Jennifer Jefferies

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JENNIFER JEFFERIES

JOHN PETROZZI: Hi. Welcome to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi.

Today, we’re speaking to Jennifer Jefferies, who’s a life balance expert, and she’s going to teach us all about how we can balance our life, and in fact, have it all without sacrificing our health and our sanity.

Hi, Jennifer, and thanks for coming on the show today.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

JOHN PETROZZI: My pleasure. So what’s work-life balance, Jennifer?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: To me, work-life balance is about learning how to go as hard and as fast as you choose without burning out. So for some people, lying on the beach all day doing nothing would be more stressful than being busy. It’s not about lying around doing nothing; it’s about finding out what works for you but doing it in a way that it feeds you, instead of sucking the life out of you.

JOHN PETROZZI: Is it doable?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Yeah, absolutely. I believe so.

JOHN PETROZZI: It’s a big issue these days, though, isn’t it?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: It is. With all the downsizing of companies, it’s become a big thing that people are working harder and works become more of a priority than their home life, and yet, they’re in a struggle, because emotionally, they want home life to be their priority. But the reality is there’s a lot more pressure from work.

JOHN PETROZZI: I’ve spoken to a lot of people about it. when they sort of hit burnout or getting close to it, they’re thinking a lot about work when they’re at home and thinking a lot about home when they’re at work. Is that a common trait?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: It is. we actually ran some research on this a couple of years ago, about four years ago, because we found the #1 thing, or one of the main complaints that people had was that they’re emotionally and mentally taking their work home with them and they were not necessarily doing something physical but they’re worrying about it.

So we did a trial with some essential oils to use in the workplace, using essential oils to help keep people present and just spend an hour, so combination of things like jasmine, ylang-ylang, lime, and what we found was just being able to vaporise those oils in the workplace in the afternoons, we had a 63% improvement of people being able to leave work at work-

JOHN PETROZZI: Isn’t that interesting?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: -which was huge, because then, they’ve got a better quality of life at home with partners and family or friends. So that other times when they do have to work more, there’s not the same drain, because [0:02:17] the other times, they’re more present with the people, so it is manageable. It’s just about finding the support systems to help you go with the same way you are right at the moment.

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose it will take a balance between the employee and also the employer to be open to having, for instance, essential oils burning in the office.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Definitely. Employees are pretty cool at the moment, but the ones that I’ve had a lot of contact with, the thing is, the employer could put any steps in place, but ultimately, it comes back to a person’s sense of self-responsibility.

JOHN PETROZZI: Sure.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: So it’s the old, “You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.” Yeah, all the stuff can be there, but unless the persons actually make themselves and their own health a priority, it won’t happen.

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose that’s when habits come into play, don’t they? I think we all develop habits, whether they’re good or bad, or helping or not helping. That’s when the employee really needs to take control of their habits and decide if they want to change them for whatever reason.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Yeah, that’s it. And the sad thing is that usually, it’s like people don’t come to that point until they really do reach burnout, or their loved ones say, “This is it; not anymore.” We have to reach some critical stage like that before we actually take action.

So for me, life’s all about prevention. I do a lot of work over in Asia; I just returned from Taiwan last week. Over there, they pay the doctors to keep them well, which is the complete opposite of our medical model, but it’s so where we need to be.

JOHN PETROZZI: You’ve written a book called “Seven Steps to Sanity,” which we’ll talk about later on the show, and hopefully, you can give us some tips on how we can identify burnout and actually prevent it from happening.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Sure. I have written that book, yes.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Let’s talk a bit about, I suppose, your journey, in terms of what’s made you an expert in work-life balance. And how do you live it?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: I came into the industry because I burned out myself 20 years ago, that was the thing. I remember at that time, people like my mom saying to me, “Jen, can’t you see what you’re doing?” I’m going, “Nah, nah, nah. It’s good.” You know, I’ve got all the stuff that says I’m successful: I’ve got a flashy house, a flashy job, and a flashy company car. I had all the things that said life was great, but in reality, I was living in survival and I was “existing.” It was like I would get up in the morning, and it’s like you get up on your feet, go to work, go home, you feed, you go to bed. And the next day, you get up on your feet, work, home, feed, bed. It was the same things day in and day out.

As much as I enjoyed it, I was so in it I couldn’t see the impact that it was having on my body physically and emotionally, and my family and my friends around me. I was living in survival mode, which is where so many people are.

