PP 004: Katie Henry from Starting Smart

Katie Henry from Starting Smart joins me as today’s guest for an incredible conversation about taking control of our lives – physically and emotionally – when it seems to be taking control of us. We discuss adrenal fatigue, the importance of sleep, and reducing interaction with events (and people) who bring us down.

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Episode Transcription

Kim: Welcome back to Positive Productivity This is Kim Sutton and I am thrilled to have Katie Henry here with me today.

Just so you listeners know, because I always love to share these things, Katie and I tried to record a podcast last week for you – we had a great conversation. And then at the end it turned out that it didn’t record. But there’s always a reason behind everything, and we will have a series in store for you in the future. But, welcome Katie!

Katie: Thank you so much, Kim. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be back. And, yes. The conversation we had last week was fantastic, so I know it’s going to be even more exciting this week.

Kim: Yes definitely. So Katie is a holistic health coach and physical therapist. And I would love for you, Katie, to tell me and the audience about how you got started, and I mean I’ve already heard the great story but let’s try this again. So if you wouldn’t mind, just share how you got started with everybody.

Katie: Absolutely. So I’ve kind of gone on my own little personal health journey, and I have been I guess a two time entrepreneur now.

So I was working at a hospital – the top rehab hospital in the country as a physical therapist – you know, kind of worked my way up in the ranks, became a lead therapist; I was doing research. Pretty much everything you could do possibly at the hospital, I was doing.

And in doing that, I burned myself to the ground.

But I also realized that in doing my work, and being very passionate about it, I not only was taking on the physical work of – you know being a physical therapist you are physically moving and lifting people. And I was working in rehab and some of my patients were very dependent and unable to move on their own. So I was physically taking on a lot in my work day to day.

But emotionally I was taking on so much too. And you know, I would have to tell people “Your child may never walk again.” “I don’t know if they’re going to get out of this coma type state.” And it just became a lot.

And I didn’t realize until, you know, I would get home and be like, “Man. I’m really tired. That most have been just a long, exhausting day.” And then I would go back to my computer and work more.

And I was trying to have a life as well. You know, I was in a relationship; I was trying to be social with my friends; I’m very close with my family. I was, you know, staying connected with them.

And, being an active healthy person, I was trying to work out teach yoga classes eat healthy.

You know, I was like “What was I thinking?!”

I was not only doing too much. I was taking on so much, but I wasn’t taking care of myself at all.

And what ended up happening is I got physically ill multiple times. I caught the strangest viruses. I had the swine flu and was quarantined to my bed with a hundred and five degree fever. I got in three bike accidents and went to work every single time after. And the third one was kind of the biggest one. I ended up having to go to the hospital. I had a brace on my whole entire leg. My hand was splinted up, and I still went to work the next day.

Kim: Oh my gosh.

Katie: But it didn’t hit me until, not only did I have those physical pains and the burnout, but I just literally collapsed and got so sick. I suffered from what I now know was adrenal fatigue. I just wasn’t taking care of myself, and I wasn’t being healthy.

And I thought that I was the only person that could help my patients. And, I don’t know why I felt that way but I did.

And I finally stepped away and was like I can’t work here anymore. So I left the hospital I was at and started my own physical therapy practice. It was fantastic. It was thriving. I did really well. I got to work with babies and work in people’s homes and I loved it.

But I started to notice a pattern again. I was doing the same thing.

I was taking on all these patients plus driving all around the city of Chicago. I’m in Chicago. And I was just like, “Wait a second I’m doing it again.”

So I started to slow down, and I really put myself first. And I took care of my health, and I started getting healthy. And by healthy I mean not only eating good foods and things like that, but I started saying “No.”

I started taking breaks.

I started actually taking vacation.

I worked at a hospital for five years and never took a full week off. Ever. Like that is insane.

I would just take long weekends here and there. Around the holidays I would do that. When I left there, I had already maxed out all my six plus weeks of vacation and sick time. It was insane.

So I started to really take care of myself. And in that journey, I realized –  oh my gosh – so many people that work in the health care, but also people that are just naturally giving to others, don’t take care of themselves.

And I said, “You know what? I need to change this.”

