• Cait Donovan

Erika Ferszt: Eyesight Issues, Mood Regulation, and Burning Out When You're 'Happy'


“I lost my vision working for a company that provides vision,” says Erika Ferszt, Founder of Moodally and former Media & Digital Director at Ray-Ban. During her ten years at Ray-Ban, Erica loved her job, loved the people she was working with and for, and loved her life...or so she thought. Then, one morning Erika woke up with no vision in her right eye, and the immense stress of her work life began to catch up with her. While Erika thought she was “happy,” her body was telling her otherwise.


After doctors concluded that her vision loss was stress-related and due to her working lifestyle, Erika decided to quit her job and re-evaluate her priorities. She returned to school to study the effects of stress on the mind, body and brain and learned about mood induction, the scientific process of altering participants’ mood states. This inspired Erika to create Moodally, a company that brings this approach beyond the bounds of scientific studies and offers innovative, science-backed mood management solutions for the workplace.


Tune into this week’s episode of FRIED. The Burnout Podcast to hear more about how Erika’s burnout story led to the founding of her company. Learn about the science behind Erika’s vision loss, how our thoughts (whether conscious or subconscious) dramatically impact our bodily reactions, and how our mood informs just about every aspect of our day.


Quotes

  • “I lost my vision working for a company that provides vision.” (13:13-13:17)

  • “I think one of the things that’s probably most misunderstood about burnout is that the assumption is that it’s a psychological breakdown. And that can be one of the ways that it manifests, but it is a physiological issue.” (18:09-18:25)

  • “One of the first things that I learned to do [after quitting my job] was to acknowledge what I needed and not feel guilty about giving it to me.” (20:25-20:32)

  • “Who are you when the title goes away, when the employees go away, when the money goes away?” (23:48-23:58)

  • “When you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t have to see the final destination...you just have to see enough road in front of you to get you to the next step.” (29:10-29:25)

  • “Where everything ladders up to is your thoughts. The thoughts are sort of the command center for the reactions in your body. There is a cognitive element to stress: you subconsciously and automatically decide that whatever is coming at you is greater than your capacity to handle.” (35:02-35:25)

  • “Music is the easiest gimme I can give you ....Outside of laughter, it’s the fastest technique to shift you into a better mood.” (52:08-52:20)


Links

www.moodally.com

https://www.instagram.com/moodally.wellness/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/erikaferszt/


XOXO,

C


If you know that it’s time to actually DO something about the burnout cycle you’ve been in for too long - book your free consult today: bit.ly/callcait


Podcast production and show notes provided by HiveCast.fm


TRANSCRIPT


Caitlin Donovan

Hello FRIED fans and welcome to season four of FRIED the burnout podcast. I'm your host Cait Donovan and my mission with FRIED is to hashtag and burn out culture. On this pod, we end burnout culture by sharing stories of people who have been through it all sharing expert tips from the best in the burnout field, sharing hashtags straight from key episodes with my own expertise and some fun research now that I'm a student again, plus sharing actionable steps to help you end burnout starting today. If you're feeling burnt out right now and you need personalized guidance, you can book a free breakthrough burnout call with me, you'll find the link Bitly backslash call Cait in the show notes. Also, if you love FRIED and want to be part of our community, we'd love to have you just head over to Facebook and type in FRIED the burnout, podcast discussion, and click to join our group. It's a place for continued healing deeper conversations and connections with people who just get it. And now for this week's episode. Hello FRIED fans, I'm so excited. Today we are going to spread our wings slightly here at fried today because my work is so often centered on the individual. Even though I'm well aware of the organizational issues that play into burnout.. We haven't talked too much about how to address those organizational issues. So after today's guest shares her burnout story, we're gonna jump into that a little bit more. And I'm so excited to get that going. We're also we also have some episodes coming up in the beginning of the new year on the same topic, to give people a little bit more hope and a little bit more information about what companies are actually doing to make things better. And they are trying some of them. So, you know, just keep that in mind. Not all of them. Some of them are trying. So today, I'm going to chat with Erika first who is the founder of mood ally, providing mood management solutions for the workplace. Don't you love that mood management? I just love the way that sounds after having suffered a stress-related vision loss burnout instant in 2015 that forced her to leave her role as global advertising media and digital director at ray-ban. Erika returned to school to study the effects of stress on the mind, body, and brain. So we have that in common, which I love. She completed a post-grad program in the neuroscience of mental health and a Master of Science in Organizational Psychology. Mood allies product offering includes employee training, guest speaking and a proprietary app to help employees shift their mood in real-time to improve their well-being and performance. Erica?


Erika Ferszt

Well, thank you for having me. I'm so excited to have this conversation.


Caitlin Donovan

So why don't we start as we always do and find the burnout Podcast with your burnout story. Take the stage take as much time in space as you need. I have been accused of interrupting occasionally and I will not promise you that I won't.


Erika Ferszt

That's okay. I'm in I live in Italy. I'm used to it feel free. Okay. Um, okay, so my burnout story. It all started when the truth is, and this is one of the things that I like to stress the most because I think sometimes we can confuse burnout stories. I loved my job. Loved it, like perhaps I loved it too much, which is the problem. But I loved my job. And I loved the people that I was working with. I love the people that I was working for I loved what I was doing. There was nothing about my job that was bad.

