Tami Berry From Surgeon To Burnout Coach


Tami Berry was a well-respected surgeon in Philadelphia. She had spent years of time, energy, and sacrifice to get to where she was. Until one day she realized what a big impact stress was having on her life. Stress went from something that fueled her to something that made her feel burned out. This was a huge brick for her. She tried to find resources to help her and couldn’t find any so she decided to create her own. The whispers led her to combine her medical expertise and become a coach teaching other people what she learned about avoiding burnout. She shares her journey and tips on how to avoid burnout. It is an interesting story that should help anyone who struggles with stress and burnout. You don’t want to miss it!

Episode Transcription:

Intro plays

Ari: Welcome to Whispers and Bricks. My name is Ari Schonbrun. I’m your host I have with me today a special guest. Her name is Dr. Tammy Berry. And I met Barry. I met Tammy through mutual friends and she turned out to be a real pistol let me tell you this is going to be you guys are gonna you know hold on to your hats for this one really? See Dr. Tammy Berry is a former surgeon, an internationally recognized resilience expert and coach and helps purpose driven professionals overcome burnout so they can enjoy life with renewed energy, confidence and joy. As a burnout survivor, she has dedicated her life to researching burnout and pioneering a method for resilience that allows you to harness the power of high levels of stress to fuel lifelong achievement and success. Please help me welcome Dr. Tammy Berry. Tammy, how are you? I’m well. I am great. I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. You know, we got we got to talking offline. And I said, Man, it’s such a coincidence that you live in work in a suburb of Philly. Right. And I actually have two married daughters who live in that same neighborhood. One of them is an OB GYN at Einstein Hospital in Philly. And you worked at Lankenau Hospital in Philly. I mean, really? What a what a small, small world. Unbelievable. So how are things going today?

Tammy: It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day here in Philadelphia.

Ari: There you go. There you go. The only problem is that your Phillies fans and you know, Eagles fans and the like, but I’ll forgive that. As you know,

Tammy: I married into it. Yes. Yeah,

Ari: there you go. I knew you didn’t look like you could be one of those. Anyway, as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers and bricks, the whispers are those voices telling us what the right thing to do is and they represent the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. And we all know that life is not a straight line. There are many ups and downs, many bumps in the road, you know, many bricks that get thrown at us. Now let me let me start with this. Where did you go to high school in college?

Tammy: I grew up in Minnesota. Okay, I went to Hopkins high school. I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison for undergrad and graduate school and loved I mean, I just I love I’ve always loved learning. So that’s just been something that I could have probably stayed in academia forever. If you know, my dad didn’t eventually say we’re not going to pay tuition.

Ari: You know, I get it. I get it. My kids were very much like that. They loved school, and they wanted to stay and it’s like, you know, I had to give them a kick in the pants to keep moving and to get going. So you went to four years of high school, four years of college, then you went to Ross University School of Medicine for four years.

Tammy: And then I did I did actually a two year master’s degrees between undergrad and medical school. Oh, wow. And then I also did a master’s degree after medical school in popular public health.

Ari: Okay, so we got four years High School, four years College, four years medical school, two years master’s degree. You did four year residency in general surgery, Lankenau. Five years, five year residency in general surgery and Lankenau. Alright, you practice medicine for 10 years. And then you just gave it all up. That’s 20 years 20 plus years of studying. Alright, and and working and then you just, you just gave it all up? I mean, you must have been hit with one heck of a brick. All right to do that. Can you share with us what happened? Yeah,

