March 31, 2020

Why Self-Care Isn’t the Cure for Burnout

Why Self-Care Isn’t the Cure for Burnout

Business systems and visionary leadership expert Courtney Elmer reveals why self care isn't the cure for burnout, and the best approach for taking care of yourself instead.

When you’re an entrepreneur, burnout is inevitable… unless you’re equipped to take care of yourself by understanding where burnout really comes from...

...and why it happens at such a high rate among people who are working every day pursuing their passion and their dream. 

Don’t worry -- if you’re suffering from burnout, it’s easier to get your mojo back than you might think.

As the CEO of a company focused on helping entrepreneurs scale their business without burning out, it *might* come as a surprise to learn that I have a HUGE problem with the self-care movement trending today.

It’s because the "quick fix tips" that are touted as solutions to bounce back from burnout.

What’s wrong with burnout tips like these? Listen into today’s episode and find out!


  • The surprising truth about stress, and why it can’t be “managed” 

  • The self care practices that aren’t worth your time and what burnout really means

  • How to take care of yourself without feeling guilty

PLUS: The #1 reason why taking care of yourself first is the quickest way to achieve entrepreneurial success and preventing burnout

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.





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You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode #11! 

I’m excited to chat with you about this topic today, because it’s a big one--about burnout. Self-care is all the rage in our culture, everywhere you look people are telling you you need more of it. Yet somehow, nobody seems to ever have enough TIME for it and this can cause further burnout. 

Just one of those things that gets pushed off to the back burner for “one day” when you have more time. Am I right? Look I gotta be honest: because you know me — I shoot from the hip and tell it like it is: and frankly, self care is not enough to battle burnout or help you manage stress. 

The truth is that stress CAN’T be managed, and burnout is inevitable if you’re wasting your time and energy on the wrong things. And all the “self-care” in the world won’t help that, which is why most self-care practices are a waste of time. Today I’m going to show you what you need to focus on instead to find the me-time you really want, need, and deserve so you can stop burnout! Let’s get into it!


Hey hey you guys — did the topics self care and burnout of today’s episode catch your ear? It’s true, I don’t believe in self care. At least, not the kind of self care you typically think of when people talk it.. 

In fact, if you and I were chatting in person over coffee right now and I were to ask you, “what do you think of when you think of self care practices?” I bet you would say some of the things that maybe pop into your head first, things like, massages, pedicures, spa time, a hot bath, even journaling or gratitude journaling, reading, going for a walk. Taking a day off. These are the kinds of things that are top of mind for most people when you talk about self-care. 

In fact, if you google “self care” your search will return over billions of hits (at least at the time of this recording, because I just did it) with all kinds of articles telling you about more things - lists of things — you need to DO if you want to practice self-care.  

Aha, and there it is. 

There’s a reason you’re listening to this podcast, the EffortLESS podcast, where our whole purpose is about showing you how to create success that doesn’t depend on your time, energy, or effort. A life that feels easy… and effortless without all of that burnout.

It’s so subtle — Do you see how our culture imposes this subtle pressure on you to always be doing? Even when you’re looking up ways to take better care of yourself and find more me time, all you get is lists of more things to DO! This can lead to burnout.

And I think, this is one of the major, major reasons why on an unconscious level, people RESIST self-care and end up with burnout. It’s just one more thing they have to do… and it’s not as important as the OTHER THINGS they have to do. Nobody wants another checklist of things they need to check off! Heaven forbid! A daily self-care checklist? No way! 20 ways to practice more self-care? That’s just flat out overwhelming! Who has time to do 20 more things? Even if you say “ok just pick one or two of those things on that list,” it STILL adds more mental pressure. More to DO.

Getting meals on the table and running errands and of course that mile-long list of work tasks and helping the kids with homework and taking the dogs for a walk and you know, the laundry won’t fold itself — it’s no wonder even one or two self care practices of any kind of self-care gets pushed to the back burner. It just takes more time. It’s one of those things that “oh, it would be so nice if I had more time for, but I don’t, so I can’t do it.” 

And we keep busy at breakneck speed until eventually we end up with burnout. 

I get it, because I’ve been there. For as long as I can remember, I have been the kind of person to put pressure on myself to do my best in EVERY single area of my life. I was homeschooled, and the curriculum my mom wanted us to use was honestly one of the most challenging ones out there. All of my other friends used excellent programs that were less demanding and homework heavy, and sure, I’d complain to my mom about my heavy workload because I thought my friends had it so easy. 