And yeah, I’m just a human as everybody else, and it took a car accident for me to actually stop and get a reality check. I remember lying in the hospital, thinking, “I can either keep going the way I am and just kind of jump straight back into the fire, or I can really turn this on its head and see what else is possible,” which I chose to do. That was back in the mid-80s, you know, things like that and I had all the flashy things, and it was very hard to walk away from, but I knew I couldn’t keep going the way I was.

JOHN PETROZZI: Jennifer, it’s such a common story that I hear people, who do go out and start speaking about certain topic, that they hit a point in their life when a tragedy or a trauma happens and that sort of is a symptom in their life to make them wake up. Symptoms are a horrible thing for people to experience a lot of the time, because they are painful and health-depleting. How do we spin around our head and our mind to go from symptom-based living to preventative-based living?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: it’s about—for me, anyway, from what I was putting into practice in my life the last 20 years, the majority of the time; again, I’m just as human as everybody else and I still have the same chances or opportunities to go off track—the simple one to think about is sleep. Okay?

The majority of people that I come across in clinic and speaking, it’s like you have a busy, crappy day at work and then you drive in a crappy traffic going home, and then you sit and do the brainless channel-flicking thing at night and maybe have somebody to interact with, family and friends, or read or do whatever you’re doing. And then you go to bed and you think, “Ugh, sleep.” You’ve done no preparation.

Then somewhere around between 1 and 3 in the morning, your body wakes you up. It’s when your organs are doing their processing. And then you lay there for a few hours, totally tossing and turning and can’t get quality sleep. The next morning, you wake up—when you finally do get back to sleep, you then wake up—and you have a crappy day, because you’re ultimately behind the ball all the time. Just for the sake of taking the time to decompress a bit, where you actually go to bed, can be the difference.

For me, I work as a speaker, so I’m away from home two or three weeks a month that ten months of the year on the road. My normal routine are things flying to a city late at night, whether it’s international or national, and then speaking at breakfast or a gig that morning. The easy thing to do when you’re tied up and you’ve been travelling all day, especially for international trip, all you want to do is maybe just slide into bed or maybe take a quick shower. But for me, part of my decompressing is a system where I actually have a bath at night. If I have a bath with some oils for the sake of 10 or 15 minutes, I know when I hit that too long, I’m going to go to sleep and I’m going to stay asleep. But for me, coming from a place of prevention is making sure I have seriously good quality sleep overnight. Because you know how good you feel when you wake up fresh in the morning after you have a good night sleep, you feel really fresh. So I would rather wake up feeling fresh in the morning than feeling tired and missing out on life.

So for me, it’s good—and that’s what I tell people—just find the main triggers to start with until it becomes a habit, where your energy is being sucked out of you, and if it is your sleep, for instance, make that the focus where you’re going to come from a place of prevention. The normal habit is two to three weeks. Bring it into a routine in your life and you’ll find the difference. All of a sudden, you’ve got, if it is, let’s say, energy that you’ve been wanting for a long time.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great. We’re speaking to Jennifer Jefferies today, a life-balancing expert, and we’re speaking all about work-life balance.

Jennifer, what does it mean to be fulfilled at work?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Being fulfilled at work is going to mean different things to different people. But again, for me, it’s about doing what I really choose to do and being able to live consciously in it. At different times in our lives, we need to do things that we have to do or think that we have to do. We can’t make stress go away, but we have total control over the perception that we have to stress and everything that’s going on in our lives.

So even if we’re in a job that we think is unfulfilling at this time, the more we say to ourselves, “This is unfulfilling. I don’t like this. I hate this job. I’m mainly here for bucks,” stuff like that, the more it’s going to deplete your energy.

JOHN PETROZZI: So going back to your example of in the 80s when you had quite a large amount of stress and, I suppose, working a life that you didn’t want, and then you had the car accident and had a turnaround, what process did you go through that made you realise what it is that you wanted to do?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: The thing was I was actually enjoying the work on one level. The thing was I wasn’t living consciously, so I wasn’t noticing how it was depleting my body and, particularly, depleting my adrenal glands. That’s where a lot of people are: They’re so in a groove of doing it they think they like it, but they’re not living consciously in the moment to really see what the full impact of their job is.