Tammy: yeah. Thank you. Um, you know, it’s interesting because I have stress has been one of those things all along the way. That had been an incredible motivator for me. It rallied all of I think my best resources. I was able to shine when came to testing and challenges, right this pursuit of achievement, I just, I absolutely loved it. And what I didn’t realize at the time is that stress when it becomes fuel like that, when it’s fueling your achievements and your motivation, and it can quickly turn from a motivator to a manipulator. And I had not understood that I was basically kind of a prisoner to the cycle of stress in my life. And that I was born with an incredible capacitor, you know, like, my battery was huge, I could withstand a lot of stress without needing to necessarily know how to resource myself. And I could literally let that stress drive me not understanding what it does to the brain, cognitively, the physical body, right, we move out of that body is either in stress, where it’s preparing for a fight, it’s actually in a state of degeneration as a state of Protection, or the body is in a state of regeneration, where our cells are renewing, we’re protecting our DNA, we’re growing something called polymerase, right. So polymerase, there’s a, there’s an entire genomic expression that goes along with regeneration and renewal that is not cannot be activated cannot be turned on when we’re living in stress. And so it took me a really long time to realize, slowly, my mindset started to change. I went from being fueled by the stress, where I hit a point where i, where i do remember going, Wow, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done that I want to do. I want to do so many things, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough energy, I don’t have enough resources. That’s when you’re living in a really overwhelming stress. Now burnout. So that’s my big brick. My big brick was that I did not understand where stress had gone from a motivator to a manipulator. And now stress had really become burnout. The dialogue goes from, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough resources, there’s not enough of me to go around to I’m not enough, I have somehow failed, I am weak. I have gotten this life thing all wrong. When that moment happened, and I saw what I thought I thought I saw everybody around me doing very well, under a really extreme stress. I didn’t see any other surgeon having a harder time, I felt like I’m the only one. And this is an interesting thing about stress and burnout, it tends to make us feel very isolated, and very critical of ourselves. And suddenly, that when you’re a high achiever, and you hit that point where you feel like a failure, there is so much shame that gets wrapped up into that, into that dynamic, that it’s really the shame that causes the most damage, because now we’re talking about now we’re going from a physical depletion to a mental and an emotional depletion. And when you are tapping all, when you are physically depleted mentally and emotionally depleted, you need the you that is when you absolutely need the right resources, and I didn’t know where to find them. So I had to create them.

Ari: You know, we had to discuss earlier in our first in our first meeting, we discussed that you actually got to a point that you said to me the day I arrived, when I didn’t care if I actually lived or died. Okay, and that scared you big time. Tell us about that. And tell us how you overcame that.

Tammy: Yeah. But that’s when I really knew something had to change. You know, I, because a lot of people that experience burnout, contrary to a lot of the myths about burnout, that people that burning out or weak or that you have somehow failed. Generally the people that are burning out tend to be really the strongest ones. They’re the ones that are at the front saying if they see it that that there’s that somebody needs a volunteer to do something. They’re the first ones to raise their hand. They’re the first ones to take on more burdens than are really theirs to carry. And so when you have always been the fixer, quote unquote, you know, you’re the pillar you’re the one people turn to when they need help you You’re this stable pillar for others, when you go to the place where you can’t be that any longer and you, her terrified to admit it, you know, to actually say that you will trudge along much longer than I think the average person, you know, because you have already set this identity for yourself that it wasn’t in, you know, the reason why this is so important, because there are earlier signs that we can pay attention to before you hit that place where I didn’t, I didn’t get out of bed for almost three months, sorry. I thought I was taking like a two week hiatus from my job. And I basically laid in bed for the next three months. Oh my God, not caring if I lived or I died. My my life partner who was not my husband yet, you know, at the time, this was terrifying to him. He was more worried about me than even I was because I just I had lost my enthusiasm for living life. And if you know me, now you’re that would be such an impossible. I am such a doozy as for life, that it’s almost an impossibility to imagine, like how really this person didn’t get out of bed for three months. Seems seems unfathomable. But it was true. It was absolutely true.

Ari: Wow. So at that point, I mean, obviously, you’re you’re, you’re at the lowest possible, you know, juncture in your life. But again, we also discussed at that point, that’s when the Whisper started to come in. Because I remember you telling me you said your journey towards healing your own life led you to discover some, like deeper truths about yourself about your own life, about the life that we all share. You know, it was through practicing kindness, care, compassion, expanding your awareness, evolving, expanding your consciousness, and staying committed to the process and trusting love yourself and the universe. And that’s when everything for you started to change your life transformed from the inside out. Tell us about that.

Tammy: I think you just did. You just did. You summed it up beautifully. You know, for me, I did not have innocence. I’m almost a little bit embarrassed to admit this right. As a as a person who had studied medicine for so long. I did not appreciate the neurophysiology that was playing beneath the entire spectrum of stress, to burnout, and then the recovery from that. And the Whisper was sort of, yes, you’re right, there was a whisper that was really like, this isn’t the end. This is the end of this chapter. But this isn’t the end. You know, and and that was such an important whisper to listen to. And because I had gotten so quiet, my body literally shut down. That was only that was the only time I was willing to hear the Whisper. You know, in retrospect, that whisper had been whispering for years before I finally hit that point. But I didn’t get I never was willing to hear it. Right. So it was like the bricks are gonna give you if you’re not willing to hear the Whisper. As it whispers the bricks will get bigger and tell you, right?