So that is –  as I started to do that for myself and get inspired to do it for others – that’s when I really developed my health coaching practice.

And I found that I was so passionate about it that my physical therapy business started to kind of dwindle. It wasn’t that I totally left my patients out to dry because I care very deeply about them. But I just realized that I have a bigger purpose and a bigger mission and I need to help people help themselves. It is really what I learned that’s what I am called to do. Because I didn’t want people to suffer from what I did.

But the other thing is, I looked around and I saw that it wasn’t just me who was in that state. It’s so many of us. And so that’s what kind of got me onto my path of my health coaching and my health coaching practice.

I actually still do a little bit of physical therapy just because I really love it, but it’s like a handful of people and I really kind of pick and choose what I do there.

But I just have this mission that needs to be spread to the world that we need to take care of ourselves. We need to say “Yes” to ourselves. Say “No” to things that are really just dragging us down, because when we take care of ourselves we are able to do so much more in this world with whatever your profession or career is. But also your life.

Like you need to be able to be healthy and care for yourself to show up in your relationships, in your marriage, in your job, in your career. But just in your life.

Kim: Can you explain adrenal fatigue to anybody who may not understand that?

Katie: Absolutely. So without getting too complex and scientific, basically your adrenal glands are what secrete a lot of your hormones. And one of those main hormones is cortisol. So that is your stress hormone per se. So when those levels are off, basically your body is in a constant state – most of us are in a constant state of stress, which is not good for our body.

Your body works in two different ways. There’s the parasympathetic nervous system, which is like your fight or flight response. Basically if you’re being chased by a lion, that part of your body tells you to run, run as fast as you can and get away, so you don’t get eaten alive. Right? I’m sorry that’s your sympathetic nervous system.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is your what’s called “Rest and digest.” So that’s when your body gets to rest, recover and heal itself.

So when you’re in adrenal fatigue, what happens is your sympathetic nervous system –  that high stress, “Go go go” system of your body is overworked. What happens with that is your heart rate goes up. Your respiratory rate goes up. Your blood goes to your vital organs like your heart and your lungs but it doesn’t… The parts of your body that don’t really get the support are your digestive system and your, like your skin. Things like that. The non important organs.

So, when you suffer from adrenal fatigue you basically burn out your organs that support that stress system. And a lot of side effects are what’s called “Brain fog.” Like you just cannot focus and be clear on things.

Your digestive system is all out of whack because that system in your body the nervous system so what controls how your body moves and functions, isn’t working properly, so your digestive system – you either get like bloated or you get constipated things get backed up or things are just going going going.

So you’re at kind of both extremes.

Kim: Wow.

Katie: And the biggest thing is, that you are constantly tired even if you get a lot of sleep. And then what happens is you’re constantly tired and then you drink caffeine, which actually burns out your adrenal glands even more. But what happens is you get this like a lull, and you’re really tired, but then you get like a burst of energy late at night and then it’s hard for you to sleep.

And so it’s just like a vicious cycle that… it’s tough to get out of. And it’s something that a lot of people suffer from but don’t know what it is. Or they just think that’s normal.

So sorry what are you going to say. I kept going.

Kim: Oh no, that’s OK. Like, and this is not anything that we did discuss last week, so I’m actually really excited about this.

So, like, I had a tendency to work work work work work. Not even take time to eat. I wouldn’t remember to go use the restroom unless I stood up, and it’s like (I know this TMI for all you), but you know, “Oh my gosh. I have to pee.” because I was just so focused.

I was only sleeping like three or four hours a night which was not good. But it sounds like when you’re not even taking time just to give yourself down time to eat, like you can actually… instead of like while you might think that you might lose weight because you’re not eating… it is actually really screwing with your whole digestive system and you could actually be gaining weight instead.

Katie: Yes. And the other thing… That is exactly true, and the other thing with adrenal fatigue, since it does adjust with your cortisol levels, when your cortisol levels are off, it messes with your whole digestive system which messes with your metabolism.

So even if you’re eating… So this is what was happening to me…

So I was eating really healthy. I was still exercising and working out and all of that kind of stuff, but my cortisol levels were so off because I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was constantly stressed, that I was like, “Wait a second. Why am I actually gaining weight even though I’m healthy? I’m eating healthy and I’m exercising.” Because if your cortisol levels are off, it adjusts and your metabolism is totally off.

