#btconf Berlin, Germany 11 - 12 Sep 2023

Emily Anhalt

Dr. Emily Anhalt is the Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer of Coa. As a psychoanalytic psychologist, she has spent the past decade working clinically with entrepreneurs, and conducted extensive research about how people can improve their mental and emotional fitness. Frustrated with the quick-fix attitude of mental healthcare in our culture, she wanted to create a mental health solution that honors the complexity of the human condition and the importance of clinical integrity. She has spoken around the world about proactive mental health and emotional fitness, and has collaborated with some of the fastest-growing technology companies and VC firms in the world, including Google, Asana, Github, Unilever, and Bloomberg.

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The 7 Traits of an Emotionally Fit Leader

The world is beginning to understand that stress, burnout, anxiety – and, let’s face it, the universal pains of adulting – can drastically affect a company’s bottom line. To be successful today, business leaders and employees need to be emotionally and physically healthy. There are plenty of apps and products that claim to help achieve this, but an effective focus on mental and emotional health must be built from the inside out. In this interactive talk, renowned psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt explores the importance of supporting yourself and your team by developing emotional fitness and gives practical, concrete tips for building a true culture of wellness.


Thank you all.

I hope you're all ready to flex your feelings and break an emotional sweat with me today because we are talking about the seven traits of an emotionally fit leader.

I'll start by introducing myself.

Hi everyone.

I'm Dr. Emily Anhalt.

I am a clinical psychologist and the co-founder of a mental health startup called COA, which is a gym for mental health.

I have matched more than 800 people into therapy and I've been studying and practicing psychology for about 18 years now.

I've had the honor of working with companies like Google, Salesforce, American Express, Unilever, Spotify, Bloomberg, and it's all about helping leaders think about the importance of emotional fitness for the success of their business.

So before I jump in, let me take a quick poll.

How many of you have heard this statistic or something like it?

Raise your hand.

One in four people will experience mental health problems in their lifetime.


A good number of you.

So this stat was put out a number of years ago with really good intentions.

The idea was to destigmatize mental health and to show that it's more common than people might think.

But to tell you the truth, I really don't like this statistic.

I feel like it's really othering.

It makes it seem like 25% of people struggle with their mental health and somehow 75% of people are just prancing through their life without any mental or emotional health issues.

It just never resonated with my experience as a therapist or really as a human.

So I decided to use my very advanced chart making skills to make a chart that I think is a little bit more accurate.

So as you can see here, because we all have mental and emotional health, we all have mental and emotional health issues.

We won't all be formally diagnosed with a psychological disorder, but we're all dealing with the existential struggles of being a human.

We all have mourning that we have to do, whether we're mourning the loss of a job or a person or a path we didn't take.

And we're all thrown head first into this crazy world of adulting with no instruction manual and the struggle is really real.

Now the idea of self-care has been trending recently and it can be good when something trends, it catches people's attention, it spreads the word around, but the downside of something trending is that it can get kind of bastardized and co-opted by companies that want to make a lot of money.

And so these days, rather than self-care being about making compassionate, healthy and smart choices for ourselves, it's kind of started to be used as an excuse to do whatever the hell we want.

So sure, having a glass of wine in the bathtub sounds really nice, but I don't know if I would actually say that mixing alcohol, hot water and electronics is that great of an idea and is really self-care.

So instead of the term self-care, I like to use the term emotional fitness.

And I define emotional fitness this way.

It's the ongoing proactive practice of improving your mental health.

And I like to compare it to physical fitness.

So with physical fitness, everyone has a body, so everyone has physical health.

Some people struggle with chronic illness, some people don't, but we all get sick sometimes and we all have unique strengths and limitations that we have to understand and we have to tend to.

I think a lot of people like to think that if they're not sick, that that means they're healthy.

But if you talk to someone with good physical fitness, someone who sleeps eight hours a day and eats well and exercises, they'll tell you just because you're not ill does not mean that you're fit.

The same is true with our emotional fitness.

You might not be struggling with daily panic attacks, but that doesn't mean that you have peak emotional health.

Just like with any fitness routine, it takes practice.

There's always more work to do.

So I wanted to understand how do you do that work?

What is an emotional pushup and how do you do one?