And if there were a couple of things like you know, the stars lined up in a way that it was time to change path. But if that hadn't happened, I would still be there. So it's not always you work for a terrible boss, you're in a toxic environment. It can happen without you having any idea that it's on its way. So I just want to preface that because you know, it's some it's one of the rare things I think in burnout. We do hear a lot of like, my boss was terrible, the place is terrible, I hated my job, etc, etc, which are obvious emotional labor things that cause us to die down. Mine came out of nowhere. And actually what happened was out of nowhere, yes or no, I had kind of been like, I I turned 40 Shortly before and as his want for middle age, I was really questioning a lot of things. My daughter was about to be an adolescent and I remembered that I got into a lot of trouble around that age because I didn't have eyes on me, you know, so sort of typical Gen X latchkey kid from New York City.

So it was important for me not to be like a hounding mother but just, you know, to see what's going on and I. So I kind of realized that because I loved my job so much, the only friends I had were work-related. And I had been divorced for 10 years, there was absolutely no possibility to even consider having another relationship between my work and my daughter. There just wasn't time and then forget about self-care that was not an option in existence, like literally in existence. And I didn't notice the absence of it to be perfectly honest, because I thought I was very happy. So I had already started discussing with the people with my boss, who is a very dear friend of mine, we're still very close friends today.


How I could shake my role, how it could be different, I wanted to do less hours, I wanted to work on less brands, I wanted to have less reports. And so I was already starting to kind of take care of myself. And then one morning, I woke up and I couldn't see out of my right eye. And because I only go to the doctor, like if my arm is like literally like falling out. I try and put it off as much as possible, because I'm like, the body will fix itself. And if it's serious, I'll know And but I thought that was weird, you know, and I thought maybe it's the sun or something. And I go to this meeting, and we're reading legal documents, and or I needed to be paying full attention. And I'm sitting there like the whole time covering up my eye and uncovering it. Like, am I really like going blind? Or is this you know, what is it? So I start to freak out a little bit. And because everyone on my mother's side passed away from strokes, I was like, I should probably take this mildly seriously. So I start Googling, right Dr. Google never a good idea when your


eggs and and there are things that it's a pre actus and our pre-stroke and whatever. And I was like, Alright, fine, I'll go to the doctor. So I go to the doctor has been the entire day there have numerous tests. And at the end of the day, they announced that I cannot see out of my right eye. And I was like, I knew that already. Thank God, I didn't go to medical school.


Anyway, so I'm like, Yes, I know. And what do we think? And they're like, Well, we have to check you into the hospital immediately for tests. Now. Um, so there's a funny story. It's kind of indicative of my character. But yeah, I would still do it today. Anyway, I was having a birthday party that night. And I had people from all over the world who had literally come, because it was like, we had like organized meetings and stuff around my birth. So I did it on purpose when there would be other people around. And I said to the doctor, I was like, ah, could I come tomorrow, like tonight's really not good, but I couldn't be back tomorrow. And I'll check into the hospital tomorrow. And he looked at me like kind of like, I was insane. And I was like, if it's a do or die thing, I'll come tonight. And I was like, but if it's not, you know, if I'm not gonna die between now and tomorrow, can I come tomorrow? And he said, Okay, just go, go get your cortisone shots, and you'll be fine. So that's a whole other story about how the only people you can get to give you cortisone shots on no notice is nurses and nuns in Italy, but I'll save that for another day.


So I ended up in the hospital, they do 10 days of testing. And at this point, like even the people in the testing center are like, Why are you still here? And the bottom line was they couldn't find anything wrong with me. There was nothing physiologically wrong with me. Yes, a piece of my optic nerve had burned out. And data was not being processed as quickly as it should be. Which I learned after when I went to study the neuroscience of mental health, then I actually learned what happened and why it happened. This is actually why I went to school in the first place. So I finally got my answer. But they there was nothing that was wrong with me. So they kept like upping the level of seriousness of tests. And I had one of those lumbar punctures, which I had heard of from Dr. House, like everybody seemed to have a lumbar puncture. So I got one two, and it's the oddest thing ever uncomfortable. Never have.


But that was like nothing that was like everything was clean. They couldn't find anything. So they wouldn't give me any preliminary diagnosis. They released me finally even though they didn't want to they want to keep testing because they're like, We don't know what they thought it was Ms. But I didn't respond to any of the other symptoms. And so they kept an eye on me for a while. And I was doing like regular CAT scans and stuff and they were like, ultimately, we've just concluded that it was stressful related that given your, your lifestyle and the amount of time you work that it was probably led to some sort of vitamin deficiency, which led to a problem with the myelin sheath around the optic nerve, which burnt out and, and here you are


Caitlin Donovan

Literally burnt out. Like, literally burnt out.



Erika Ferszt

I had a short circuit, and it was funny, because when the doctor was explaining it to me, you know, short circuit in my optic nerve, I was very, I was like, oh, okay, then I called the first and I called when I got out of the hospital was my acupuncturist, because I was like, she'll know how to fix this. And I did, my eyesight came back within three weeks, and the doctors were like, we don't think you could possibly never recover your eyesight. Fortunately, I was back in three weeks. So 10 points for acupuncture. Exactly. And it's funny, because people are always like, oh, that's kind of like weird stuff. And I was like, it's circuitry, like, we have circuits in our, you know, it's just electrician, an electrician of the body.