Truthfully though, on a deep level, I had this secret sense of pride that I was successfully making it through one of the most challenging homeschool curriculum programs out there. And if you weren’t homeschooled, bc I know I’m sort of a rare breed, think of it like this: let’s say you have two schools in your hometown. Both are amazing schools, yet one is known for being a little harder than the other. The workload is more demanding and the teachers a little more strict in the name of pursuing this so-called academic excellence. Had I been in a traditional school setting, that would have been the school I went to, where all my friends would have been at the other one, still getting an awesome education and probably having a little more fun while doing it. 

As a teenager, seeing my perfectionist tendencies, my dad would always tell me, Courtney, you’ve got to focus on the 80% solution. I’d nod my head and block whatever was coming next see because my dad was a numbers guy, he’s a wealth advisor, and he was always talking numbers. But what he was trying to get me to understand was that no one, not a soul on this earth, knows how much you have to give. 

To them, your 80% looks like 100%. And his point was, what he was trying to help me see, that it wasn’t worth the pressure, anxiety, energy, and time to always give 100% in every little thing. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, I’m a 1 — nicknamed the perfectionist, so even though I’m hard wired to make sure every last little “i” is dotted and “t's crossed, I’ve since learned that my 80% is enough. And by focusing on saving myself that last 20% of energy, it actually allows me to pick and choose where I give 100% of my energy to, instead of giving 100% all the time, in everything, without ever taking care of me. The 80% solution. 

No one cares whether you give 80% or 100% — they won’t know the difference. Now, don’t misunderstand! This does not mean you just do things halfway. Or 80% of the way. Don’t do like I did and brush this off and What it means is to be aware of your expectations… no one else’s expectations are AS HIGH as YOURS. We’ll do a future episode where we can dive into the difference between high expectations and high standards, because there is a difference, and we’ll save that for another day. 

For now, remember — focus on the 80% you CAN do and let it be enough to prevent burnout.

Because guys — if you’re focusing on doing things 100%, 100% of the time, you WILL fail. It’s inevitable. You can only go at this pace for a limited amount of time. That’s because time, energy, willpower, these are all limited resources. 

And if you’re in the habit of doing this, giving your all in everything all the time, it creates a dangerous thinking pattern that looks and sounds something like this: 

“If I can’t do it perfectly, then it’s not worth doing at all.” 

Oo. Did that hit you in the gut? Did you feel any kind of resistance in your being just now? 

If you did, it means you need to lean in and explore this. 

It’s like saying, “Ok. I’m going to start a new workout routine. It’s Jan 1, and this is going to be MY YEAR! So you get all excited and check out the classes your studio or gym is offering, you go buy a bunch of new workout clothes, you order a healthy meal prep service or start making meal plans or maybe even hire a nutritionist to help you make sure you’re eating right, maybe you hire a personal trainer to make sure you’re doing all this right. You want to do it right, because you’ve tried this before and last time it didn’t last, and this time, you want to make sure you’re doing it right so that you actually see RESULTS. 

So, Monday rolls around and you’re out of bed, eager to go (ad lib) … then you feel tired… you go out to dinner with your SO and cave and order the wine, or maybe 1 bite of dessert turns into 10, and you start to think… ah I’ll just do it tomorrow. Tomorrow — that mystical land where 99% of human productivity is stored, right? Maybe if you have a personal trainer it lasts a little longer… ad lib. Eventually, you fall victim to the trap that if you can’t do it perfectly, if you can’t do it RIGHT, it’s not worth doing at all. And you subtly, slowly slip back to your old habits of thinking and of being.” 

So look — most people apply this kind of thinking to self care, too. And if you’re making this mistake, you’ve got it backwards! How many times have you started journaling practice, or meditation practice, or even tried to schedule regular massages or get regular exercise and have stopped, because things have come up and your practice doesn’t look perfect? It’s no wonder you don’t do it. It feels like you’re failing at something. And as humans, we are hard wired NOT TO FAIL so we avoid it at all costs. In the big things and the little things! It’s a way your unconscious mind tries to protect you, but what we have to notice and change is how we consciously approach it. Neuroplasticity is a real thing, you can go look up the research for yourself, it is possible to rewire your brain and create NEW habits of thinking. 

But if you stay stuck in this old thinking pattern, that it’s not worth doing if you can’t do it 100% right, of course you won’t have time for it, because it’ll feel like you’re not succeeding, and if you’re not succeeding you're failing. 

As a result it moves lower down on your priority list, because you don’t value it enough to make time FOR. It’s not high enough up there on that internal order of things you value, and it becomes this thing you’re “failing at” so of course your brain is going to resist you doing it. 

Makes sense? This is big! 

So now that you realize this, and we’ve gotten into the root of what’s really going on here, change becomes possible. 