So a number of years ago, I did a big research study, something called an interpretive phenomenological analysis, which is a fancy way of saying that I interviewed a hundred psychologists and a hundred entrepreneurs.

And I asked them the question, how would you know if you were sitting across the table from an emotionally healthy person and especially an emotionally healthy leader?

What does that person do?

What do they not do?

What does that look like?

What does that feel like?

And I took these hundreds of interviews and I coded them for themes.

I thought about what seemed to be true amongst the most number of people.

And what came out of this research are these seven traits of emotional fitness.

These are the seven things that emotionally healthy leaders and really people in general are practicing all the time.

And those seven things are self-awareness, empathy, mindfulness, curiosity, playfulness, resilience, and communication.

So what we're going to do together today is we're going to go through each of these seven traits and for each one, I'm going to give you a suggestion about how you can work on that trait in your life.

And we're going to practice that trait together.

So put your extrovert hat on because you're going to be interacting with each other.

You're going to actually be practicing some of these things.

I get mixed reviews about that, but we'll see how it goes.

So let's dive into the first trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is self-awareness.

An emotionally fit leader and person can identify and manage their own emotions.

They're self-reflective.

They know their triggers and their biases.

They understand that who they are affects how they lead.

We are so good at hiding things from ourselves.

I remember when I first got into therapy, I thought I had nothing to learn about myself.

And then my mind was blown by how much I didn't know I didn't know.

And the things we don't know about ourselves determine a lot about how we lead and the relationships that we're in.

So the more we know about ourselves, the more intentional we can be with our choices.

So how do we increase self-awareness?

Let's go through a couple suggestions.

The first one I mentioned is get into therapy.

Therapy has a lot of stigmas and misconceptions.

A lot of people think that therapy is only for someone who's going through a crisis or who's really struggling.

But my experience is that therapy actually works on a whole different level when you go when things are mostly fine in your life.

Because instead of managing a crisis, you're actually digging deeper.

You're understanding your patterns.

You're understanding who you are and what your relationship to yourself and to other people is.

So I highly recommend giving this a try before you might think you need it.

Secondly, think about journaling consistently.

The way our thoughts sound and feel in our head versus when they're written or spoken out is really different.

Sometimes just writing something down can change the chemistry of that thought or feeling for us.

And it can be really powerful to have a record of how you felt because there are a lot of things that have a selective memory.

Like when we're feeling depressed, it can feel like we've always felt depressed and we always will.

And having a record that, oh, actually a few weeks ago I felt pretty good can be a nice reminder that tough things pass.

And finally, ask for feedback.

This is an amazing way to increase self-awareness.

There are a lot of people in your life who aren't going to tell you how they really feel about you unless you ask directly.

So make it part of your practice to ask people to check in.

And don't forget that the way you respond to that feedback is going to set the tone for how safe people feel to give you feedback the next time.

And we'll talk about how to be non-defensive in a little bit.

For now though, let's practice self-awareness.

We're going to do a little activity that I call Make-A-Fist.

So I want everyone to find a partner.

Turn to someone that's sitting next to you.

You can go ahead and introduce yourself.

All right.

So here's the way this activity works.

The partner who has, let's say, the shorter hair, you're going to make a fist with your hand.

The partner who has the longer hair, I'm going to give you five seconds to get your partner's fist open.


On your mark, get set, go.

One, two, three, four, five.

Okay, okay.

I love watching that every single time.

All right.

So partners who are making the fist, raise your hand if you resisted your partner opening your fist.


Pretty much most of you.

So my question for you is, why?

I never provided that instruction.

I never told you to make this as difficult on your partner as you possibly could.

Partners who are opening the fist, raise your hand if you literally tried to pry open their fist like the jaws of life.


So my question for you is, why didn't you say, hey, we're doing this activity together.

I'm supposed to get your fist open.

Could you just go ahead and open that for me?

All right.

So the whole point of this activity is to show that even in this room of really empathetic, thoughtful, kind people, we tend to be primed to be in a me versus you mindset instead of an us versus the problem mindset.

And just by putting self-awareness on something, we can change that.

Because if I were to ask you to do this activity again, or if you were in Dusseldorf and you've done this activity already, you would probably do it a little differently.

