Q&A with Dr. Deepika Chopra

At The Goods Mart, we are passionate about doing good by filling our small & mighty store with mission-driven brands that fuel our bodies and are mindful of our communities and planet. This month, we’d also like to share some important insights about how we can do better for our collective mental health by looking at the mind/body connection, and there’s no one better to ask than my dear friend, Dr. Deepika Chopra, the Optimism Doctor. Her brand is committed to creating and curating well-made goods rooted in holistic, science-based practices with a mindfulness to increase Optimism and Happiness. I’ve been using her Optimism deck for a few years and wanted to share her inspiring words of wisdom + a few of our favorite cards!!!

Now, let’s jump into the goodness!!!

Culturally, many of us push ourselves and say we’re “stressed.” But now we’re hearing a lot about burnout. Is being stressed the same as burnout?
I’ve been hearing this question a lot and the answer is no, well kind of no.. if that makes sense, ha! If not managed properly, one issue causes the other.

Stress and burnout are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Stress is the body's natural response to challenging, hard to process situations; whereas, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is caused by prolonged stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout can cause long-term feelings of dissatisfaction, exhaustion, and can even manifest as physical pain such as headaches and muscle tension.

Is there a good “stress”?
Stress sort of gets a bad rep… Yes, left unmanaged it really can be detrimental and has been linked to all sorts of physical and emotional health concerns. But, what a lot of people don’t know is that sometimes stress can actually be good for us… and we actually have a name for it, we call stress that is good for you, eustress.This kind of stress is what you might feel when you're excited and can often manifest as a’ butterflies in the stomach’ kind of feeling.

Eustress is what we feel (our pulse increases and our hormones surge) when we are not faced with a threat… maybe this is what we feel when we are in anticipation of something we want but we might be a bit excited or nervous about… a roller coaster, a date, working towards a new job, or playing in a game. It can help us feel energized and motivated. Unlike bad stress (distress) or chronic stress, which can be harmful and overwhelming, eustress is actually a positive force in your life.

What are the key signs that you are experiencing burnout?
Most of the key signs that point towards burnout are also symptoms of stress, making it easy for the two to be confused. Burnout is characterized by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or life, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job or life.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

The key here is that taking some time off or going on a vacation may help with stress, but it doesn’t often help with burnout.

Since you’re the Optimism Doctor, could you share with us why optimism is so important?
Well, there is so much to say about this. First of all, I think it’s important to note that being optimistic is not just about being positive all the time, it’s much more about resilience and working through struggles. It’s being keenly aware of our setbacks and roadblocks, which is something we must accept as part of a normal human life.

The caveat is seeing these less than ideal situations as temporary and something we have the power to overcome. Holding a more optimistic mindset has been linked to increased happiness, contentment, productivity, better social relationships, and increased likelihood in engaging in positive health habits. Optimism is linked to greater longevity, less cardiovascular issues, better respiratory and immune functioning, protection against anxiety and depression, and better stress management.

If everyone only did one thing to build stress resilience, boost optimism, and live more joyful lives – what would it be?
Well, there are so many things! What I am most passionate about is helping people come up with their own unique tool boxes that help to counter stress, burnout ,and anxiety and at the same time boost resiliency, joy, and optimism. I love to help people focus on and sharpen these tools which come from their own inner skills and natural gifts from just being a human.

This is why I created the Things Are Looking Up Optimism Deck of Cards (52 science-based prompts/ suggestions that actually increase optimism and resilience). One of the most important tools is taking the time, space, and energy to invest in knowing what your purpose is. This is an exercise I love to work on with my clients seasonally. Actually, research shows the number one protective factor for burnout is knowing what your sense of purpose is. We can withstand all kinds of struggle and stressors if we are aware and working towards a life that is in alignment with our true sense of purpose.