We can’t change what we’re not aware of. That’s why everything starts with awareness. Once you’re aware of how you’re behaving unconsciously, you can consciously make the choice to shift that old pattern of thinking that’s not serving you, into a new pattern of thinking that DOES serve you to prevent burnout.

It’s just that for most people, they struggle to find success at the expense of themselves, putting themselves on the back burner for the sake of everything else because they’re not aware of what’s really going on. 

You’re smart — you KNOW you need to take care of yourself, you KNOW having personal time is important, you want that, and you KNOW that no one is truly responsible for taking care of you but you. Your care of yourself is on you to prevent burnout.


And as I always say to my students inside of my EffortLESS Life Academy and our higher-level programs, YOU are the human behind the business. Your business, your job, it’s just there. It does nothing without you. It doesn’t grow without you, if you’re not growing. It can’t thrive if you’re not thriving. If you’re in survival mode, IT will be in survival mode. 

Yet we expect our businesses, our jobs — which are an extension of US — to grow and thrive and be successful. But it’s a backwards way of thinking. Because if YOU aren’t growing and thriving and if you aren’t finding success in all areas of your life, how will your business grow, your career?

If you truly want to grow and reach more of your goals and dreams, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate where in your life are things falling through the cracks. That’s got to be your starting point and the best way to stop burnout.

Then, you have to identify what you NEED. And this might change every day. This might change every moment! This is exactly why outside of my monthly massage and chiropractor visits, I personally have given up the idea of every other self-care practice as something that’s part of my routine, that I have to do every day, or else. 

I tune in, I listen to my body, I listen to my mind, and I notice the signs. If I’m feeling tired or stressed, I ask myself “what do I need right now to prevent burnout?” Sometimes the answer is to take a break. Sometimes it’s to get outside. Sometimes it’s to take a hot bath, or journal, or all the other self care stuff you typically hear suggested. 

But the key is I don’t do all the things, every day. I just do what I need, when I need it. 

And this is liberating. So, so liberating. It gives you freedom. It gives you the flexibility to explore, and it gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re NOT failing, in fact, quite the opposite. If you can tune in to what you need — BECOME AWARE OF IT — in any given moment, you will suddenly find yourself practicing self-care, or self-nourishment as I like to call it, in ways you never have before. 

The reason most people don’t do this is because they think that “slowing down” or “stepping back” will cause them to hit their goals more slowly. To get less things checked off their list. In their mind, they have to keep going, otherwise they’ll lose momentum, they’ll make slower progress. In fact I bet you’ve experienced it. I have experienced it! Actually the opposite is true! 

It’s the all or nothing mindset popping up again: if I’m not working hard, I’m not moving closer to my goals, and if I’m not moving closer to my goals, I’m getting farther away from them. Therefore I have to work hard if I want to hit my goals. If I’m not doing it right, 100% of the time, if I’m not doing it perfectly, I’m failing. And I don’t want to fail, so therefore I have to keep working. 

So! If you take away anything from this episode, here’s what I want you to remember about burnout: 

  1. The all or nothing mindset, thinking that if you can’t do it right, or can’t do it perfectly then it’s not worth doing, is tied to a deeper fear-based thought — the thought of “I don't want to fail.” It’s your mind’s way of keeping you safe … and it’s something you have conscious control of it, now that you’re aware of it

  2. One of the ways to shift beliefs is to trade the old one for a new one. Really simple. So I want you to trade the belief of “I can’t do it right so I’m not going to do it at all” for a question: the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions: “What do I need right now?” This will help you prevent burnout. 

At first maybe you have to ask yourself this several times a day! Any moment you notice yourself feeling those familiar feelings of stress, burnout, or overwhelm, ask yourself: “what do I need right now at this moment?” And listen. Follow your body’s lead. If you need a break, take a break. Prevent burnout. If you’re feeling particularly emotional and feel like you need to process through some stuff, grab your journal and write for 10 minutes. 

It doesn’t have to be this regimented, rigid thing. That’ll hurt you more than help you. What’ll help you the most is shifting the belief that’s causing you to put self-care to the back burner in the first place, and I walked you through how to do that today. Really simple, trade that old belief for your new one, and start paying attention when you notice those feelings of stress, burnout, and overwhelm. 

We have all kinds of beliefs, in all different areas of our life. Some serve us, others limit us. If you’ve been feeling stuck or feel like you’re working so hard without seeing the results you expected, then make sure to subscribe to the show here where aside from self care and burnout, we give you the simplified workflows, strategies, and systems you need to spend more time in your zone of genius. I love hearing what you guys have to say about the show, and as always go forth and live your EffortLESS Life®. You’re the best — see you next time on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast.