent graduates from college. I like talking to them. I also just feel bad right now cause it’s, it’s a rough time. It’s a rough time to be coming out of school. So yeah, for sure. For sure. Any final reflections or thoughts about that now that you wanted to kind of share with with the community? Just take breaks and try to be kind to yourself?
I, I think Instagram is kind of killing messaging like that right now, but it’s very true and what kindness looks like is different for different people. But for me, I find it’s just giving myself a break and you know and being a friend to myself, I’m working on that right now. Especially since I’m one of the people who, you know, lives alone during this time. As my only roommate, I’m working on being a decent roommate one I can live with. And I think that that’s a good goal for, for many people and hopefully, whether or not, you know, quitting your job is the thing that gets you there. Even just starting to think about that as a concept. I think is good and it’s one that I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot during this time about how to, how to be a friend to yourself and you know, what that friendship looks like. So yeah, just think about, think about that, meditate on that or don’t meditate. Okay. Don’t meditate. I mean, meditation is good, but like I think everyone is associates it with like too many things and I’m like, just close your eyes and take some, you know, try to take some deep breaths and just, just try to relax. Yeah,
It’s a, it’s an interesting concept about being a friend to yourself. And I like that there’s the, how the whole idea of, you know, if you love yourself then other people will love you in relationships. But being a friend to yourself it kind of sparks thoughts about, well, how does that impact how you are with employers who are very, very demanding. If you, the more you become a friend to yourself and you recognize your own personal interests, you’re in mental wellbeing, your own physical wellbeing. How does that change you as a person so that you respond differently? If there are huge amounts on social media, huge demands on from, from your employer you know, how can that change that dynamic? So that’s something to maybe think about. What’s, what are your thoughts on that
When you become a friend to yourself and when you learn how to listen to yourself and how that would have conversations with yourself. And also, you know, you’re not and you know, and just like a friend, you don’t always have to love yourself and you also don’t have to hate yourself all the time. Either. You can just be okay with certain things and realize that you’re, you’re a human. And once you have those conversations and are able to sort of more realistically lay out your needs, it’s much easier, I think, to have conversations with your managers and your coworkers about what’s acceptable to you and what’s not. And I think actually a big thing about quitting your job is that once you quit your job, all right, assume this is going to be the case for me, you realize you can do it again.
So when you’re in a meeting and you, you know, like their job is, you’ve voiced what you need and the job repeatedly again, again, is not able to, you know, fulfill those needs. You know, that you can just, you can quit and you’ll be okay because you’ve become that friend to yourself. At least mentally and emotionally. Again, separate from finances. But and hopefully made me part of being a friend yourself is about, you know, learning how to budget a little better and learning how to be more fiscally responsible. Maybe being a friend yourself is saying, Nope, don’t quit your job. This is not the time you want to pull the plug. But you know, this is not, you know, you have a team to support whatever it is. But I, yeah, I think it makes it, it makes you not, I mean it makes you, it should make you more employable, but it will make you a better employee hopefully.
Even thinking as a manager to the people that I managed I think that if they, you know, if they had been better friends themselves in certain ways, we could have gotten more done and more accomplished because they wouldn’t have been afraid to come to me and say, you know, I’m tired or this thing is burning me out. Or you know, it’s it. So it applies both to yourself but also to maybe the people you work with, the people you manage. So if you do manage people or you are a coworker to someone, you know, reminding them to take a moment, you know, and reminding them this is a just a job. I mean, right now it’s more than just a job, but everything is through that lens. But it is also just a job, you know, hopefully it’s not the, Oh, you know what, you know what I’m saying?
And it goes back to that whole thing of you are not your job. Yes I know it’s your job, right? If their job is a thing that’s paying your, you know, you need to pay your bills. Absolutely. But remind if you can remind yourself that you are not your job and that means you can start making more time, conscious time, you know, taking that time away from your screens away from your job just for yourself. And so, I mean some of it’s just like fuck up and make 30 minutes a day to do that one thing that you want to do for you or you know, one hour a week or whatever it is. You can start small. There’s no, it can be five minutes. I think we get overwhelmed by how large and daunting this seems. But it can be small. And the evidence of that is that I can’t seem to meditate every day and yet I could just meditate for five minutes.
And that could be the time. And every time I do it, I think, yeah, this could be. So I’ve worked my way up to several times a week and then I’m going to work my way up to EV. This is my goal. But you know, it’s, it’s just we get overwhelmed. And so we forget that five minutes can just be five minutes. And then, Oh, and I think an important thing too is to take a moment to, you know, to congratulate yourself, your thank yourself for your, any sort of achievements, whether they’re big or small. So maybe you meditate for the day, meditate for the day. It might be five minutes, but say to yourself, good, I meditated today and I, you know, that’s not something that I do every day, but I did that one thing. It was five minutes, but go meet. It’s okay to feel that.