Caitlin Donovan

It's amazing what acupuncture can do. I'm still amazed by it. I've been doing it for 15 years. And I'm still shocked on a regular basis by what acupuncture can do for people. And I've read the stats. I know, I know what it can do. I've seen it do such amazing things that you'd think I would think it was normal by now. But you take these little metal sticks. And you put them in places that are not even necessarily close to what you're treating. Right. And people get better. It's so wild. It's such an I'm so glad that that's part of your story. That's such a cool, a cool thing to share. But I have a question. Yeah, the question came up. So he said, the doctor said that maybe it was this? Maybe it was that for the vitamins, you know, lack of connection? We're not sure why. And then you went to school? And you said you got an answer. So what was the answer?


Erika Ferszt

So the answer is that you we have a protective sheath of fat around some of our primary, communicative nerves, and the optic nerve is one of them. And what happens when that protective layer, much like and this is a very unattractive image, but it's right when a mouse eats through the wires, or the pretend the plastic coating around the wires that it starts short-circuiting, that's basically the same thing because that sheath is meant to allow messages to travel very quickly. And when there are pieces of it missing, eroded, then that it's like a skip in the data. So it moves slower. And that's what was happening is there was like the, the information that was passing along my optic nerve was traveling much slower and having this sort of like diversion in the middle. Yeah. And so when I saw that, because that that that's what happens also in multiple sclerosis, right, that there's the myelin sheath that gets damaged in multiple different places in mine happened to be the optic nerve,


Caitlin Donovan

This is so critical, considering you were working for Ray-Ban.


Erika Ferszt

For a company that provides vision Yes, I lost my vision working for a company that provides vision. I mean, just versus nothing, if not a comic.


Caitlin Donovan

But this is really serious, like we're talking about, if you were not someone who, for instance, did something like acupuncture, like Western medicine doesn't always believe that violence sheets can be repopulated right on nerves, like there's a belief that once they're gone, they're gone. Acupuncture doesn't believe that we learned that in school that we have a little more a little more control than the no control at all. But if you were not somebody to use alternative medicines, like you might have lost her eyesight in an eye because of stress that you didn't even know you were having because you were liking your job.


Erika Ferszt

Right? Yes. So there's I do consider myself to be sort of one of the lucky ones. Yeah, um, and I don't want to I don't want to hate on medicine. No, I love medicine. But I have always been someone who is I like to know all the answers, not just the one answer. So you know if yes, I studied this religion. My parents are born again, Christians, but I would also like to know what this religion is about what this religion is about. And why do they all have the same foundation story? Yeah . Like, I like to see what else is being told.

And so I was opened, like when the guy told me and they gave me a whole list of medications to take, and I had already when I walked out of there after taking one gram of cortisone every day for six for 10 days, I'd put on six kilos. My face was like, hideous and I just felt it like I, I didn't feel ill when I got there. I just couldn't see. And then when I left, I couldn't see. And I felt ill also. So I was like, I did an enormous detox, like only eating like macrobiotic foods. And until I could feel that the cortisone was out of my body. Yeah.


But I was as soon as he said the word short circuit. I was like, it's cool. I know what to do. Because and that's, I mean, you know, the truth is, I can't speak to whether the myelin sheath has been reconstructed or not. What I can speak to is that you can redirect, right? There's the root of the information. And I do know, it's funny because I started tracking because it would happen again, every now and then, like, my eyesight would start to flicker. And I noticed it always happened in April, like the first two weeks in April, which I happen to be extremely allergic. So I was gonna say have an allergy. Yeah. And so I went to a doctor like, so my eyesight is flickering again, I go into a doctor. I don't even know why. I mean, I think I needed him to write me a script to get another cat scan. But he's like, he wanted to check me into the hospital again. I was like, Dude, it's clear. Like is we have a pattern now? It happens every April. So obviously, it's connected to my allergies. And and something like that. Yeah.


Caitlin Donovan

Which makes so much sense.I mean, of course,


Erika Ferszt

I mean, the whole, the whole thing is like my immune system is suppressed. And there's overdose of histamines. There's too much going on in my body,


Caitlin Donovan

The extra fluid around the


Erika Ferszt

Yeah, I mean, of course, right. And this is all infected.


Caitlin Donovan

Exactly. So there's local inflammation. And there you go. So now let's take a step back.


Erika Ferszt

But the doctor was like, No, you're insane. He was like, You need to just check. You need to check into the hospital. I mean, I feel bad that he was an older gentleman, but and I didn't want to be like sassy because I was studying neuroscience. And I was like, I definitely know more about this than you do. So I'm going to just thank you for your time and bye.


Caitlin Donovan

So I want to go back to this idea that you were happy. Yes. Right. Because this is, this is something that is really confusing for people, often, yes, very often. So I work mostly with female entrepreneurs as coaching clients. And very often they're like, but I have this very successful business. Like, I'm not over. I'm not really overworking. Like, I feel like everything's okay. Don't understand why this is happening to me. So, what do you think happened? With the stress? What was it overwork? Was it under care? Was it what the heck was going on? And if it wasn't that you were miserable than what was happening for you?