So by learning about ourselves, we can learn where in my life am I this way?

Where do I tend to be more defensive?

Where do I tend to be more aggressive?

And how just by putting self-awareness on it, can I change that and be more collaborative?

So that's the power of self-awareness.

Thank you for practicing that with me.

With that, let's go to the second trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is empathy.

So if self-awareness is understanding and managing our own emotions, empathy is understanding and feeling other people's emotions.

The big misconception about empathy is empathy involves a feelings component.

If you intellectually understand what someone else is feeling, but you are not feeling it at all, that is not empathy.

That's sympathy.

Empathy means actually letting yourself feel what someone else is feeling in order to understand them.

And there's a reason we don't like doing this.

We don't necessarily want to feel what other people are feeling, especially if what other people are feeling are feelings that make us kind of uncomfortable.

We also tend to think that if we let ourselves feel what someone else is feeling, that we are then responsible for what they are feeling.

And that is actually not the case.

Empathy and boundaries are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, they are best friends.

You cannot have true empathy unless you trust the boundaries of that empathy.

So don't be afraid to have strong boundaries so that you can lean more into feeling what other people are feeling.

So I want to share a tool that we use at Koa to increase empathy.

And this tool is based on the proven psychological fact that we tend to empathize more with things that we understand.

So I'm sure you've had an experience where you've been really frustrated or annoyed or even angry with someone for something.

And then you get more information about them.

You find out they just lost a family member.

They're going through a really hard time.

That's why they're acting this way.

And suddenly you soften a little bit.

You can understand, you can empathize with why they might be acting that way.

So to increase your understanding of people and thus your empathy, I recommend making and sending out an emotional fitness survey.

An emotional fitness survey is a way to get to know the people that you work with and for them to get to know you so that you can better empathize with each other.

The way this works is, any time someone new comes to work at our company, we send them a survey with a bunch of questions to help them tell us what they need in order to do their best work.

And then we have that information available to everyone in the company to see.

So some of the questions on our survey are things like this.

Do you like to be praised in public or in private?

Not everyone wants to be praised in public.

That's a good thing to know.

How do you like to receive feedback?

Do you want it in written form so that you can think about it before you respond?

Do you want it face to face so that you can have a conversation about it?

How do you like to be cared for or cheered up during a tough time?

This one came in handy at my company when someone went through a really tough loss and we looked at their emotional fitness survey answers and it said during a tough time, they like to be given some space and then supported.

So we knew to leave them alone for a little bit and then we'd send flowers and let them know we were thinking of them.

How would I know if you were feeling overwhelmed?

This one's really helpful to know so that if you see a team member showing one of the things they told you to look out for, you can jump in, you can support them, you can take something off their plate.

We'll talk about that more later.

And then you can ask all kinds of questions.

We ask how do you like your birthday to be celebrated?

Because we have some people who are like, please pretend it doesn't exist.

I do not want you to say anything.

And we have other people who say, you know, if no one mentions my birthday, I feel really sad and forgotten.

So these are the kinds of questions on our survey, but you can put any questions on your own survey.

And I have more examples I can share with you.

I'll share my contact information at the end for anyone who wants a full list of all of the questions that we ask.

With that though, let's go to the third trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is mindfulness.

And I don't think about mindfulness just as sitting quietly and breathing.

I think about it as anything that helps you become more comfortable being uncomfortable.

So much of what we do in life is in service of moving ourselves away from discomfort.

But so often the things we do to avoid discomfort end up being more uncomfortable and worse for us than the original thing we were trying to avoid.

So for example, if saying no makes you uncomfortable, maybe you say yes to something you really don't have the time for, and then you end up resentful and overworked and overstressed and frustrated with the person who asked you, who didn't even know that you didn't want to say no to that thing.

So by learning to become more comfortable being uncomfortable, we open so many options for ourself because I would say that just about everything that you want in life is on the other side of some discomfort.

So if you can learn to tolerate it, you have access to a whole new world of things.

Emotional fitness essentially means that you can slow things down.

You can sit with your discomfort long enough to make the best choice instead of the choice that moves you away from discomfort the most quickly.

So how do we flex our mindfulness?

Essentially you just practice leaning toward your discomfort instead of away from it.