So the turnaround for me, and I remember it vividly, there was a guy who I was working with, who was a very cool guy, who bought me the book, “Live and Die.” In that, he talks about being present. It was like a slap in the face that I’d been just living everything cruise past me at a really fast rate and wasn’t really noticing what was going on.

Its’ the old, “Do you want to keep doing for the next 20—and I was about 27 or 28 in those day- do you want to keep doing for the next however long part of my life the same as what I’ve been doing?” I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that.” I noticed things were passing me by, and I was propping myself up and thinking I needed to have fun by using things like alcohol as my crutch for fun. I didn’t know how to really relax without it.

JOHN PETROZZI: So did you go away for a period of time, or was this just in the hospital bed when you sort of decided to paint a new picture for your life and write down some new goals and direction?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: I was in the hospital when I read the book. When I got out of the hospital, the doctor said, “Now, this won’t work and that won’t work, and you’ll be cooped for the next four months and you’ll have to take these drugs.” And I went, “I don’t want to do that.” It was more based around the fact that I didn’t think I had time to be sick for 12 months.

JOHN PETROZZI: Living consciously again.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Yeah. I said, “I don’t want to be sick for 12 months.” Believe me, I came from a very science-based background. I had no hippie-trippy positive conscious—and he kind of thought prices was in my mind in those days—I really didn’t know it. I was not a tree-hugging hippie or that kind of person. I just wasn’t. I was in the typical grey-is-good mode.

So when I thought, “I hadn’t got time to be sick, what can I actually do as a system to get well faster?” I thought, “Well, I’m going to book into a health retreat,” so I thought, “I’ll have a week’s intensive, get really, really well and I’ll be fine.” So I checked into a health retreat at the back of the Gold Coast.. where like it or not, you’ll have to have at least one aroma therapy massage every day, you’ve got to eat properly and they start teaching you meditation and things.

JOHN PETROZZI: Nice.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Just for moving myself, from the place or the environment where I was, was a huge impact, because it didn’t necessarily slow me down, but it gave me a brain space to go look and see what else was possible.

At the end of the week, I thought, “Wow! I’m feeling pretty cool.” So I ended up staying for three weeks, and at the end of three weeks, I was so well I had to know how they did it. I was more well than I had been in all of my adult life.

JOHN PETROZZI: Gee.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: And that was huge. So I chose to quit everything – I quit my job, I quit a relationship that wasn’t working out – I quit everything that was draining my energy. And I started again and went back to school. I studied to be a naturopath and I put my specialty and my training in the emotional aspects of illness and how it manifest as physical, because I actually realised once I stopped my body had been giving me signals for ages. But because I was living from that symptom-based place, I was fighting fuzz all the time and I was doing nothing about consciously moving forward.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: So once I stopped, I said, “I would start again.” It wasn’t easy to walk away at that time from the money and the status and blah-blah and all those kinds of things. But I’ll tell you what, I honestly don’t know that I’d even be here nowadays if I hadn’t stopped in my direction and gone back to that same routine.

JOHN PETROZZI: It’s powerful, isn’t it?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Yeah.

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose for our listeners, the things that we can all look out for are recurring symptoms, like cold sores, headaches, back pain, feeling fog in the head. They are symptoms that we shouldn’t be sort of downplaying with a Panadol, are they?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: No, definitely not. And for me, in my clinic over the years—because I’ve spent about 15 years in clinic since then—the main symptoms that I found that are recurring with the same things that I had experienced in leading up to my burnout, the most common ones—and I found when I actually studied that they were all signs of adrenal tiredness, that’s why a majority of people nowadays, especially businesspeople and all those busy people in life are experiencing or they’re sitting on the edge of that adrenal tiredness or adrenal exhaustion—symptoms like:

  • headaches in the last month – that’s a classic
  • broken sleep – it’s huge; in Chinese medicine, we say that broken sleep is one of the first signs of adrenal tiredness;
  • getting sore on that point on the top of your shoulders or between your shoulder blades, your adrenal draining points
  • kind of a restlessness in yourself – that kind of fidgety feeling when you’re wanting to sit still at night
  • craving salt

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose you start to overeat because of the salt cravings, don’t you?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Absolutely. The salt cravings lead to low magnesium (magnesium is one of the minerals that you burn up when you’re stressed out). One of the first signs of low magnesium is broken sleep. So, one simple mineral that you’ve depleted through being stressed out could be giving you a crappy sleep, which can be creating that cycle.