Erika Ferszt

I think I had sort of a perfect storm of situations. And I think one of the things that's probably most misunderstood about burnout is that it's the assumption is that it's like a psychological breakdown. Right? And that can be one of the ways that it manifests, but that it is a physiological issue. Yeah. And, and so there is your body who literally just cannot keep up with certain rhythms anymore. Perhaps you're not sleeping properly. I was also one of those people who was like, working 16 hours a day, you could call me at any hour of the day, I would respond. I never took a day off. And in order to sort of calm down, I would have to go out and like, stay out all night. Yeah, stay out all night with my friends. And then sleep sleep all day, like one Sunday every month just like sleep.Just literally the opposite of help. My daughter was at her husband's I just want to put that out that her father's for so shatter my ex husband. Yeah.


Caitlin Donovan

If she had a husband at that age, that might be a little


Erika Ferszt

Did I say it her husband's? No. That was psychological was?


Caitlin Donovan

Well, and I think it's important to say like, oh, so often there are emotional symptoms during burnout. But those emotional symptoms are also based on physiological issues.


Erika Ferszt

Yes, and also ignored, because I was also one of those people who I wouldn't say at that point in my life, I was at a high level of emotional intelligence. I'm one of those people who has always been extremely attuned to other people's feelings and other people's moods, which they say is a trauma response from childhood. Yeah. But I never know risk factor. Right. Perfect. And I but I never knew how it . I was feeling. So I wasn't tuned into my own body, I wasn't tuned into what I needed. And even if I was like, the days when I was like, I'm too tired, I'd be like, just get up, like, go do it anyway. And one of the first things I did in that period after, you know, like, I left my job, and that's a whole other ball of wax. But one of the first things that I learned to do was to acknowledge what I needed and not feel guilty about giving it to me. So if I was like, I don't feel like getting out of bed today. Not in a depressed like, I can't face the world way. But I just like, I don't really feel like getting out of bed. Once upon a time, I've been like, No, you have to get out. You got to do this. And you got to do this. And I've started to learn that like, um, you know what, I'm not going to get out of bed today. I get to watch Netflix today. And we'll see what happened. It was like, we'll see the world crumble. And it never did. It's showing that .


Caitlin Donovan

It doesn't, though, isn't it? You're like, but I thought I was holding it up. And the world is like, Yeah, but you weren't. And you're like, Oh, I'm more important than that. Right? And the world is like, exactly.


Erika Ferszt

Yeah, there's definitely some ego worked into there as well.


Caitlin Donovan

For me, it was a huge amount of ego work, which is really confusing, because I had a very similar situation to you where I was so in tune to everybody else's needs that I was abandoning myself emotionally, mentally, and, you know, psychologically all the time. So I couldn't meet my own needs, wants desires, preferences, because I had no idea what they were because I wasn't talking, paying attention. And at the same time, it was arrogant and egotistical. Because I was like, I'm so in tune with other people that I was making loads of assumptions about what other people needed. And like I was wrong a lot.


Erika Ferszt

Yeah, it's more just also like, no, they need me like, they wouldn't be able to do it. If I'm not there. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yes. Which is all part of the whole toxic productivity thing, which I talked about frequently these days seems to be a hot topic.


Caitlin Donovan

It is a hot topic right now. But it's important. So you went through this whole process, you started learning how to hear what your body was saying, not only here, but also listen and attend to, and there's a lot you can respond to right, because those are those are various stages, I believe. Yes. And you left your job during that time. I did. Yes. And then what?


Erika Ferszt

Well, that's a great, then what? Because you're not prepared, I wasn't prepared for it. Right. And I did have I would say it's probably as close to a depressive episode that I could ever get. I'm not someone who's naturally depressed person by nature. Um, so I would say that's probably the closest that I've gotten, where it's like, all of a sudden, I kind of felt like I was in a bell jar, because there was just so much silence, all of a sudden, from going from 500 emails a day from being on a plane every single week to the chaos of 50 people asking you questions all day long. to nothing, like literally nothing.

And no one needs you. No one's looking for you. No one needs to give you this update, or what's your opinion? Or what do you think about this? You've got nowhere to go. There are no flight plans, like, what? And when you've done that for 10 years, and it's such an integral part of your identity. Who are you? When the title goes away when the employees go away? When the money goes away? You know, and it was this very, very strange time for me to get used to. Not being needed or that or not just like not being stimulated all day long. And so I decided to renovate an apartment.


Caitlin Donovan

Of course, such a reasonable response, Erica,


Erika Ferszt

I was like, you know, I'm gonna take some time off and joy. I'm going to renovate an apartment, which I'd actually never done because everything like my apartment that I live in, in the city was like, I bought it now. But we had just me and my ex husband actually as divorcees had bought an apartment at the beach to leave to our daughter obviously. And it had to be redone. So I was like, alright, I'll do that. And that was, man, I'm I missed working. That was insane.But I did it. And at least I think that actually saved me a little bit. Now, there is a teeny bit of irony in here. Because

ending up in the hospital for 10 days became the trauma in between the trauma of leaving my company. So when I looked back on that period, and I actually think and this is an insane thing to say, I think it would have been harder for me emotionally, if I hadn't ended up in the hospital in in the middle, you would have never left I don't think, know, for sure not. And, and I mean, ultimately, after I left, there was change management, and then everyone started leaving, because even when I was like, Maybe I should go back, you know? Yeah, it was like the town had burned down, there was nothing to go back to right. Um, and, and but looking at things in retrospect, I was like, that was worse than the thought of leaving this. So that kind of helped me deal with that emotional detachment. And it was very, very hard, especially for, you know, like, living the highlight, you know, it's, um, wasn't a celebrity at all, but like a corporate, you know, manager to go back to, like, just Feeding My Kid every day was, you know, was very bizarre. Yeah. Yeah. And not being important to anyone.