You figure out what does make you uncomfortable and how can you sit in that space instead of avoiding it.

And we're going to practice this right now with something that I have found almost universally makes people a little bit uncomfortable.

And that is the eye gaze.

So each of you with that partner who you had just a moment ago is going to turn to your partner and for 25 seconds you are going to stare directly into your partner's eyes.

And during that time I'll tell you when to start.

You can blink.

Try not to talk.

And you'll hear that chime sound when your time is up.

All right?

On your mark, get set, go.


You're free from that one.

All right.

So I'd say you all did pretty well.

But I also saw everyone do the things that I always see the first time I do this.

The things that we do to avoid the discomfort of the eye gaze.

Things like looking away, talking, laughing, making jokes.

These are the things that we do because just sitting with someone quietly and presently is uncomfortable.

It's vulnerable.

So these are the things we do to avoid the discomfort.

But I want to prove to all of you that you are more capable of handling that discomfort than you thought.

So we're going to do it again.

But this time you have more information.

This time you know you can do it.

You survived the last time.

You know what it'll feel like because you just experienced it.

You know it will end.

I chimed you out before.

I will chime you out again.

And you know you're not in it alone.

You are sitting with another person who's also probably a little uncomfortable, who's there with you.

And so this time during this eye gaze, when you feel a little uncomfortable and you have the urge to talk or laugh or make a joke or look away, I want you instead to just stay present and quiet and take a breath and remind yourself that it won't last forever and really revel in this beautiful moment of being present with another human being.

All right?

So go ahead and turn to your partner again.

On your mark, get set, go.


What a difference.


What a difference.

I love that.

So you can apply this to any type of discomfort in your life.

Any time you are uncomfortable, but you know if you were to withstand the discomfort, you would be able to have access to something amazing like being really present with another person.

Remind yourself, hey, I handled that.

I can handle this.

Take a deep breath.

Keep going.

Thank you all for indulging me with that one.

Let's keep going to the fourth trait of emotional fitness, which is curiosity.

Asking questions and pursuing growth over defensiveness.

Curiosity means that when you're faced with tough information or feedback, you ask questions instead of doing the things we all do when we're a little bit hurt by something someone might say, like making excuses or blaming others, whatever it might be.

We're all defensive sometimes and that's okay.

But when you feel defensive, getting comfortable asking questions, becoming more curious.

Now, one of the reasons it can be tough to do this is that when we have low self-confidence in a certain way and then someone gives us feedback about that thing, it can feel really uncomfortable.

So one of the ways you can increase your ability to lower your defensive and to be more curious is to build your self-confidence.

I love this comic by designer Pablo Stanley who showed how different criticism feels when you're new to something and probably not very confident versus when you're really experienced.

You welcome that feedback because that little piece of feedback is not going to shake the very foundation of your identity around that thing.

So I want to share an activity that we can all do together to increase our self-confidence.

So what I want you to do really quickly is I want you to think about the best piece of feedback you've ever received.

Not advice, feedback, something really kind or helpful or supportive that someone has said to you at some point and this could be a colleague, a boss, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, a child, anyone in your life.

So for example, the best piece of positive feedback I've ever received is that someone told me once, Emily, you are so unabashedly yourself in every moment that it makes me feel safe to be myself.

So that was my answer for this.

Go ahead and turn to your partner and very quickly share what is an amazing piece of feedback that you can remember getting.

I'm going to give you just about a minute for both of you to share.

Go ahead.

Part 2 is coming up next.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Go ahead and switch partners if you haven't.













Thank you for sharing that.

So what you've just done, and what I hope you'll keep doing to keep your self-confidence strong, is you've started what I call a self-esteem file.

I've also heard this called a smile file, a win-bin, a thank bank, that last one always makes me laugh.

And the goal here is every time you get a good piece of feedback, wherever it might be coming from, write it down or screenshot it and put it into a folder.

That might be a box on your desk with pieces of paper, it might be a folder on your desktop with screenshots in it.

But keep this over time.

And when you're feeling down on yourself, go through it.

Now this might sound a little bit trite, but I've been keeping a self-esteem file for 10 years now, ever since I started talking about it.