Ari: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I say it all the time. You know, you can listen to the whispers You can wait for the brick. Right? Because that’s the way it works. And you know, they say that, you know, and that’s the whole point of this podcast is you know, God whispers to our minds and whispers to our hearts. But sometimes we’re so busy running through life. Right? That we don’t have time to listen. So every so often what happens, he throws a brick at us to wake us up and say, Hey, you’re not listening. You know, and, obviously yours. Yours is the perfect story. When it comes to these things. All right, you you got you. You weren’t you just weren’t listening to the whispers and God turned around says you know what? Boom, there you go brick now are you waking up? And, and you know, thank God, you know, thank God that you’re, you know, listening to your story. I say Thank God you’re still with us. Thank God that you overcame that. Those those, you know, those, those, that horrible period, which I would, you know, call a horrible period in your life, and that you were able to change and you’re able to do some good and that’s that’s, that’s kind of like the next part of your story. I guess. Like what what are you doing now?

Tammy: Yeah, I mean, now I’ve dedicated really my life and my work to understanding stress to understanding stress resilience. Specifically, that resilience is a skill set that we can learn, you know, that some of us are, we are all born resilient, right? Like there’s nothing more resilient. I’m a mother of a young child. And there’s a, we are born resilient, right? We are born ready to learn, ready to grow, ready to expand and evolve. And we will, we are constantly stumbling, right? And we’re getting back up. And it is interesting that we, somewhere along the line, unlearn our own resilience. You know, we can’t, we don’t recognize that we need to be resourcing it. And we do that, by Matt really becoming a master of our neurophysiology. When we begin, I work with clients. Now, as a resilience expert. And Coach, I really treat teach people how to gain mastery over the stress in their lives, so that they can understand the neurophysiology that’s taking place, they can understand it in simple scientific terms, so that they become the experimenter of their own life. And there’s amazing technology these days, I use Heart Rate Variability biofeedback monitoring. And this is how people can drink know, in real time, that they’re strengthening their parasympathetic nervous system. So the sympathetic nervous system is activated when we’re in overwhelming stress. Well, the body as beautifully as its created has a counter balancing system called the parasympathetic nervous system. And this is meant to be dominant in the periods after the sympathetic nervous system has been revved. The parasympathetic system acts to counter balance all of the effects of that the effects on the brain, the effects on blood flow, the effects on the heart, the effects on our organs, there’s a, there’s a whole neuro physiological response that takes place when we’re in stress. We’re wired, we’re born this way, with the capacity to counter act all over that. But we have to know how to use it, we have to know how to strengthen it. And I take the question mark out of it, you know, my clients never wonder, Am I doing this, right? They have their own monitor, they’re seeing it in real time. They’re going through the practices that I give them. And they they know, in the moment, that they are, in fact, strengthening their parasympathetic nervous system, they are now going from a stress Maximizer to a stress optimizer. And now their reward, you know, rerouting resources in their brain, to the prefrontal cortex. So now they can make good decisions, they can think clearly, they’re out of this reactive, defensive territorial part of the brain. And then really incredible, and I almost call it magic because it feels like that, but it’s not magic, they’re just fully resource. Now incredible things can happen. They can, they can repattern their neurophysiology now for what they really want. And that’s exciting.

That’s, that’s me. So at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a waste all that studying for medicine and the like, obviously, it wasn’t, it wasn’t a waste because you’re using that your knowledge that you have of the body medicine, etc, and so forth in order to help others try and avoid the situations that you wound up in. Right You’re kind of hitting it off at the past and it’s okay before you get to that suicidal stage. You know, let’s let’s let’s do something and you know, that is that is so amazing and you know, you’re the type of person that this world needs alright, because we’re going especially coming off of COVID people are so stressed there’s they don’t know where to turn that or what to do. They’ve never experienced anything like this. And along comes Dr. Tammy Berry, who’s no longer a doctor why don’t want to say that because she really is his doctor, but no longer practicing medical doctor but she’s got so much knowledge that she can help you if you need to, you know when you need that help. And that is absolutely amazing. In a year an incredible individual. 

Ari: Now, let me ask you something else. If you look back who’s the one person in your life that you can point to? Who had the most influence in your life?

Tammy: My grandfather, yeah, Paul perceive it. I’m sorry. To start my grandfather, his name was Paul perceiving it. And he always told me, ever since I was a little girl, he told me I was born with a billion dollar gift at birth. And if I allow it to flip flop, or be consumed with negative thoughts, it will destroy me. And if I guide it, and use it wisely, it will bring me the greatest happiness. And it was my mind.