Caitlin Donovan

Yeah. Well, and like you're saying, like, you're you weren't stimulated all day, your nervous system wasn't put on fire all day, every day, like it had been years and years and years. And right. When the nervous system needs to feel safety. It goes for the familiar, right. Not always what's actually safe. Right, right. Right. Right.


Erika Ferszt

Better the devil. You know,


Caitlin Donovan

Your nervous system often thinks so. Yeah. Until you trained it otherwise. Right. But that's 100 word adjustment.


Erika Ferszt

It was definitely detox and it felt like a detox. Yeah. And it felt like every day it got a little bit better. Yeah. To the point where I, I, I started consulting and, and the thought of like, getting on a train to go two hours for a meeting. I was like,


Caitlin Donovan

oh, yeah, like so far.


Erika Ferszt

I have. I've flown to Australia for one night, you know, and the thought of going two hours on a chain was like, oh my god, how am I going to do this? Yeah, so I definitely readjusted all of my there was a recalibration process. Yes. Or recalculated? Everything. Yeah.



Caitlin Donovan

And then when Did Did you get a job in between that and mood li or did Moodle? I like come out of that time. What? Wow, okay, did that happen?


Erika Ferszt

Sorry. So we do say it's moodily your Moodle ally. So they're both alright.


Caitlin Donovan

Sorry about that. I did not ask for clarification on that, normally.


Erika Ferszt

But it it is moodily your mood allies? So okay, they're both they're both right.

Um,so. So truth be told, um, I had zero intention. And when I say zero, I mean zero intention of starting a company. None whatsoever. And if you told me in 2017, that I'd be here now, I would have told you that you are out of your mind. So so always keep your mind open to what could happen because you literally never know. Especially like science. Like for me to now have a degree in science. If you talk to anyone who knew me in high school or university, that'd be like, but like, no wrong, wrong woman, definitely wrong woman. Um, but it happened. It was one of those things that like

dominoes, like, I read somewhere, I don't remember where that like when you don't know where you're going. You don't have to see the final destination. You It's like driving at night, you don't have to see the final destination. You just have to see enough road in front of you to get you to the next step. And I had no idea where I was, I knew something was going to change. I knew I was gonna land somewhere and I knew I wasn't landed yet. But I had no idea what was gonna happen and the only thing I knew I had to do was kind of like, follow my instincts, which is what I've always done to when I pick up schools when I picked jobs is like is Is this something I feel passionate about? Is this something I know I can do well, and that I'm going to be interested in because if I'm not interested in it, it's It's dead before I even start.

So I had, I had gone to this Web Summit in Dublin, I think in 2016, maybe 2015 Doesn't matter. But I saw this neuroscientist speak. And it was like, like, literally like my head exploded. I kept looking around the room like to everybody else, like, Are you as amazed they were not they were waiting for the Samsung presentation, which was right after. But I it was like he was It was like he was reading my thoughts and not only reading them, but giving me the answers to so many questions that I'd had about, like how the mind works, and how perception works and how we live our lives based on very specific thought patterns and, and whatever. And it was very interesting. And so we kind of collaborated a little because he was kind of working into getting into market, like, I had the expertise he needed. And he had the information that I needed. And one day, I got an announcement on my phone for this program, his postgraduate program at King's College, for the neuroscience in mental health. And I was like yes. And it's like, I can do it from home. So I can stay home. I don't have to fly to London, like it was just everything that I needed. Exactly when I needed it. And I always kind of know now like when I'm doing the right things, because then it's like the impossible is possible. So I, I signed up, I signed up for the class now in a very sort of typical New Yorker, X, New Yorker fashion, you know, we know like three things. And that's it, like, everything is in New York, and then everything else is just somewhere else. So I had never heard of King's College, which is I know it's an it's an aberration to say right now. But I had never heard of King's College. So I just kind of thought it was like, I thought it was a great program.


Caitlin Donovan

But like, you're like University of Phoenix, meanwhile, it's like King's College.


Erika Ferszt

Yeah, I thought it was just like a school. Yeah. And, um, and so I'm taking like the first course. And it's really, really, really hard. And there's like, lots of reading, like lots of reading. And so I start Googling, like this is I've already started the course I start Googling King's College. And for neuroscience, like for this sector, they are number two behind the car behind Harvard. And I was like, I was like, it's a good thing. I didn't Google beforehand, because I wouldn't have signed up for the program. So I take this program, many, many tears shed, because try at 43 years old trying to go back to school and learn and learn neuroscience.


Caitlin Donovan

Without a science background, like I'm doing that now, but it's pretty easy for me because I I already know the anatomy. I already know the terminology. I've been talking about these things for years. So I'm not, I'm not lost. But I did have that thought this week. We're doing it as neurotransmitters we're covering neurotransmitters this week. Like, oh, I know everything cool. Yeah, like I learned that already. I know this stuff. When I was sitting there thinking if I didn't know this already, I'm learning of course, I'm learning things in it. There's things that I that I'm not aware of, but the all the basics I'm well aware of. And I thought to myself, I didn't know this, I would be reading this like it was a foreign language and I speak multiple foreign languages. And I was just like, I would not, I don't know that I would be able to do it if I didn't have the science background already.