And I have to tell you, when I'm feeling low in my confidence, it is very compelling to see 10 years worth of data that people have given me, that show me that what I'm doing is making a difference in people's lives and in the world.

You also might do a team esteem file.

So with your team, any good piece of feedback that comes in from a customer, or any time someone shouts out someone else in the team, put that all in one place so that when your team is going through a hard time, they can go through that folder and see that they as a team are succeeding.

So think about keeping that going.

And for now we're going to go to the fifth trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is playfulness.

I think playing is hugely undervalued in the workplace.

And it can be somewhat misunderstood.

When I ask people when the last time they played was, they usually tell me about a sports game, or a board game, or a video game.

And don't get me wrong, those are great types of play.

But when it comes to the workplace, I really like the improv definition of play.

And that is that when someone comes to you with an idea, you don't say, well yes, but, and you don't even just say yes.

You say yes, and.

You meet them in their idea, you expand on their idea, and together the two of you get somewhere that neither of you could have gotten alone.

So when you think about it that way, brainstorming is a type of play.

Taking a joke too far with a friend is a type of play.

Anything that removes constraints and allows you to think big is playing.

Play has all kinds of amazing benefits.

It improves community and culture.

It increases memory and creativity and spontaneity.

I actually read a study in grad school that showed that people who play regularly live longer by a statistically significant number of years than people who don't play regularly.

That's how important it is to our well-being in the world.

The thing about play though is, it's vulnerable.

People don't always like to play because when we play, our guards come down naturally.

And that can be kind of scary, especially for people who work hard to keep their guards up.

But the more we play, and the more leaders play, the more it gives permission and comfort to everyone else to integrate play into their daily life.

So how can you play at work?

One of the things you might think about doing is just starting meetings and interactions with a game or an icebreaker question.

So we have a weekly meeting on Friday called Feelings Friday, where everyone just talks about what went well that week and what they struggled with that week.

But when we start, we always start with an icebreaker question.

I think the most recent one we used was, who is someone in your life who changed your life but doesn't know it?

So maybe it was a celebrity or maybe it's your young child, someone who's changed your life but they don't know that they've done that.

You might also play a game, which we're going to do together right now.

This game is called Three Things in Common.

And the way this works is you're going to turn to your partner and I'm going to give you two minutes to come up with three things that you have in common.

And they should not be obvious things like, we're both in Berlin right now.


These should be things that you have to ask questions, you have to get curious to figure out.

So I've played this game all over the world and I've been amazed at what some people have been able to find in just two or three minutes.

I've had two people who found out that they both are one of five kids.

I've had two people who had the same birthday.

I had two people who both lost a parent before the age of 16.

I one time had two people, I did this in New York, and I had two people who found out that they were from the same tiny city in Iowa but 20 years apart.

They had heard of each other's last names but never knew each other.

They figured that out in two minutes.

I don't know how.

But you all are going to play this game.

I'm going to give you two minutes.

You're going to ask each other questions, you're going to figure it out, and at the end I'm going to see how many of you were able to find three things.

So go ahead with your partner and get started.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

All right.

So raise your hand if you and your partner found three things.

Oh my God.

I love it.

Raise your hand if you and your partner found any pretty cool, interesting, unique things that surprised you.

Oh, I saw that hand shoot up.

Would you want to share really quick?

What was it?

Oh, wow, that is a unique one.

And I would love to have heard the conversation that got you there.

That is amazing.

Thank you so much for sharing that.

So this is a great game to play.

Let's say someone new comes on to your team, they don't know everyone really well, you might tell them, hey, in the next month I want you to find three things in common with everyone on the team.

It's just a way to encourage asking questions, getting to know each other, being playful.

So thank you all for playing.

And at the end of this talk I'm going to give you a QR code to get a packet of play games, things that you can do together.

We'll put that up at the end.

For now though, let's go to the sixth trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is resilience.

And resilience is the capacity when faced with hard things, failure, struggle, to bounce forward.

And I say bounce forward and not bounce back, because I don't think we ever go back to being who we were before we went through a hard thing.

And I don't think that should be the goal.

We bounce forward, we learn, we grow from the hard thing, we keep moving, and that's resilience.