I think, I think another part of burnout, which I think we haven’t discussed, but part of burnout is that we’re constantly rushing and rushing means we’re also overlooking our own milestones and successes because it never feels like enough. And I think some of that’s driven by social media and FOMO, feeling like you need to do more and be more. And so even when something good happens or when you accomplish something that took you a long time, you don’t always celebrate it because you don’t know to create that space. So creating that space again, it’s an act of intention. It doesn’t feel like it, but sometimes you have to intentionally stop and, you know, celebrate those sorts of achievements big or small. So yeah. Otherwise it contributes to burnout longer term.
Yeah. Yeah. yeah. I mean I guess my final thought is like your identities are important. Like the, you know, people that think they are, they are their job. Well that’s going to consume them because then you know that all of their mental energy and, and, and effort is going to be around that. As you said, if you start to be, be a friend to yourself, all my stats, a job as well, you can actually create a job. I am a friend to myself and I’m going to allocate time to be a friend to myself. I’m going to allocate time in another job to do this social media director job. I can allocate time in another job to be a cook. I can allocate time to be a cat owner, you know, and so, so kind of rather than having a, an identity of, I, you know, my life is director of social media. It’s, no, my life has many job descriptions and I’m, and I’m going to put enough focus in each of those to have that balance that I need. And to fit to have an authentic life. Is that, is that something that you, you, the resonates with you?
Yes. I think I’m not a brand. I am. And the differences that a brand is, you’re constantly trying to market everything, including your flaws and a person. You know, it’s not about Mark, you’re removing that marketing, which I think is similar to removing the, the attention span element. It’s removing capitalism, removing capitalism. Yeah, but it, just remembering that you’re a person, you’re not your Instagram, your account, you’re not your job. You can, and sometimes I think part of that’s like, we don’t always know how to say no to things and we don’t always say no to things for ourselves. So that can include, you know, maybe your best friend wants to have a zoom date with you soon and you’re really tired and it’s been a long week and that’s not what you need. Saying no might be what you, the person needs, what you as a friend need for yourself. Or it might be that you really need that conversation with your friend because that friend will help you. But, you know, having the conversation with yourself about, is this what I need? Can I say no kindly? That’s part of it too.
Yeah, that’s is a huge power of being able to say no and pushing back, not just in your job but in many areas of your personal life.
Yeah, I’m already feeling that with all, with the zoom culture where, and I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. I am now doing more things than I normally did before. I’m now have a more of a social life, but it’s, people have a hard time saying no because I think a lot of a lot of us are just trying to please other people or don’t want to let anyone down. But I think sometimes you can be a better friend if you are a friend to yourself first or at least equally to your, to your other friends. I’m sure I know that the way I was when I was in my job, you know, wasn’t seeing my friends when I was seeing my friends. I was very jaded and bitter about things. Very Debbie downer. I’m still a little Debbie downer because I read the news.
But when you’re really embedded in the news, you know, it’s, every conversation is just depressing. But I, I know I wasn’t pleasant to be around and part and I really value that part of myself that is a friend. And so part of the burnout quitting process conversation was me remembering that I’m not able to be a good friend to other people because I’m not able to be a friend to myself and I can’t. Yeah. I, that’s not, that’s a non negotiable for me, you know? So yeah, that was definitely a part of it as well. There’s so many benefits to being, it’s called self partnership. I’m allegedly working on an article about it, but I’m, yeah, it’s taken me some time. But yeah, it’s like just being a good partner to yourself, essentially. It’s just so you can be a better partner to everyone else. It’s like crazy that this is a revolutionary idea, I think for some people who are used to putting everyone else first. Yeah.
Which is why they find it so difficult to say no.
Yeah. And you know, yeah. Sometimes I want my friends to say no, you know, just please do take that time. I need you to take more time for yourself. That’s where I’m feeling several friends right now. Please take more time so that we can be better. You know, go, you go figure out yourself and what you need and then we can have a clearer conversation, which translates to work as well. So many people, I’m like, just, just go and have that conversation and then get back to me so that, you know, tell me what you actually need so we can keep moving. Yeah.
Well Malia, thank you so much for, for like an awesome interview and just, I just love how kind of open and honest you are about your whole experience. You know, both, you know, reading your articles about burnout, speaking to you now and like just your reflections as well. I think it’s so valuable for the people watching and listening to to identify any kind of symptoms they might have from burnout and also kind what to expect if you do leave your job or you know, if, if you want to kind of stop rebalancing and reprioritizing things, you know, what you can do practical things that you can do. So really we thank you so much for that. And yeah, what’s, what’s next? What’s next for, for you now?
You know, I don’t know. And I think that’s fine. Yeah, I don’t think any of us know and spending way too much time pretending that we know when we don’t. And I mean, we’re all living in a time of uncertainty now, so you might as well trying get as comfortable as possible with uncertainty as you can because it’s not going away for a bit. So I’m fighting it doesn’t, doesn’t really help. But yeah, I don’t know. And we’ll see. Yeah, I’ll just keep them, just keep chugging along, keep having conversations like this, I think as well. They’re very, they’re helpful for me and every time I have any of them. And yeah. So thank you for having me and I’m excited to see where this goes.
Awesome. Thank you very much. Thank you.