Erika Ferszt

Yes. And so let me let me tell you, this is where my ego is my friend because I was like, I am not going to let this school that I've never heard of get the best of me

and so even though I had to read like this the contents four or five times before I even minimally comprehended what was being said, I did it through mid academic writing is my I am a great writer. If you give me like, tell me 7000 words stream of consciousness whatever you want. 7000 words academic, it's going to take me six months and and I will be cursing at the paper the entire time.

Anywho that that is that program. But while I'm taking this class, we come across stress like we start studying stress, right and the effect that stress has on the body and the emotions and everything and then. Ultimately, where everything ladders up to is your thoughts that the thoughts are in sort of the command center for the reactions in your body. And that there is a cognitive element to stress that you subconsciously and automatically decide that whatever is coming at you is is greater than your capacity to handle. And so I always give the example to people like, if I tell you that tomorrow, you have to teach a class of 15, four year olds on how to draw, that's not going to stimulate your stress response unless you know, you hate


Caitlin Donovan

I mean, that would stimulate my stressors. That's a horrifying prospect for me,


Erika Ferszt

If you don't like being around kids, but in terms of like, Am I able to do that, like you're quite comfortable with your ability to teach somebody how to color. However, if I tell you that, like the CEO of something is coming in, he wants to go over or she wants to go over the budget numbers, that's like, Oh, God, I could fail, I could have made a mistake, it could be wrong, maybe they don't like me that. And so there's all these thoughts that kick in that then cause a whole cascade of issues that we're completely not conscious of. And so one of the things that they were talking about, was that if you can change the thought, shift the thought, then that's the off switch to everything that happens here. And I found that to be so fascinating. A because the Buddhists have been saying it for 5000 years. And it's so, so lovely that neuroscience has caught up. But yeah, you know, I was like, okay, but there's no finally, especially for people who avoid topics like this, because it sounds too woowoo or too hippie, or too, whatever. The fact that it is now grounded in demonstrable science is a game changer. And that's what I was always thing because I did a little bit of like, personal coaching in my in between my things. And I would talk to a lot of people, and they were like, That's too spiritual for me. And I was like, Okay, how can I rephrase these things, like take out the spiritual hot buttons, and just deliver the usefulness of it without all the kind of like judge Enos over the language that's being used. And so I was like, with the backing of neuroscience, this is actually something that an audience that's reticent to listen to these things to these topics, would actually might, might be more open to. So this is like where the my seed gets planted. And then they talk about oh, so then I start talking about how they test like stress and reactions and how we know the effect that they have on our cognitive processes and stuff like that. And obviously, you can't do scientific testing in real life, because you'd have to have a team of scientists waiting in the corner for you to be like, Okay, I'm stressed now, like, hook me up. So they bring you in to clinical setting, they make you go through a mood induction to either put you in a good mood or a bad mood or a sad mood. They run their tests, and then afterwards, they put you into another mood induction, neutral mood, you go on your way. And I'm thinking of this mood induction as what is this magic potion that like I can come in, in a sad mood, and you can make me happy? And then my, my responses are all fantastic. When I said, Well, if you can do that, in a clinical setting, why can't you do it in real life? Let's find out what mood induction is. So I go and I dig. And I realized it's creative materials, its videos, its images, its music, its language. And I was like, This is what I've been winning awards for for the last 25 years of my life. And so I get this idea, I sort of triangulate all of my experiences. And I was like, I think I can produce creative materials that can be used to divert and redirect people's thought processes in real time to stop without them knowing anything about stress or having to go through meditation or any of the other crap that they don't want to talk about. Not that it's crap, but I get that it could actually be palatable to an audience that wouldn't normally be attracted to tools like this. And so I bring it to there's a university here in, in Milan that specializes in discrete emotions. And I get in touch with one of the women who works there. She's a PhD professor there, and I show her my my whole spiel when I was like, here's, here's my thinking, here's what I think. Here's what I want to do. Am I nuts? And she looks at me she kind of has this funny reaction, which was like a little rude but a little not. And she was like, she's like, it's so simple. And yet no one's ever thought of it before.


Caitlin Donovan

Those are always the best ideas.


Erika Ferszt

The scientists can never give it to you as one, you know? Yeah, that's fine. So I was like, so it's a good idea. And she's like, it's a great idea. And I said, Okay, I'm gonna go do it. So I do I get together a production team. And then No, actually, that's not true. First, I started with the whole startup shit, like, yeah, trying to pitch decks and yeah, seas and Dota. And that made me this close to burning out again. Because a it was my body saying like, No, this that's not what I don't want to be in that world. I don't want to be around those people. This isn't why we started this, like, I didn't want to go out and be like Mark Zuckerberg, I wanted to just have like, a positive impact on a very specific community. And I spent my days talking about money, and cap sheets, and co founders and bla, intentions axing and whatever. And I was like, no. So first thing I'm going to do, I'm going to bootstrap this and just pay for it by myself. Because that way, I can at least guarantee that it gets done properly. Because since there is like a whole scientific backbone to it, the investors were already like, oh, and then we can do this. And then we can do this, then we're gonna do that. You know, it's like the classic kind of show, when you see like, in the movies, when the guy pays for the movie, he has to put in his like, Girl for his hot girlfriend and the lead role kind of thing. So they were all like, oh, and I have this idea for this, and this idea for that. And I was like, but it has to be done according to scientific parameters are, it's pointless. It's just, you know, us making movies. We can do that anywhere I like, at that point, I'll just download youtube. Um, so I'm gonna make it by myself and do it the way I know it needs to be done. And then we'll take it from there. So I make this app, which I almost did burn out twice. I nearly had a nervous breakdown making the app because having to deal with developers, and we'll save that for another episode. But I my hat is off to anyone. Especially who doesn't come from a technical background, who ventures off into that field? Because it is very hard.