Now when it comes to the struggles that I've been seeing as a therapist, there are two that have jumped out that I think have really affected us, especially in the workplace, that I want to talk about, how we can be resilient through these two things.

And those two things I'll start with.

The first one is anxiety, fear of the unknown.

We've just been through a very uncertain and complicated time of life.

There were a lot of times that we had no idea what was going to happen and what was going to be okay or not okay, and we had to sit with that uncertainty.

And what I've seen is a lot of people are left with anxiety, even once things feel safe, that anxiety kind of still lingers.

So I wanted to share a couple tools that you can put in your anxiety toolkit, things that have really helped me and the people I work with manage their anxiety.

So the first one is something I call a worry hour.

If your anxiety is taking up space in your head so much of the day that it's hard to focus on other things, think about actually scheduling time to worry.

It could be 10 minutes a day, it could be a half hour a week, it could be an hour a month, it can be whatever you need it to be.

And during that time, you can be as anxious as you want to be.

You can freak out, you can persevere, you can obsess, you can think through every possibility, but the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of the time, if you find yourself feeling anxious, you'll say, nope, that's 6 o'clock me's problem, I'm gonna write it down, I'm gonna let her worry about it, and for now I'm gonna focus on what I need to do.

This really does work, because just saying, don't be anxious, I just shouldn't think about it, it doesn't tend to work, because anxiety serves a purpose.

It helps us feel prepared for something that we are worried about, but if we let it take over our whole lives, that doesn't end up being helpful.

So by containing it within a certain space, it's being tended to, and it frees up time the rest of the day.

The next suggestion I have might sound obvious, but it's important to remind ourselves, when we're feeling anxious, to focus on the things we can control, and to try to breathe through and let go the things that we can't control.

Because often we will be spinning about something that we really can't do anything about.

And when that happens, anxiety is sort of like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.

So, for example, if I was anxious about this talk, there are some things I could do about that.

I could practice, I could ask for feedback, but if I was anxious about some terrible thing that may or may not happen years from now, that I can't do anything about, I might remind myself, you know what, there's nothing I can do about that, I'm going to focus on the things I have control over.

The last tool I want to share, I'm going to tell you a personal story to share with you.

So many, many years ago, I was in a really tough family situation, my mom was in the hospital, it was very dire, it was not looking like she was going to survive.

And I was young and still dependent on her, and I was really, really anxious about what I was going to do if she didn't make it.

And we had a family friend come over to keep us company while we were waiting for news.

And this family friend was an oncologist, he worked with cancer patients.

So he had a lot of experience talking to families who were thinking about loss.

And I said to him, his name was Bill, I said, Bill, what am I going to do if my mom dies?

How am I going to handle it?

How am I going to survive?

How do I handle the logistics?

How do I handle the emotions?

Like, what do I do?

And he sat me down and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, Emily, the version of you that will handle that hard thing, if and when it happens, will be born into existence in that moment.

And that version of you will have more life experience, and more context, and more ability to handle that hard thing than you do now.

It's not fair of you to expect yourself to know how you're going to handle it, because the version of you that will handle it doesn't exist yet.

You have to trust your future self to handle future problems.

So that's my advice for you the next time you feel anxious.

Trust your future self to handle future problems.

Present you is probably already dealing with a lot, and past you had to trust that present you would deal with this moment.

Present you needs to trust that future you will handle that moment.

Now, this was extremely comforting to me during that really tough time.

And by the way, my mom made it.

So if I had spent too much time worrying, that would have been a lot of stress.

I would have been rushing out to meet my suffering.

I would have been suffering future pain unnecessarily.

And instead I trusted my future self, and I saved myself a lot of heartache.

The thing is though, I use this advice even for little things.

If I'm running late to work, and I think I might miss the bus, and I start to think, oh, how am I going to get to work if I miss the bus?

I'll think, you know what?

Future me is a badass.

She will figure out how to get to work.

So, think about incorporating this one into your life.

The other big struggle I'm seeing a ton of is burnout.

We're all exhausted.

Everyone's tired.

People that I work with who are running huge companies are questioning whether they have any desire to be doing their work at all.

This is something we're all feeling because we've been in survival mode for the past three years, and now things are kind of over, kind of not.

We don't know how we feel about it.

We don't know what we want to do with our lives.