And it also links with your immune system. So when your cortisol levels are either too high or too low, your body is in a state of stress, that your body thinks that it’s sick. So it starts fighting itself off, which can lead to autoimmune disease or a weakened immune system, which is what I had. So then I was more susceptible to getting sick or catching what my patients had.

So that’s something that a lot of, I would say a lot of entrepreneurs, like, were like “Oh! We’ve got to go-go-go. We have to hustle. We have to work all the time.”

But if we don’t slow down and rest, we’re actually weakening our… like the physiology of our body and our immune system, which is making us more susceptible to getting sick, more susceptible to gaining weight; more susceptible to not being able to have good quality sleep.

So even though you’re sleeping, you’re not getting good quality sleep because your hormone levels are all out of whack. So that’s why I’m like you can sleep and get a full night’s sleep but you’re still tired because you’re not actually getting good quality sleep.

Kim: Wow. So, and I apologize for asking this, and we haven’t discussed any of this before the call

Katie: That’s ok!

Kim: But, do you happen to know… like how long after you realize that this is what you’re doing to yourself, is there an expectation of time that it takes to get everything worked back out?

Katie: Well it depends,. I would say on how long you’ve been doing this yourself and it’s totally different for every person. It does take time. So it also depends on how much like “damage you’ve done.” So sometimes you can have your adrenals totally just shot. And so that’ll take more time to kind of refocus and reset everything, but your body has an amazing ability to heal itself when you put it in a good situation.

So, you can make a drastic change in how your body works. And, I would say, like honestly two to three weeks. But you have to be pretty diligent about, “OK. I’m going to get good quality sleep. I’m going to have my body be in a more relaxed state of mind.”

You basically have to get your body out of that constant state of stress.

Stress isn’t a bad thing. It’s good. It keeps us… I would say kind of like on task but it also keeps us in check. You know, you need to stress your body and that’s why exercise is a good thing. You know, you want to put a little bit of stress on your body but then you need to let it recover, because if your… the nervous system -the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest system – if that’s not allowed to function, your body doesn’t get rid of all of the waste.

So -and we talked a little bit about this when we talked last week -but that’s why sleep is so important. Because that’s basically when your body comes in and cleans itself out. And the most recovery that happens in sleep and when you rest is in your brain.

So your brain is constantly producing what’s called waste products.  With every time you make a decision, you make a movement. I mean this is getting a little more scientific but on a neurological level, like one cell talks to another cell. They do something. And then there’s always that waste product. So something comes off. So basically something needs to go into your brain and like vacuum up all the waste. And that’s what happens when you sleep.

So if you don’t sleep, all of this waste gets built up, which is why you can’t think clearly because instead of having one decision go to the other like “Ping! Ping! Ping!” and it goes like “Whoop!” Like if you think about my sound effects, but it’s like a serpentine pattern to go from one thing to the other, instead of a straight line. Because you have all this waste product that’s in the way.

Kim: So I can hear people out there thinking, because I’m thinking it myself, you know, so if I’m going through this, adrenal fatigue, why couldn’t I just take a week off and sleep the whole time?

Katie: You can! And that might be initially… that might be what you need to do. And that’s what happens a lot. So that’s what would happen to me is, I would get super sick, and my body would physically be like, “Katie. You need to stop.”

And my body would shut down.

And so that’s what happens to a lot of us is we get sick.

But what I realize is, like “OK. You need to stop before you get to that sick point where you need to sleep for a full week.” You know? But that’s what it might be. You may need to just say wow I am running myself to the ground. I need to slow down. I need to…

And actually, I was telling you this last week: I was burning my candle at both ends. I was really trying to push and go-go-go with something for my business. And I wasn’t sleeping well. But what I did is I said you know “I need to rest.” So on Friday I didn’t set an alarm and I slept, and I ended up sleeping for like 10 hours. So I kind of caught up.

And there are… I guess what I’m saying is that there are going to be times where you do have to push and you do have to give a little bit more. You just can’t do it all the time, because your body, like physiologically, your body can’t handle that.

It can’t.

