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January 25, 2023
How To Avoid Burnout And Preserve Your Mental And Physical Health

Have you ever been in a situation where you were pulled in so many directions that you began  to feel as though you were burned to a crisp?  That’s the situation in which  neonatologist Susan Landers Berry, M.D. found herself after years of being in a high-pressure job while trying to balance her career with her family and home life.  Unfortunately, She found that she cou…

How to Avoid Job Burnout And Preserve Your Mental and Physical Health

Have you ever neglected yourself to the point of burnout? It is a state that many career women experience when they lack things like work-life balance, a lack of support and workplace dynamics that are dysfunctional. In case you don’t quite know how to define burnout, it is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” ( This is where neonatologist Dr. Susan Landers Berry found herself as she juggled a high-stress, demanding career while trying to be a mother who was completely involved in her children’s activities.  

How Burnout Impacted Susan’s Life And The Strategies She Found To Be Effective


  • Dr. Landers Berry said that her burnout led to  feelings of resentment towards her husband and then a major depression.
  • Burnout also led her to become emotionally detached and feeling as if she was no longer making a difference
  • This situation led her to get therapy and medication
  • As Susan learned to take stock of the priorities in her life, she realized that she had left little time for her to tend to her own well being


Solutions Dr. Susan's  Burnout


  • She started to practice self-care
  • She learned to ask for help from people in her circle
  • She worked on gaining a work-life balance
  • She learned to take naps and to make time for exercise and other outdoor activities like bike riding and playing ball in the park
  • She joined a support group started by a minister at her church who was also a medical professional an who understood the pressures of the profession
  • Most of all, she learned to fill her cup first before trying to fill others’ cups
  • In essence she learned that putting herself first, though considered selfish by some, is the way to be mentally and physically healthy enough to be able to support those who depend on you.
  • A final piece of advice from Dr. Susan Landers Berry: “Monitor your wellbeing, and do the thighs that bring you joy.”


Research: Job Burnout: How To Spot It And Take Action 

Free OfferMy Six Burnout Hacks _compressed (2).pdf

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And while you’re at it, don't forget to grab your FREE Affirmation eCards to shift your mindset, raise your self-esteem and boost your self-confidence.   Choose one or two that resonate with you, and make a habit of repeating them several times throughout the day, especially when you wake up in the morning, and at night before you go to bed. As you use them, observe the effect they have on you: 

  • Do they make you feel more loving toward yourself and more confident? 
  • Do they increase your belief in your abilities?  
  • Do they make it easier for you to take life in stride? 

Try to be aware of how your mind and body react to your practice of repeating affirmations.  Be consistent with this practice and you’ll see the difference over time. Just click the link! FREE Affirmation eCards.
Thanks for listening.  Until next time This is PK sending you much light and a whole lot of love!

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Susan Landers Berry  0:04  
Welcome to the Momma's motivational messages podcast, where women learn to stop putting themselves on the back burner and start paying attention to caring for themselves first, so they can be better for everyone else in their lives. I know you'll been inspired by the stories of resiliency and starting over of health and self healing, of gaining clarity through journaling, of showing self love through world travel, and the list goes on. I encourage you to relax and enjoy. I'm your host Peggie Kirkland,

Peggie Kirkland  0:42  
PK. Hi, everyone. I'm so glad that of all the things you could do with your time, you decided to join us for another episode of Mama's motivational messages. Please be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode of strategies and techniques for making yourself a priority.

Peggie Kirkland  1:05  
Our guest today is Susan landers, MD. Susan is a neonatologist, who has spent 34 years taking care of critically ill newborns. She's also the author of "So Many Babies: My Life Balancing A Busy Medical Career And Motherhood."  I'm sure you're eager to find out how someone in such a high pressured career, with a husband in a similarly high pressured career, as a physician learned how to make time for herself while raising three children. But before we unpack how you carried out this tremendous balancing act, I'd like to start by giving you an opportunity to share some of your background with the audience. So welcome to the show, Susan.

Susan Landers Berry  1:59  
Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here and to be on your podcast. I grew up in South Carolina in a typical home my mother worked as an elementary school librarian. My dad sold pharmaceuticals. I was one of four children. And I went to all public schools, went to college at Auburn University in Alabama and went back to South Carolina for medical school in Charleston, South Carolina. I decided at the end of medical school that I wanted to move to the big city and I had matched  for pediatric residency in Dallas, Texas. I fell in love with pediatrics, especially neonatology, which is a subspecialty of Pediatrics. And it covers intensive care of sick newborns and premature babies. I moved to Houston, Texas for my fellowship training, which was another three years after three years of Pediatrics. 

