How A Supermodel & Entrepreneur Stays Productive Without Feeling Overwhelmed
We know that stress is not inherently a bad guy—sometimes, it can even be helpful. For example, before a photo shoot or event, a healthy amount of stress can boost my motivation, focus, and drive. But those day-to-day stressors can easily build up over time; left unchecked, they can snowball into full-on, capital-B Burnout.
That's why it's important for me to find strategies to ease those feelings of overwhelm and implement them before burnout ever makes an appearance. Harvard- and Yale-trained ER doctor Darria Long, M.D., founder of The TrueveLab, feels the same: In another episode of mbg's brand-new video series, Expert Insights, Long and I discuss our favorite ways to clear our heads and optimize our busy schedules:
Identify resources vs. demands.
"Burnout is just an imbalance between your resources and your demands," says Long. Sometimes, breaking down overwhelming feelings into these two categories can make it easier for you wade through them. So when you start to feel burnout taking over, ask yourself: "Is this a resource issue, or is this a demand issue?"
According to Long, a resource can be both external (help with child care, a supportive boss, etc.) and internal (your mindset, your self-efficacy, etc.). Similarly, a demand can be granular (a new task added to your plate) or large-scale (COVID quarantines, for example).
"When you start to get into your head, say, 'Is this a resource or a demand issue? Can I up my resources, or can I lower demand, which sometimes involves saying no to something?'" adds Long. That way, your tasks may seem much more manageable rather than having a billion responsibilities swirling through your mind.
Get enough sleep.
For me, even the simplest task becomes super stressful when I'm overtired. If I haven't slept well, it's way easier for me to become overwhelmed and feel like I want to burst into tears. (Anyone else?)
Long agrees: "Sleep and burnout are really intertwined," she says. In fact, she considers sleep a major resource to combat burnout, and as we alluded to above, you need a balance of resources and demands to feel emotionally well.
That said, focusing on sleep can help prepare you for a busy day ahead. Specifically, I'm a fan of natural sleep supplements, especially mbg's sleep support+. I take it about 30 minutes to an hour before I want to fall asleep, and it helps my eyes feel heavy when I'm finally tucked into bed.* For me, it takes the stress off sleeping, as I can get frustrated when I try to force myself to feel tired. With this supplement, I know I'll fall (and stay) asleep faster—it's the dream, no pun intended.*
Triage your to-do lists.
If you have a stacked schedule, Long recommends triaging your to-do list (aka, sorting it into priority groups). It's a habit she relies on in the E.R., as it's important to prioritize as tasks start to pile up. "Our brain does not inherently know how to differentiate between, 'Somebody is in danger,' and, 'Hey, we're out of peanut butter,'" she notes. That's why it's helpful to deliberately sort your to-do's—what's truly a code-red task you must complete right now?
First, "Find two things on there you can say no to," Long says. Next, outsource: Is there anything on your list you can pass off to someone else? Finally, identify the tasks you can automate, as this can help eliminate decision fatigue. For example, I have eggs every single morning for breakfast—I don't even have to think about whipping up a meal, as I already know exactly what I'm going to make. It sounds simple, but "it gives you fewer decisions to make," says Long.
And after you've completed each task? Go ahead and cross it off! It sounds very basic, but whenever I actually cross something off my to-do list, it helps me feel accomplished in the moment. In fact, neurologists say your brain rewards you with a pleasurable hit of dopamine whenever you accomplish a goal—no matter how small.
Batch the small stuff.
With burnout, it's often the small to-do's that pile up and turn into feelings of overwhelm. Especially if you're lacking quality sleep (as I mentioned above), those tiny responsibilities can start to feel like a giant undertaking. "The small stuff will take up your entire day if you let it take up all your brainpower," says Long. So she recommends a practice called "batch the small stuff" (BTSS).
"I have a folder in my email, and anytime I get [tasked with] small things, I send it to that folder," she explains. "And then when you're sitting in carpool, or on the subway, or waiting at the airport, pull open that folder and do each of those things. Spend an hour to power through your small stuff list, and it leaves the rest of your day open and gives you that brain space."
This practice also helps you stay organized, say, if your inbox is filled to the brim. When my email gets messy, I can lose messages and forget to respond to people—which only stresses me out further. By shooting these five-minute responsibilities into a specific folder, I'll know I can easily find it later on. Plus, I'll be able to give each task my full attention rather than trying to weave it in between my other responsibilities. Essentially, it's all about maximizing your time.
Carve out "you" time.
Finally, Long recommends you deliberately carve out personal time—and be present in those moments. "I'm a big fan of compartmentalizing and batching your day, because then when you take those two hours [for yourself], you can enjoy it," she says.
You don't even need to dedicate two hours to the task—just find something small you enjoy and take five minutes out of your day to truly savor it. "It's going to lower your stress levels and just make you feel better," Long says. I love to go on walks throughout the day to clear my head—when I'm really craving some extra "me" time, sometimes I'll even set my phone to airplane mode so I'm truly unreachable, even if it's for only 10 minutes.
Like sticking to a nutritious and balanced diet, preventing burnout is all about the prep. These tips above certainly help me when I'm feeling overwhelmed, and they're relatively easy to add to your routine. If you're looking for more ways to ease feelings of anxiousness, you can sign up for Long's burnout study, which includes her curriculum for feeling better.
Kate Bock is a model, entrepreneur and health & wellness advocate based in New York City. She is known for her work with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, where she made her debut in 2013 and appeared every year since. Bock has landed multiple fashion and beauty campaigns and appeared in a plethora of publications—highlights include L’Oreal, Hourglass, Clarins as well as Vogue, Elle, and Maxim.
Bock's passion and advocacy in the health and wellness, beauty and lifestyle space has led her to various entrepreneurial and charitable initiatives. She was recently named the Chief Brand Officer for the new clean and elevated hard sparkling water brand Pompette and recently designed the Kate Bock X Bond Eye swim line made through sustainable practices.