I mean, our bodies are amazing, but there is a point where you can’t do it all. So yes, you may need to take that one week, rest, recover, sleep, reset, drink a ton of water, start, you know, cleaning your body out. But then when you go back to work you can’t go back full speed ahead.

You need to learn how to set those limits. You need to learn when to say no, when to rest, and all those types of things, so you don’t go right back to where you were. Because that’s what… well what happens is the cycle.

You’re like, “OK, I’ll rest. I’ll recover. I’ll take a vacation. I feel good.”

But then you go right back to what you were doing before. So you’re going to need to do it again. You know?

And we shouldn’t be working in that cycle.

We need to do that on a daily basis, because what happens is – especially with what this whole podcast is about as “Positive Productivity.” In order to be productive on a daily basis, you have to set those limits. You have to give yourself a break. You have to rest. You have to take care of yourself or you’re not going to be productive.

Kim: Absolutely. And we talked about this a little bit pre-show, but last week I caught up on Orange Is The New Black. I hadn’t given myself the luxury… I shouldn’t even be calling it a luxury… The freedom?

Katie: Yes.

Kim: To watch TV in months. So I caught up on Orange Is The New Black. And this week I got sucked into Game of Thrones, which I never saw myself watching and now I’m completely hooked. But, I have to say this has been the most productive week that I’ve had in forever because I’m more relaxed. I am actually saying no to opportunities I don’t think right.

Katie: Yes.

Kim: And I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but I am sleeping in, and I’m relaxing, and yeah. I’m getting like 10001 new ideas but I’m actually saying no to myself too. And I know, like, this is something that you need to do too, because we talked about it a little bit last week, but when you get those ideas, sometimes you just have to tell them to back off.

Katie: Just put them on the backburner and say “That was a great idea.” Write it down so you don’t forget it.

Kim: But don’t stay up until 5 o’clock in the morning?

Katie: Yes! Don’t stay up until 5 o’clock in the morning. But what you just shared is a perfect example because from… this… I’m such a science nerd. But what you did is you gave your brain a break from thinking and going and going and going all the time that it allowed your brain to clear all the stuff that was really getting in your way. And then you’re able to have more clear and focused thoughts.

And then boom! You’re getting all these brilliant ideas.

Boom! You’re becoming more efficient. You’re able to create things for your clients in a very efficient amount of time. I mean you just told me that you’re like “Yea! I created someone’s website in a week. It was easy. I loved it.”

But it’s because you were also setting yourself up for success when you were at this clear state of mind. Without even realizing that you were doing this, you were doing it. You know?

You were sleeping.

You were letting yourself check out and not work all the time.

And when you are working you’re so much more productive. It’s amazing. And I mean, what you just shared is a perfect example of why all that stuff is so important.

Kim: Yeah. And like even my… I think even my kids and husband had seen it. Just the relaxation of Mom. I’ll be sitting here listening to entertaining stuff while I’m working rather than trying to keep on ingesting more and more learning material because I am a nerd. I love to learn – all the time. But I can’t.

You can’t always be in work mode, and even if you’re just listening to music or letting half of your brain relax – I don’t know if that’s possible. But you know what I mean like…

Katie: Yeah

Kim: I can’t listen to educational podcasts constantly or else it does make me feel double fried.

Katie: Oh yea, totally. You are completely burning the candle at both ends and it’s like your brain can only be stimulated for so much time. You know, like you have to be able to shut it off. And you have to. And that creates more productivity.

I was actually just reading, just an interesting article, and it made me take a step back and think, like, “Oh yeah. That makes sense.”

It was about reading and how very productive business people are constant learners but they learn in a different way. So it was about embracing… It’s called the five hour rule. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but that it’s something like Ben Franklin read for an hour every day, and why doing that – like reading and stimulating your brain – can help you be more productive.

But what’s interesting is you’re reading, and you’re doing something, but it doesn’t have to be always like learning, learning learning. It can just be reading a book for enjoyment, like some trashy novel or something. You’re still stimulating your brain, but it’s not in a way where it’s like “Hey. I have to learn and absorb every single thing I’m doing all the time.”