Come from a place of prevention. Eat foods that are richer in magnesium, even something simple like a handful of almonds in the afternoon could make the difference between you coping with stressed during the day and being able to sleep properly at night.

For me, the Seven Steps are the absolute basics. It’s kind of like one from different categories within your life, physically or emotionally. I keep it down at 7 to keep it simple, because if I said, “Here’s 843 ways to stay well,” people will go, “Ahh!” and overwhelmed, and they’re not going to do any of it.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: I keep it simple. I say for people to come from that place of prevention and to just focus on one thing, one point or one thing every day. The thing with all this is we think, “Oh!” They get all excited and they go, “Yeah! I want to be well really quick now,” so they go on too much too fast, go off track and then stay off-track instead of just noticing they’re off-track and coming back on track, which is why it’s one of the steps.

So the first step to sanity is about Respecting Yourself. Bottom line, if you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after anyone else. So I call it “the burnt chop syndrome.” It’s like you cook an amazing dinner, you got people over and you burned one of the chops. When you burn one of the chops, you give that burnt chop to you.

JOHN PETROZZI: Of course.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: The reason people do it is they don’t want to look like a failure and they don’t want people to think, “Gosh! He can’t even cook a meal of lamb chops or whatever.” So we tend to look after everyone else before we look after ourselves; that’s a habit we’ve picked up, just watching our parents put people before us, not something that have been consciously said to us but it’s a habit that we’ve picked up.

So for me, it’s not about saying “No, I don’t want eat the burnt chop.” It’s about if you choose to eat the burnt chop, eat it and live it and love it, or hand it on. Because too many people eat the burnt chop and then give themselves a hard time for doing it. Negative emotions like guilt are more damaging than physical crappy foods we eat.

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, how can someone who actually eats the burnt chop and feels badly about this, how can they turn their negative self-talk around to become positive?

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Well, the difference is there’s a split second when we notice we’ve burned the chop, so it’s like you look down and you see you’ve burned the chop, and the normal reaction is you go, “Hah!” and hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your adrenals kick in and all the physical responses happen for you to be able to stand and fight or get the heck out of there. But emotionally, what happens in your mind is a story creates, and it’s a negative story telling about you, “God! She can’t even cook a lamb chop.”

Where if you actually stop and take a deep breath, even if you’re halfway through the short breath to start with, you notice you’ve burned the lamb chop and you start to hold your breath. If you continue with the big, deep breath, you’re able to get your head around what’s really happening, compared to the story that you’re about to create that’s happening.

And they are two entirely different things. The reality is you burned the chop, the world didn’t end, give it to the dog or someone else, or just choose not to have it yourself. If you choose to have it, enjoy and love every moment of it.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yup. And step 2 is Feed Your Body.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: It is. I have to speak about nutrition. For me, a big part of that is that “food triangle” that we’re all taught as kids. I see it very differently; I see this “food square.” You can actually look at that square and think it’s like a dinner plate.

So the first thing that’s around the outside is water, because we’re 60-70% water, so I believe that 60-70% of anything that you stick in your mouth every day should be water. Then we need the good quality proteins, good quality carbohydrates, good quality fruits and veggies, and good quality fats.

So in the book, I talk about the difference between the different grains and, in particular, my “pet hate” on this planet is white bread, white rice, white pasta. Because remember when we’re at school, we used to make glue out of flour and water? Remember how it stank when it’s set in that jar for three days and have it stuck to that really silly paper mache balloon we all make?

JOHN PETROZZI: And so dusty you got.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Totally.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: And it absolutely sucks the life out of you. If people did nothing else except reduce—they don’t even have to eliminate—if they even reduce it, say, Monday to Friday, that they only ate whole-meal grains (brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta), that alone would make a huge difference. It could also be preventing things like your adult-onset diabetes, because it stops depleting water-soluble minerals out of your body as well. So, one food change could make a huge difference, so I talk about things like that in the book, just simple practical steps from a very bottom-line, practical kind of goal.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great. Step 3 is Move Your Body – exercise.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Move your body, yeah. We do need to exercise. So this is the other physical step in the book. Bottom line, we just need to move our body in some way every day. In Chinese medicine, we say that the way you get energy is by using energy. So the time you’re most tired and you think you got no energy, even if you got up and did a walk around the house, you kind of get usable energy. If you sit there and go, “I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired” and eat chocolate or drink coffee or something, you’d be more depleted.