Ari: Wow, yeah, wow, he must have been something special. Who is this guy? Really something special.

Tammy: And it’s interesting because we can get knowledge like that like incredible wisdom from those around us. But this gate life is an interesting game where experience ends up ultimately being the greatest teacher. And even though I grew up hearing that all of the time, it wasn’t until I experienced the effects that stress and burnout have on your mind, you lose the capacity until you regulate your neurophysiology. You lose the capacity to shift your thoughts. So they become more negative, they become more cynical, they become more critical and denigrating. I did not know. You know, it took me understanding the science to know oh my gosh, that’s taking place in the anterior cingulate gyrus. This is the part of the brain that’s the gear shifter. If anybody remembers driving a stick shift, you know, the gear shifter for the brain, your ability to shift thoughts is impeded when we are chronically experiencing stress. It’s simply the way we’re wired. Yeah, simply the way we’re wired. If we’re experiencing stress, the body thinks we’re in immediate danger. We’re not contemplating. We’re not trying to shift our thoughts. In fact, we’re wired do not shift your thoughts. Because if you take your eye off this threat, you could, that could be the end of you. Right? So when we start really understanding what stress is here to do to us, and we can, we can become the master of stress. And now stress can work for us.

Wow. Wow. That’s That’s great. That’s what an amazing story. And how was it? How was your child? Do you have a son a daughter? What?

Yeah, my daughter, Maya, she’s two and a half.

Ari: Oh, wow. Wow, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. She’s got one special mom. She’s very, very lucky girl. Let me tell you, cuz she’s good. She’s certainly got a special mom. And if our moms is special, her dad must be very special as well. That’s my field. Yeah.

It’s true.

Let me ask you some.

Keep him even though he’s an Eagles fan will keep them okay.

Ari: Yeah, okay. I just like the same reason I decided to keep my son in law. Who’s, who’s originally from Philly. Yeah. Before we go, let me ask Is there anything else you’d like to share with my audience any words of wisdom?

Tammy: I think, I don’t know if I have much wisdom. But what I do want to say is, go easy on yourself, you know, we make we we are pretty hard drivers on ourselves. And when we are living in that state of stress, when we’re carrying the burden that we don’t need to carry, we are we are really diminishing our own health, our own potential for happiness, and our own potential for success. And we think stress can get us to all of those things. But the problem is, it can’t take you. It can’t. It just can’t take you all the way home. And, you know, for anybody that’s, that’s experiencing any of this, especially if you’re experiencing burnout, I want to say you’re not alone. I want to say there’s no shame here. Your shame is, is really something that you’ve been wired with. So that because we’re social beings, we were meant to live a part of one another. And when shame comes up with this, it’s simply an indication that we need to evaluate how we’re living. So that we can be a part of rather than a part from, you know, separate from.

Ari: Wow, that’s, that’s great. So let me ask you this, obviously, all right. If people want to get in touch with you, what would be the best way to do that? Do you have like a website or email or, you know, what’s the best way to do this?

Tammy: That’s a great Question. I have a website. It’s Dr. Tammy berry calm, Dr. Dr. T A MID roi.com. And there are resources there. There’s a your I’m welcoming you to join my community. And there you can find ways to get in touch with me. You can find my email address, you can join my newsletter. That’s probably the easiest way. Otherwise, you could feel free to email me you know, Tammy ta moi at Dr. Tammy berry.com Again, Dr. T A MIBE roi.com.

Ari:: Great. Okay, so that’s www.Dr. Tammy berry.com, Dr. tamibery.com. And where it’s Tammy at Dr. Tammy berry calm if they want to get in touch with you via email. That’s why

Tammy: I love LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. Follow me on LinkedIn. I’m, I’m putting a lot of stuff on there.

Ari: Okay, awesome. That is really, really great. Tammy, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. Good luck going forward. Good luck with the coaching business. And if you’re suffering from burnout, and you need help, I mean, this is the person to go to Dr. Tammy Berry. She is the we know she’s got 20 plus years of medical experience behind her. She’s not just a run of the mill coach, but she’s a medical doctor as well. So she knows what she’s doing. And if you’ve got a problem, I mean, this is this is your this is the stop. This is where you need to go. So Tammy, thank you again. Good luck going forward. You’ve been listening to us busy bricks and I’m your host diary Schoenbrunn. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.