So, there’s lots of different ways to keep yourself stimulated and sharp, but it doesn’t have to be always, “I have to take this course.” and “I have to learn this thing.” and “I have to read this book” and “I have to do this.” You know, because it’s just too much for your brain to take in. And it’s too much information for you to digest. So I love that. Yeah.

Listening to those educational podcasts are fantastic. But there is also a lot to say of doing something like totally goofy and silly that is mindless and but is also fun. Things that make you laugh. Like I could go into a whole nother tangent about the importance of laughter and joy and happiness and how much that helps your body too.

Like, it’s so important to have that – it’s not balance, I would say, but it’s having that time for your brain to check out.

Kim: Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. And while I don’t work in quiet, I just can’t. But while I may not be listening to, you know, the latest Pat Flynn podcast, I mean I could go find a comedy one that would keep me upbeat, and yeah, keep me laughing while I’m working. And I think that is something I realized as a entrepreneur is that I still have to feel connected even if I’m not out there. And maybe this is a little bit off. But like just hearing people and hearing stories and listening to music… Like I feel like there’s still company in my office even though I’m alone a lot of the time.

But I’m going to jump away from that for a minute because we talked about a little bit last week, about how you also became more aware of who you were spending time with and how it was draining you, and while, you know, you can’t be learning all the time, you also have to be aware of how you are spending your leisure time to make sure that that’s not draining you just as much.

Katie: Yeah.

Kim: Do you want to talk about that?

Katie:  Absolutely.

So it’s funny now I look at it and I’m kind of calling it a just like the soul detox instead of like a food detox, which I think is beneficial.

But thinking of who you spend your time with – and I mean there’s all sorts of things like you know, “you are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with” and “find your tribe” and all that kind of stuff and I heard that and I was like “Yeah, I don’t know that means. Whatever. That’s not important.”

But what I realized is that when I was sick and not taking care of myself, some of the people I was spending a lot of my time with were that way too. We talked a little bit about this last time, but there’s a whole principle of like, the Law of Attraction.

What you put out is what you bring back in.

So, I’m not a negative person at all, but I found myself, you know, looking around with my co-workers. Everyone was complaining about this, that or the other, so I kind of was like “I can complain too like you.” You know, all of us can complain about something in our life. So you know I was falling into that pattern.

You know I was spending time with people that were my friends but weren’t really friends. They were, because, you know, I’m a very giving person and they were people that were just take take take. And I just felt like I had nothing left. You know?

And, on top of all of that I was physically and emotionally drained and exhausted. So I realized that, “OK. Maybe I need to change and adjust the people I spend my time with,” because that might be a part of what it is. “All right. Maybe I need to look more into this.” You know, “Your vibe attracts your tribe” and “You are a reflection of the people you spend the most time with.”

So, I just started shifting. And it wasn’t that I said, you know, “I’m not going to hang out with you anymore.” or “I’m not going to spend time with you.”

I just, you know, adjusted my priorities and I – we talked about this a little bit last time – I started saying “no” to people and that was a really hard thing for me to do. And I started to think, you know, really saying yes to myself and yes to the people that I wanted to spend my time with.

And I mean my best friend in the world. She is probably the most positive up-beat person. And I was like well, “That’s me. That’s how I am.”

And I looked at and realized like, oh my gosh! The reason why we’re such good friends, is because we have the same outlook on life. We genuinely care about other people, and we just want to be happy and we want others to be happy. And so, the more time I spent with her, not only did we get closer as friends but both of us were like, “I’m just so much happier now.”

I spent more time with my family that lifts me up, and I actually started finding people. Like it seems like coming out of the woodwork. People that were kind of acquaintances that I just reconnected with, and was like, yes, we are the same energy. Like we’re positive upbeat people, and I just spent more time with those people. And what happened is I started attracting more of those people, and now I have some friends and people that I brought into my life. And like honestly, even you, Kim.  Like connecting with you, I was like “Yes! She is the type of person that I want to spend time with!”

And you just start bringing those people into your life without even realizing it. So, some people are like all “law of attraction, woo woo stuff. It’s weird. It’s out there.”

But it’s real. Like I could tell you in my life, it happens. So I ended up becoming that reflection of the people I spent my time with because that was who I was, too.