Caitlin Donovan

It is very hard. I've gone down there multiple times and not finished one yet.


Erika Ferszt

Yeah. And you just come across so many unfortunately, stereotypical characters. And there's so many, I mean, I guess this isn't anywhere, there's just so many not nice people along the way. And you have to watch your back all the time, I got screwed over by multiple people who were friends of friends. You know, that was my thing. I was like, at least if I'm working with a friend of a friend, like, there's a trust thing there. No, there's no trust anyway. So it's very, it's like the wild west out there. So good luck to anyone who wants to venture out into that, um, I finished this app. And I don't know what to do with it. And. And, again, it's like my, I'm looking at my choices. And the people that I'm talking to who want to treat it as an app or like, have a very specific timeline needs now needs to be fast and used to get out this needs to get out that and I was like, I don't want to move slow. But I also don't like I don't necessarily think this fail fast thing is a good thing. Because I think if you think twice before you do it, you can actually avoid the failure. And I won't get a second chance to do this, right. So I have to get it right the first time. And if that's the case, then I need to think it through properly and move at my own pace that I'm comfortable with. So I continue to operate alone. And I said, Alright, fine. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to teach because it it takes on value when you understand the rest of it. Otherwise, it's just like, if you look at it, and you don't know anything about it, it's just an app with content on it. And the content works because everyone that that uses it comes back to me is like I was really surprised. There's a lot of skepticism around it. I was really surprised, but it works. And I'll be honest, the first time I used it to I mean, I was confident in the theory but like you know there's a first time you use it like so I had one of those like in life things. I had a meeting that was coming up. I was very nervous about it. I was starting to get like really agitated and I was like, Ooh,

let me try.


Caitlin Donovan

Try my own little app over here.


Erika Ferszt

Let me try my app and I remember texting my daughter and I was like oh my god it really really works. And she was like, maybe don't say that. You're so surprised. But I, you know, you go from, from the horse's mouth. Um, so yeah, so I added on kind of like speaking in person coming in to do lectures or keynote speaking are teach classes. And the feedback I get from everybody the same, I hear the same word every single time I do a speech is that it's fascinating, because none of what I'm saying anyone has any idea about like, and it's such integral stuff that like your mood affects your entire day. On top of everything that you know, like your productivity hacks, or your diet hacks or this hack, if your moods in the wrong space, everything that comes after is tainted. So once people learn this, they're like, Oh, my God, like, I need to start paying attention to this more often. So that's the very long version of how I got here.


Caitlin Donovan

I love it. So now you're still in that same space where you're doing keynotes and you're going into companies and you're teaching this stuff? And then


Erika Ferszt

yes, well, technically, I haven't like November 2021 is my one year anniversary. Yeah, so we're on grand baby.


Caitlin Donovan

Yeah, like it just despite, you still look like a baby, please.


Erika Ferszt

Could be the filters.


Caitlin Donovan

We love a good filter. We do love a good filter and have a good phone.


Erika Ferszt

So yeah, I've had I gave myself kind of like a benchmark like, but you don't reach this within the first year, then you actually have to go look for a job because I've been consulting and freelancing for about six years now. And I can't do that forever. So um, but I not only met my benchmarks, but I exceeded them. So and I have nothing but like really good feedback coming in and people are interested in and the topic is obviously very Zeitgeist right now.


Caitlin Donovan

So yeah, especially right now. So who's your target person? Like, who's the person that should reach out to you and be like, This is what we need? Are you looking at HR leaders? Are you looking at C suite levels? Are you looking at mid level managers that can bring it to their teams? Like, who's who's the target audience?


Erika Ferszt

Well, there's kind of, um, so core core core, what I'm focusing on right now, which I see as sort of the formula that is most comfortable to companies is coming in as a guest speaker at either one of their marketing events, or planning events, or customer relations events. I just did a bunch of meetings for an a giant global bank, where I met with all of their relationship managers to talk about how mood impacts not only them and how they show up to their meetings, but also their clients. And if their client is in a bad mood at the end of the meeting their science behind this, they can question their loyalty to the relationship. And so and it was amazing, because, you know, when you talk to bankers, or like the last kind of group, you would think would resonate with this. And they all have reached out to me like so positive. Like that was amazing. Because it's really sort of concrete. Like I said, like, there's none of the woowoo about it. It's but it's like answers to stuff that you were maybe like, should I be feeling this way? What do I do about this? And it turns out, and this is why I kind of love it, because it's great for performance. So I mean, let's be honest, companies do like to take care of their employees, but they love to take care of business. So this isn't like just a well being tool. Because if your persons in the right mood, they perform way better than they would if they're in a bad mood. On top of that, it's also good for them. So it's like, it's perfect for everyone doing one single thing. Yeah, exactly. So I've been, I would say whoever is sort of like the decision maker, in terms of who comes to speak in the organization, is sort of where I'm focusing my attention right now. I've been talking to a lot of like, chief innovation officers like it's used it, I find that the companies who are sort of on the cutting edge of innovation who are always looking towards tomorrow are the ones that are most

interested.