Burnout, I like to think about it a little like running out of gas.

If you were driving a really far distance, you would probably put gas in your car along the way, right?

You probably wouldn't wait until you ran out of gas to think, oh, I probably need gas to get to where I'm going.

Because by the time you run out of gas, it's a hell of a lot more trouble.

Because getting gas, you pull over, you put the gas in, you keep going.

When you run out of gas, you're on the side of the road.

You have to call someone to tow you or bring you gas.

You might have damaged your engine.

It takes way more time.

When it comes to our own energy, though, we tend to wait until we are running on fumes to do anything.

Instead of refueling ourselves regularly so that we can keep going.

The truth is, burnout is so much easier to prevent than it is to fix.

So I want to share a three-step guide for preventing burnout so that you don't have to deal with damage to your own personal engine.

The first step is identifying your early warning signs.

How would you know if burnout was around the corner?

What are the things that start to happen for you before you've completely burnt out?

It might be things like you start to complain more.

You're a little less patient with people.

Maybe you skip meals.

Maybe you have less interest in seeing your friends or doing things you would normally like to do.

What are the things for you personally that signal to you, oh, I'm getting tired?

So for me, I tend to skip meals.

I love food, so if I'm not eating lunch, there's a reason.

I'm feeling stressed out.

So that is step one, is to identify what your signs are.

Step two is to recruit support, keeping an eye out for these signs.

Tell the people in your life, tell your colleagues, tell your spouse, tell your friends, hey, you'll know if I'm getting tired if I start skipping meals.

If you notice that I'm doing that, will you remind me that we had this conversation?

Let me know.

It's hard in our own moment to know that we're feeling tired sometimes, so to have someone reflect it to us can be really helpful.

And then the final step is to build in shock absorbers when you do notice that you're exhibiting those behaviors.

So a shock absorber is anything that refuels your tank, that kind of stops the burnout from becoming worse.

It might be something like taking a day off work, taking your dog for a walk, having a mental health day, going and getting a massage, treating yourself to a meal, journaling, calling your therapist, whatever it is.

What are the things that help you feel better when you're having a tough time?

And so what you'll start to do is as soon as someone in your life says, hey, I remember you saying that you skip meals when you're stressed, you'll say, oh, okay, I should probably take a day off.

So that you're actually preventing whatever's going on from getting worse.

And remember on the emotional fitness survey we asked the question, how would I know if you were going through a hard time so that we can keep an eye out for the people we work with starting to burn out, so that we can go to them and say, hey, I remember you said that when you are starting to feel burnt out, that you seem to enjoy your work less, kind of feels like that's happening, what can I take off your plate?

Can I give you a day off?

All right, we are on the final trait of emotionally fit leadership, which is communication, putting needs to your words, or putting words to your needs, boundaries and expectations, working through things right away instead of letting them fester.

We tend to wait until things are pretty bad to do anything about them.

So for example, disappointment that we don't express with someone tends to calcify into resentment.

And resentment is a lot harder to clear away than disappointment is.

So communicating early and often is a little like brushing your teeth to avoid emotional plaque.

You want to be proactive with your communication.

Now, lately we've been doing a lot of our communicating via text, whether you're emailing or texting or using Slack or whatever other tool.

So something that we do at Koa that's been really powerful is something that we call Remojis.

Remojis is a word that I made up by squishing together remote and emojis, but the goal essentially is just to use visual aid to help people understand emotional information quickly and easily.

So what we've done at the company is whenever some kind of piece of information seems to get lost, we assign an emoji to it so that the next time a person will understand better what we mean.

So here are the ones we use.

A turtle means I need more time on this.

The upside down face means, hey, what I just said, it was sarcasm.

So if you are taping something out and you put this, people know I'm being sarcastic, I'm joking.

Sometimes that can get lost in text.

We have one that means can we all slow down and think before we take action, I think we're moving too fast to solve the problem, can we think about it first?

We have one that means I'm feeling a little sensitive today, maybe it's not the right day to give me tough feedback.

And then my co-founder and I came up with one because we noticed that when we would communicate a problem to each other, it wasn't clear whether we just wanted help with that problem or if we were mad at each other about the problem.

And so we wouldn't know, am I tending to the problem or am I tending to you?