Susan Landers Berry  3:13  
And finally, I met the right man for me, and got married at age 34. So it's quite a bit older. When I got married. My husband was also a physician, and I entered marriage and my working life, as if I could handle everything that would come in my path. I had my first child within a year of being married. And that's when I learned that I was not a perfect mother. And that I had lots to learn about being a mom, especially being a working mom. And I kind of learned as I went. 

Susan Landers Berry  4:00  
One of the best things about my years in Houston was I had a big circle of really good friends wasn't that big is probably four or five. circle of friends. We all got married at the same time. We all had babies together, we all worked together or at least within the same Children's Hospital. And it was really easy to share challenges and and ask each other questions. That was such a crucial part of my becoming a new mother. 

Susan Landers Berry  4:32  
We had our second child a daughter a few years later. And right after having my third child, I thought I had learned enough about juggling work and children. We were fortunate enough to be able to afford a nanny. And so whenever one of us couldn't be at home that nanny was there. And she helped immensely. And I was also grateful to have a nanny for three years. So the kids really got to know somebody and, and she got to know them. So, my oldest was seven. And I had just had my third baby, and my husband wanted to take this amazing job in a different city. And I thought, well, it's very good time to take a new job. I was doing pretty well, in my job. I was teaching medical students and residents, I was doing some clinical research. I was writing papers, mostly I was taking care of babies in the nursery, at least five or six days a week. And taking night call once or twice a week. So I had a busy schedule, but with my husband also being a pediatrician, and with a nanny to help me, I  managed to make it all work. 

Susan Landers Berry  6:07  
So my husband wanted to take this new job in a new city and my job there was not what I had hoped it would be. It was way more night call, way more work. And of course, there was the brand new city, brand new schools, brand new neighborhood, left all my friends behind adjustment. It was a huge, huge adjustment for me. And I had just turned 40. And I did not do very well, our first couple of years in the new city. 

Susan Landers Berry  6:48  
And so I think, Peggie, what happened to me, then was a kind of a working mother's burnout. My job was too intense. My husband was having a great time and his I began to resent his happiness. My kids were doing fine. They were in a nice little private school. And I got to know their teachers. And I had enough time to make it to school functions, and soccer games and swim meets and things like that. But I was very, very unhappy in my job. And this particular setting, precipitated for me an episode of depression, a major depression. And I had to pull back, get therapy, take medication and take stock of the priorities in my life. 

Susan Landers Berry  6:49  
And it was that time that I think I really learned how to assess the importance of each child, my marriage, my work, my friendships, my family, and what was left of me. I had burned to a crisp, I think by trying to take care of everybody else except myself. And in recovering through those years, I learned self care. I heard you and another podcast mentioned that self care is kind of a buzzword right now. But it is a crucial buzzword, at least I learned that it was crucial. I had always put myself on the very bottom of my list. I had always taken care of everything that had to do with my kids or my husband, and always left too little time for my own well being.

Peggie Kirkland  9:11  
So the first thing I want to say is yay for public schools as a public school educator, I want to say Yay, I'm so happy to see and to be talking with a product of public education. So you entered your marriage as a super woman, so to speak, and then you find out that you have your first baby, and you're not a perfect mother. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Unknown Speaker  9:42  
Yes. Since I've finished my training before I got married, and even wrote a paper or two. I thought that I had a professional identity. And I was good at my clinical work and so my image of myself as a practicing physician was already pretty solid when I got married, and I felt like I could do anything, and my husband was also in academic medicine, and he was very supportive of me working full time. So it was not until having a child and learning about that process of, you can't be with your child 24/7 You have to choose when you work and choose when you're at home, and ask other people for help and recognize what you know, and what you don't know. And you have to learn that support from your friends, from your family, from your spouse is crucial to surviving, I think it took me the first few years of my marriage to learn that. And I was really lucky to have good friends who were also pediatricians and also having babies. And so we compared notes. And we asked each other questions. And I felt the support of my mom group. 

Unknown Speaker  11:27  
My husband was always very supportive of me working full time, but I didn't know how it would feel to work a 50 or 60 hour week in the hospital and then go home and feel like I had to entertain a toddler for a couple of days, you know; I was  exhausted at the end of a work week. And then my toddler wanted every bit of me and I wanted him to have a you know, an on on the ball mother who was awake and happy. And so adjusting to those differences I found very challenging. I had to learn how to take naps, I had to learn how to exercise regularly and take care of myself. I learned at that time that I love to play with children. Both my first two kids, we got outside, we went to the park, we played ball. We rode bikes, we did everything outside. And that kept me happy and level headed. And my work in Houston was not overwhelming. It was a good amount of work. Sometimes 50 or 50 hours a week, sometimes night call once or twice at night, during the week. But it was not overwhelming. And so I felt during those first seven years that I was learning how to manage everything in my life. I had not left anything behind. And I was taking care of myself. 