Caitlin Donovan

Yeah. Which is the same for my work at the moment. And then is this something also that individual people can download and use?


Erika Ferszt

Not at the moment? It's only available through the organization? Yes.


Caitlin Donovan

Okay. All right. So I just I know that there's a couple of people that are disappointed right now because they're thinking I want that right now.


Erika Ferszt

So if there's somebody it's your company,


Caitlin Donovan

well, you know, a lot of my a lot of my audiences entrepreneurs'. So if there's somebody that is listening to this, and they're like, Okay, well, if I can't get the app, like what's give me a tip, lay, just just give me one action steps that I can implement so that I can influence my mood and make myself better overall. What would you say?


Erika Ferszt

Okay, well, it would depend on their mood. And first, if they want it for their organization, they don't have to invite me to speak, they can also just buy the, the membership. So I throw that out there. Okay, I'm like, you can get it for what however many employees you have, it's fine. Um, it depends on the mood that you have. Because we kind of have like three different categories. There's one where we need a little bit more pleasure, positivity, and another one where we need more energy. And then there's another one where we need to feel more power. So and then kind of..


Caitlin Donovan

how do you differentiate energy and power?


Erika Ferszt

So energy? Well, so the the actual words in science are there? It's funny, because they're really kind of sexual. There's pleasure, arousal and dominance, which are the three domains and emotions. Yeah. Which is the the Moravian model from. So arousal is like excitation to calmness. Yeah. dominance is feeling powerful to feeling weak. Okay, and then pleasure is feels good to feels bad. So that those three combinations that makes more sense. Um, yeah, so confidence, like you can be very powerful and have low excitation levels. Usually, when you have high levels of dominance, and high excitation is kind of when we're in a little bit like hysterical

mania.


Caitlin Donovan

Yeah. So, so I would guess my guess knowing my audience after these past couple of years, my guess is that most people that are listening, won the energy portion.


Erika Ferszt

Okay. Um, music is the easiest gimme, I can give you it's probably the fastest outside of laughter It's the fastest technique to shift you into a better mood. And so I always advise everybody to use the free tool on free Spotify, and just put together their kick ass playlists. They're like, don't mess with me playlist. Like whatever you need whenever you need it, the calm me down playlist. And I have some I actually have some that are free on my Spotify channel if people want


Caitlin Donovan

Oh, good. Yes. Send me the link to that. So I can share it with people because I know that will be useful.


Erika Ferszt

I will Yeah, cuz I have one to calm you down. I have one let's like a girl pop edition in India Edition, a classical music edition. So there are lots of different things there. But music is definitely the fastest way it's the fastest way to get you into any three of those domains, the more powerful are the more or calm down. Other things for energy, um, diet, really. Proper diet is the most fundamental because if you're getting the right kind of sugars and not the bad kind of sugars, the right B vitamins, I was burned out on B vitamins so that a lot of a lot of burnout is missing. Especially 12. That's really common Yeah, that's a really six and v 12. Yeah, and actually, there was a study, I talked about this in one of my presentations, there's a study that they did, were actually 20% of the people that presented with symptoms of depression, were actually suffering from a Vitamin B deficiency. Yeah, yeah, that is critical. I had my ex-husband who he's, it's like a triathlon and like always exercising which creates kind of like overstimulation. Yes. for and he hurt himself when he couldn't exercise for a while this happened, he felt I and I predicted it. I said to him, I was like, be careful because you're gonna fall into depression. And he was like, Oh, yeah. And one day he was, he was here like, all like long face. And I just gave him a bottle of vitamin B. And I was like, take it every single day. And he was back, he was back to being a jerk in no time.


Caitlin Donovan

So it worked perfectly. Erica, this was so great. I'm so grateful. I'm so glad that you went back to school. And it's so obvious that no matter what you knew about science earlier, that it's really seeped into your body at this point, but it's really part of you. And it's so nice to be in that energy because it's something that I appreciate so much I love so much and it's so it's so nice to be in that energy with someone and I so appreciate your knowledge and the work that you've put into this And thank you, just simply Thank you.


Erika Ferszt

Thanks for having me.


Caitlin Donovan

This is fun. So where will people find you? What's the best way to find you? If people are like I need her yesterday.


Erika Ferszt

You can find me obviously my website moodily.com. I'm on LinkedIn, feel free to reach out. I'm always happy to have new friends new contacts, on Instagram at moodily dot wellness, although I'm not as active as I'm supposed to be. Or you can just shoot me an email at Erika at moodily, calm.


Caitlin Donovan

Awesome. And so all of those will be as per usual in the show notes. And just a reminder to everybody who's listening, wherever you are on the FRIED spectrum, from still burning in the pan to jumping into some cooler water. You deserve all the goodness that is coming to you. All of it. All the goodness that is coming your way as part of recovery belongs to you accept it, love it, absorb it, and improve your mood while you're at it. Until next time.



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