And so it wasn’t that I was saying “No, I’m never talking to you negative people again in my life.” Some of them just organically kind of drifted away. Or, those people that were taking and taking and taking from me, looked at me and they were like, “Wait a second. She stopped just giving stuff to me and I can’t just take things from her all the time.”

You know I was standing up for myself. And they just stopped trying to take without really… It just happened very naturally and organically. And it was such a powerful thing in my life that I was like, “I just have to keep doing this because I feel so much better.”

I mean, I’m not saying that like “Woo hoo! Life is good all the time.” because it’s not. That’s the reality of it.

But you have a choice in how you show up. And you have a choice in who you spend your time with. So why not spend your time with people that are going to lift you up and that are going to support you.

Kim: Right. And we were talking… I think we talked about how like on social media I sometimes ignore the main feed on my Facebook page because there tends to be a lot of negativity on there.

Katie: Yes.

Kim: But rather than unfriending some of those people, I mean… And I have to say that some of it’s family. But, just hiding their feed and checking in on my own schedule. Like when I do want to see what they’re up to, but I don’t want any drama in my face.

But I would just love to jump back when we keep on referring to our previous conversation.

So poor Katie. I think I cancelled our first attempt. Something was going on around here. Then we had an awesome chat last week and got to the end of the interview and realized, oh my gosh my recorder did not work.

But, like, we just kept on talking. And over the past week we’ve talked plenty more, and I’m sure we’re going to talk many more in the future, but you’re totally right. Like you just keep on drawing those people in. And that’s what’s continued to happen this past week, and I’ve had so many interesting conversations, including another podcast episode where there was talk about sex in a hot tub. I have no idea where that came from, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for that one.

But yeah, it’s been very interesting, and even while you still… like you… in being more respectful of yourself you can be more respectful of other people too.

Katie: Absolutely.

Kim: Because, I mean, I know, I was in disrespecting myself, I was over-committing to other people. And then, I hate to admit this, but I was falling short on deadlines. Like I was stressing myself out even more. I was stressing clients out because I had taken on too much, and that needed to change.

I mean, you can’t build your business by breaking yourself and not fulfilling any of your contracts. It doesn’t work like now.

Katie: I mean there is only so much you can do in a day. And yeah. I think that’s like the biggest message I want to share with everybody listening is you have to say no to people.

You have to.

It’s not a bad thing, and it’s not that you’re never going to work with them or whatever. But there really is only so much you can do. Even if you’re the most productive person in the world, you’re not going to get it all done.

There have to be some things you let go of.

So it’s not… I’m not saying say no all the time. Like you definitely have to reach for the stars and go for things. I can tell you I would never ever ever thought that I would have run two businesses. Never in my life. But I’m doing it.

And a lot of stuff I stretch myself out of my comfort zone and I did things that I didn’t think I could do. But there has to be a point where you know your limits too. And it’s not a bad thing, and you need to keep pushing those limits. But like you just said, you don’t want to do a half-assed job because you want to do well. And so it’s just like, “Hey! Instead of doing three projects right now, I’m just going to do two. I’m going to do them really well. And then when I finish these two I’m going to move on to the next thing.”

Kim: Right. And how awesome does it look when you go to somebody’s website and you want to hire them but you see there’s a waitlist.

Katie: Right.

Kim: I mean that makes them even more in demand.

Katie: Right.

Kim: So I mean there’s good stress and there’s bad stress. And I think you have clearly covered like both, which has been absolutely awesome. But Katie, we’re going to have, well, “we’re…” I’m talking about myself in multiples now…  I’m definitely going to have you back on the show. And we’ve already talked about some type of series, we just need to nail that out. But where can listeners find out more about you and get in touch.

Katie: You guys can come to my Web site. It is www.startingsmartwellness.com and I have all my information there. My social media stuff is KatieHenry.StartingSmart on Facebook and Instagram and stuff. Yeah, I mean I am more than happy to answer questions or people reach out. I love chatting about all this stuff. As you can tell. So yeah I would love to hear from you.

Kim: Well thank you, Katie, for coming back again and we will chat again soon. And thank you listeners for listening to another episode of positive productivity. Please like and share and subscribe and I will be back soon.