Unknown Speaker  13:08  
I'll tell you another wonderful thing that happened to us as a couple. A minister at my church who was also a psychiatrist started a support group called "Healing the Healers", and husbands and wives who were in medicine met together every other Sunday afternoon. We did this for three years. And we talked about things that were important to us, our marriage, our children, our parents, what issues we were dealing with. That was the most helpful group that I have ever been a member of in my entire life. To hear other working moms, other doctor moms, other doctor dads talk about the issues they had with their children and with their parents was so reassuring. And I learned early on that having connection and community and a group that you feel supported and is crucial for women who work especially professional women. Because I think we put ourselves out there. And we in doing that you have to be able to feel the support of others who believe in you.

Peggie Kirkland  14:33  
So you certainly did unpack that. And in doing so, I've heard many strategies and techniques that any mother or woman who's experiencing the what it takes to balance a career and your life at home. I've heard many strategies that you've mentioned here. For example, you talked about asking for help. You talked about getting support. You talked about taking naps. And that's an interesting one, especially newborn. You talked about exercising regularly. You talked about getting outside, and how that made you feel happy and level headed, and helped you to learn how to manage. And the critical piece as well. You talked about counseling sessions it would that be the right term counseling session with your minister, and then connection with the community that also offers support. Now, are those the things that you would say? Would you agree that that's really the beginning of making yourself a priority when you're in this type of situation?

Unknown Speaker  16:07  
Exactly. It was the beginning for me. And a good solid foundation of how it is necessary to fill up my cup. Before I can pour out myself and take care of others.

Peggie Kirkland  16:24  
Could you please say that, again, for our listening audience,

Susan Landers Berry  16:27  
I learned in the first seven years of my marriage, being a mom to three children, and being in a healing the healer group, that I had to do things that would actively fill up my cup, so that I could take my full cup, and pour out parts of myself to take care of others. I learned how to do things that filled up My Cup,

Peggie Kirkland  17:01  
I asked you to repeat that, because I think it's what we talk about here on the show all the time, the importance of filling up your cup first. And to use an overused analogy, of, you know, putting on your mask first, before trying to assist anyone else, a child or someone acting like a child.

Peggie Kirkland  17:28  
We hear that all the time on airplanes, but in real life, filling up your cup, I think is really critical. And especially in situations where you're in a high powered profession, and many of our listeners are in high powered professional professions, though we do have stay at home moms as well.  Is there a difference in terms of how you make yourself a priority?

Susan Landers Berry  18:00  
I don't think so. I think regardless of what you do with your time, if you're serving others, if you are putting yourself out in the world, you have to take care of yourself in a way that there's something healthy in you to give, whether that's music or hobbies, or playing with kids or getting outside, or running in Houston, I ran probably five days a week, I did the things that kept me in a good mood, and a good frame of mind. I loved my work, even though it was stressful, the things I did to take care of me managed the stress. And so I started out feeling like I had a grip on how to do this having three kids and a full time job. I learned later that I didn't have all the answers. But during that part of my professional career, and motherhood, I was doing pretty well.

Peggie Kirkland  19:11  
One of the things that we talked about before the show was the fact that you managed all of this for most of your career. And it allowed you to postpone burnout until the end of your career. Could you share what that experience was like? Because I would think that the burnout would happen during your career. But you say you were able to put it off. Talk to us about that.

Unknown Speaker  19:48  
Well actually, I think I had two periods of burnout in my 40s after we moved to a new city. I think I got burned out as a working mom because I lost my support system, and I had a job that was too much for me. And I became overly stressed. And I started yelling at children. And I was not happy that my kids are in a small private school and it was costing a fortune. And my husband was having such a good time, and I was having a bad time. And all of those things culminated in a, in a period of depression. For me, that took me a couple of years to recover from, and I did with medication and with professional therapy. 