So in the book, I explain different ways to bring some exercises into the workplace and simple ones into your life that are not necessarily hard at all, but they’re easy to integrate. That’s what it’s about, finding time for exercise.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yup. Step 4, you’ve got Play More.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Yeah, that’s the biggest one, if anything, because people have got so damn boring and serious lately; they really have. In Chinese medicine, we say that your adrenals are recharged with good food, good rest, and good play. So it’s like if you can feel yourself burning out and you think, “I’ll take a weekend off, I’ll eat properly, I’ll just relax,” people do all that, but the thing they forgot to still do is play.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yup.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: It doesn’t mean you have to run around with a big silly grin on your face or be the idiot at work, but it’s about supporting yourself so that you can have fun and modify—again, you can’t make the stress go away—but modify your perception to it. This is where aromatherapy is excellent for modifying that perception to the stress.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great. And Step 5 is Get a Life.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: That’s all about your adrenal glands and ways to recharge those. It might be simple adrenal tonics, like Siberian Ginseng tea or liquorish tea, essentials oils like geranium. I’ve given different natural health ways so you can help support your adrenal glands. A simple one is I’ve designed my “sanity saver essential blend.” The main ingredient is called Vetiver. Vetiver is an essential oil; it’s not a sedative, but what it does is enables you to be still on the inside. It’s the main oil we prescribe in clinics for ADD, you know, go-fast kind of kids.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: And if you look at your successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs, it’s that same go-fast kind of mentality. So if we can actually allow them to be still within their business, they don’t burn out. Again, at sleep time, people are doing broken sleep. If they’re having trouble getting to sleep, they’re generally low in calcium, which is why a glass of warm milk before bed helps, and flowery essential oils, like lavender, will work.

But if they’re having trouble staying asleep, they’re doing the broken sleep thing, well, they’re low in magnesium, which is that first mineral that you burn up when you’re stressed out, then the heavier essential oils, like Vetiver. So coming from a place of prevention simply putting a few drops of Vetiver, which on its own smells a bit gross because it’s a very heavy woody oil, or something like I’ve blended in my Sanity Saver Blend, putting that in a vaporiser or in a bath or something before you go to bed, means you can actually sleep through. It’s not really a sedative but it just allows you to be still, so when you go to bed, you can think of one thing at once, which is-

JOHN PETROZZI: Sleep.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: -sleep. Yeah. That’s what it’s about. So that chapter is all about things like that, ways to settle your adrenal gland. Because bottom line is if you don’t get a life, you’re going to lose your life.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. We’re almost out of time, but we’ve got Steps 6 and 7. Step 6 is Do It Now.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Very quickly, it’s about procrastinating. People—I don’t know if you’ve noticed—but they only procrastinate on the things that they don’t want to do. If it’s something you really want to do, you magically find the time. So it’s about, again, learning how to ask for help and how to get your head around so that you can make things work for you instead of sucking the life out of you to get them down.

The last step is Chill Out, which is, ultimately, we’re all going to go off-track sometimes. We need to realise that we’re human and that the world’s not going to end, so if you’re like halfway through a pack of Tim Tams, instead of going, “Oh, no! I ate half a pack of Tim Tams,” you go, “Hey, you only ate half of the pack of Tim Tams, and you’ll leave the rest for another day.”

JOHN PETROZZI: Tomorrow.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: It’s all about perception. If you beat yourself up, that can be more damaging than eating the damn Tim Tam. Life, no matter what you do, you got to live it, love it, and just get on with it and make life work for you.

JOHN PETROZZI: Good advice, Jennifer.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Thank you.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s all we have time for, unfortunately. I could talk to you for ages. Thanks very much for coming on the show, Jennifer. We really appreciate your advice and thanks very much.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Oh, thank you very much, John.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great.

JENNIFER JEFFERIES: Bye.

JOHN PETROZZI: And that was Jennifer Jefferies, who is a life-balancing expert. It was great to speak with her today. Hopefully, we can all get a bit of insight on balancing our lives a little bit more.

And thanks for joining us today on Living is Easy. To listen to this and other podcasts, go to www.livingiseasy.com.au.

I’m John Petrozzi. Until next time, stay well and stay happy.