And so we started adding a chili pepper if we're upset so that the person knows, hey, I'm actually kind of upset that this happened, and then that's kind of known right away, which is hard to tell through text.

So think about having a Slack channel where you keep track of what emojis you and your team might use to understand information.

It kind of becomes second nature after a while, like any language, and you'll notice people start using them a lot.

It can save you a lot of trouble.

So those are the seven traits of emotional fitness, and they all really influence each other.

More empathy makes it easier to play.

Increased play supports good communication.

Good communication makes it easier to ask questions and get curious.

There is a huge ripple effect to emotional fitness too.

You can start in any of these traits.

It will naturally improve the others, and it will trickle down to everyone who works with you.

The more emotionally healthy you are, the more you will attract emotionally healthy people, the more you will foster emotional fitness in other people.

I think a lot of people, when they think about their relationships, they like to think, I'll take care of you if you'll take care of me.

But my belief is that instead we should be saying, I'll take care of me for you if you'll take care of you for me.

And emotional fitness is the way that we take care of ourselves.

So we're going to do an emotional push-up that practices a whole bunch of the traits that we just did, so I want you all to pull out your phone.

Try not to get distracted by any of the notifications that might be on there.

I just want you to pull up a text message or an email, whatever it might be.

I want you to actually do this right now, in this moment.

And this combines traits like mindfulness, because this is going to be a little bit uncomfortable, like curiosity, because you're going to be asking a question, communicating through text, and this is going to increase self-awareness, because you are going to send a text message asking for feedback.

You're going to text one person in your life.

It can be a colleague, it can be a friend, anyone that you trust.

And you're going to put this in your own words, but you're going to say something along the lines of, I'm working on my emotional fitness, and I would love it if you would share some feedback with me.

What's one thing I'm doing well as a friend, colleague, boss?

And what's one thing that I could do 10% better?

So I want you to go ahead and send that text to someone.

I can almost guarantee you by the end of the day, the vast majority of you will have gotten a response back, and I think you'll be really surprised by what you get back.

I often find that people had no idea that this was something they needed to work on, and had no idea that there was something really positive that people saw in them.

So again, the template for that is something like, what's one thing I'm doing well, and one thing that I could do 10% better?

So go ahead and send off that text message, and if you see me around later and you've gotten a response, please feel free to come up and share that response with me.

I'd love to know what it is.

In the next week, though, here are a few things that you could do to work on your emotional fitness.

You can design your own emotional fitness routine.

What do you need to be your best self?

Create an emotional fitness survey.

Send it out to the people you work with, or even just your friends.

I have one with all of my friends, and it was really helpful to get a sense of how they like their birthdays to be celebrated, and what they need from me to be a good friend.

Play a game with a friend.

If you hold your camera up to this, you will get a whole list of games, including three things in common, and a bunch of other ones.

Share a piece of positive feedback with someone in your life.

Give someone something to put in their self-esteem file.

And try to be detailed.

When we give negative feedback, we're really detailed.

We say, you know, you didn't do this well, and here's why, and here's the problem, here's what you could do better.

But when we give positive feedback, it's often like, good job.

Try to be more detailed.

Try to say, you did this really well, and here's how it affected me and the team, and here's why it was a really big deal.

Thank you so much for that.

And finally, create a few emojis to use with your team.

For those of you who like more reading, here are three books that I recommend.

No Hard Feelings.

It's all about harnessing the power of emotions at work.

Radical Candor is a feedback rubric.

It's how to give feedback in a way that's both boundaried and empathetic.

And Nonviolent Communication is a conflict resolution language.

It helps people figure out how to deal with conflict in a way that keeps people from being too defensive.

Thank you all so much for supporting yourself and your emotional fitness today.

Connect with me, Twitter, Instagram, wherever it might be.

This is my handle.

I'm so grateful to have gotten to flex my feelings and break an emotional sweat with all of you today.

Thank you to Mark for having me.

And enjoy the rest of your day.

Thank you.

Thank you, guys.

Appreciate it.

It's been really good.

Thank you.

Thanks a lot, guys.

Thank you.



Bye-bye, guys.

Thank you, bye-bye.

Thanks for the invite.

I appreciate it.