Unknown Speaker  20:37  
The burnout that I had, at the very end of my career was the typical physician, overwhelm, and physical exhaustion that doctors feel when they have seen too many ill patients worked too many hours, confronted unhappy nurses or patients had to give bad news to one more family. I just saw too many small babies have bad outcomes or die. And by the time I was 60, some of those complex ethical cases that I was dealing with and some of the tiniest preemies who didn't survive began to feel weighty on my shoulders, I began to feel like after 30 some odd years, I was tired of all that illness and death and bad outcomes. And let me clarify 95% of children who were in the NICU, recover and are healthy and go home. But for that, two to 5% kind of depends on what you're dealing with. When you see bad outcomes, or you see babies die, and the effects that that has on their family, or when you see severe birth defects that are life limiting, or when you face ethical challenges about should therapy continue or not. Those were the things that built up in my mind, and became a burden. And then I, I became detached from my work and my patients. I wasn't just tired. I wasn't just emotionally overwhelmed. I became somewhat detached. And I felt like I wasn't making a difference. 

Unknown Speaker  22:57  
'll tell you a secret. The reason doctors love working hard is because when they do they think they're making a difference. And when a doctor starts to think that they're not helping or not making a difference, it's very painful. And so when I was burnout at age 62, that's how I felt that I was no longer helping anybody. I was just overwhelmed. Now from that burnout experience, I was so fortunate to be in a practice where I could go to work part time, I could change my practice location to a low risk Maternity Center, where I worked about 35 hours a week. I didn't take night call but about once every couple of weeks, and I started doing music lessons on the piano. I rang handbells in a choir at my church. I picked up an old hobby of needle working. I took calligraphy courses. I met with brands and had lunches and laughed and told stories. I started journaling. What I did then Peggie was things that I had read about that were that were soothing, and stress busters and mental boosts and I started doing some of those some I had done before and left behind and some I had just forgotten about and when I did all those things while working part time I healed from my burnout. Oh, but it took it took me two years so I have to confess.

Peggie Kirkland  24:58  
Okay, well I'll tell you that even though I was not in the health professions feel that for myself and for many women that I know, this idea of feeling like you no longer make a difference is pretty common. I think it really stretches across professions, and really causes people to feel detached, like you say, and maybe, you know, if they're struggling, if they're not at a point where they can retire, or leave that particular job, it really becomes an issue for them, hence, the need for them to take better care of themselves. And I could see how you engaged in a number of activities that helped you along the way. So I have to tell you, that is really awesome. And I think the audience has a lot to gain from that. Unfortunately, we're coming to the end of our our little conversation. And so I just wanted to ask you, if there were one thing you wanted to leave with the audience, regarding making themselves a priority, what would that be? 

Susan Landers Berry  26:22  
I thinkit would be to monitor your mental well being, and do the things that bring you joy. Besides your work, many of us love our work. And we're fortunate when we love our work and feel like we're making a difference. But in order to do that, we have to have some sense of joy in our lives, whether it's through our children, our family, our friends, our husband, our partner, there's got to our hobbies, our music, whatever we do something has to bring us enough joy, that we can maintain mental well being to be the full person that we want to be.

Peggie Kirkland  27:16  
Absolutely. And I am here for it. I'm all for joy. Listen, this has been an absolute pleasure having this conversation with you. I think it's a very important one. And before I leave, before we end this conversation, I believe you have an offer for our listeners today.

Susan Landers Berry  27:37  
Oh, I do. I wanted to recommend my book, "So Many Babies:   "because I've got lots of stories in there about trials and challenges of being a working mom. And I intended those stories to be very reassuring to other working mothers who are trying their best to juggle everything. The offer that I have for your listeners is a PDF that's downloadable from my website, Susan landers If you go to the Resources page, it is the first link that you can click on. There's a picture there of a mom with her baby. And it's called solutions for overcoming working mom burnout. And in that package, I list the things that I used over the years successfully to take care of myself. And that's available to your listeners for free.

Peggie Kirkland  28:52  
Awesome, that is absolutely awesome. And that information will be in the show notes so that you can access that free PDF with lots of valuable information. Susan, thank you so much for being with us today. It's been a pleasure.

Susan Landers Berry  29:09  
Well, thank you, Peggie. It's been great to chat with you. And I feel like we're on the same page about the importance of caring for ourselves.

Peggie Kirkland  29:22  
I agree completely. Thank you.

Susan Landers Berry  29:25  
Well, you're welcome.

Susan Landers Berry  29:30  
If you've been inspired and encouraged by the positive messages in today's show, please take a moment to rate and review the show on Apple podcast. This will help to keep the show alive. And remember, sharing is caring. So don't forget to share these gems with friends and family strangers too if you like, let them know it's available wherever they listen to their podcasts. I'm counting on you to share the love Until next time this is PK  sending you much light and a whole lot of love

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