Episode #60: Interview With 6 Steps' Founding Member Erin Reece

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse

On Episode 60 of the podcast, I am joined by my first ever guest: Erin Reece of Bear Accounting & Financial Solutions, a Founding Member of the 6 Steps for Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention. ⁠

Listen to hear how this program has influenced her personally and professionally in every aspect of her life. ⁠


Welcome to the freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.

Are you not sure if you're on the path to burnout? Download the FREE Symptoms of Burnout that Might Surprise You” checklist that is linked in the show notes to this episode and find out. 


Booth: So today I am doing the first interview I have ever done on the Freedom from Empty Podcast and I'm really excited. I'm going to be talking to Erin Reece, Founder of Bear Financial and Accounting Solutions. Erin is a former Public Accountant gone Entrepreneur, and she helps other entrepreneurs approach their finances with confidence and clarity. Instead of stress and confusion. She is also a recovering workaholic. So we have that in common. Erin was brave enough to join me on the journey to creating the 6 Steps to Stress Recovery And Burnout Prevention as a founding member. And I recently reached out to her to ask if she would be willing to share about her experience with the program. And she said yes!

Erin, thank you so much for being here today. 

Erin: Thank you for having me. I am very excited to be here. I was just saying that I'm grateful that we're having this podcast. We're not gonna talk about accounting or finances at all. 

Booth: That’s right, no numbers, I would love to start by asking you to share a little bit of your story, whatever you feel like sharing with our audience today. 

Erin: Yeah, so my story is not unlike a lot of other people's stories who are, I would say high achieving people, people who are always trying to do the next best thing. So I was, by nature a very disciplined person, I did all the things. I graduated from high school, I went straight to college, got my four year degree in accounting. And then I started working in the corporate world. And on my journey to become a CPA, I ended up doing more schooling so I could pursue that certification that mattered a lot to me, and I wanted to be a CPA. I started working in the corporate world, I worked in a cubicle job, believe it or not, I really wanted a cubicle job my whole life. I was like, I can't wait to work in a cubicle because I remember visiting a corporate office when I was in high school, and I thought this is just it, I'm gonna have arrived when I have my own cubicle with my little calendar and in the walls and all the things. I was very excited about that. So I did that. And it just wasn't what it was cracked up to be. And I moved on from that job. I, at that time, was commuting an hour both ways. Also, my daughter was born. So the first year of her life, I was driving an hour both ways to work. And yeah, that was too much. I thought I can't miss all of this going on in my daughter's life. I started pursuing - still an accounting career. That was my first opportunity to start, I found a job where I was working from home full time, which I thought was going to be exceptional because I wasn't going to have the stress of having to drive to and from work. But the truth was, I ended up working way more when I worked from home than when I was commuting because the thing about commuting was- I could leave my desk and come home. And that was not the case working from home. You know, I was doing the public accounting rat race. I was working in public accounting, it was busy season. 

My first day at that firm was on February 1. I was starting right in the middle of busy season. It was crazy. We were working crazy hours, and I still was missing a lot of time with my young daughter. And I was like “well, this really wasn't it.” But I really loved that job because it gave me my first exposure to working from home. I worked with exceptional people. But it was just a grind. It was quite taxing. I ended up taking another job where I worked from home still in public accounting. I kept thinking, “this isn't it ...this isn't it.” But it wasn't like my mind immediately went to start a business. In fact, I I defied that for so long, because I liked the security of having two jobs. I liked being an employee because I didn't have to worry about the things that the boss was worried about. But the truth was, it just didn't leave me that entrepreneurial bug that I didn't think I had just following me around until I said “okay, I'll do what you say.” 

So in 2019, I left my full time job, I started my own accounting firm. And today as we're recording this, it is 2021 and I now have one full time employee and it's great. I can't predict the future. But in my crystal ball, if I were to look at it, I don't see a world where I go and work for someone else as an employee. Now that I'm on this path, I'm totally addicted.

Booth: I can totally relate. I want to pull out something that you referenced because I think it is something that so many people are experiencing right now who maybe weren't experiencing it pre pandemic, is that idea that when you work from home, you may find yourself working more than you ever have worked before. Because those lines between work and home are not nearly as clearly delineated. And I think, with having kids at home, you have a daughter at home, I have three children at home and we find ourselves always with our feet firmly planted in multiple worlds. Whereas when we go into an office, we can kind of separate and put both feet in the work world for a little while, and then put both feet back in at home, although technology definitely has bridged that as well. 

So what was going on in your life that led you to sign up for the 6 Steps to Stress Recovery And Burnout Prevention? What challenges were you facing that made you think “Hmm, I think I want to do this.”?

Erin: I remember the very first time I ever heard the word burnout, and it was in that public accounting job. And I remember saying to my boss, listen, I just don't care. I just, I feel very blah, about this. I don't care if the work gets done, really, I'm going to do it right, because I want to get paid. But it doesn't make me feel anything. I remember when I first started that job, I had moved from corporate to public. So I loved working with small businesses, I was getting a lot of exposure to different types of clients. And at first, I really latched on to that, but I would say less than a year later, I had this just I don't care if this gets done or not. I couldn't have articulated at that time, what the heck I was feeling. But reflecting on it. I know I was very out of balance, not just the work life balance that people want to make fluffy, it's balance in your life. My boss, she said to me what sounds like it might be burnout. And my boss at the time is still a dear friend of mine today. But she's also a recovering workaholic, also has gone on to be an entrepreneur,. I mean, I knew if I needed her on the weekend, if I needed her at night, I could get her. It wasn't that she set a bad example for you. But she didn't know what she didn't know. Then just like I didn't know. So whenever she said to me, it sounds like it might be burnout. That was the end of that conversation. It wasn't like we can help you with that. Or we have resources to talk about that. It was like, Oh, well, you're definitely struggling for burnout. but so does every accountant. So you're fine. 

Booth: Right? And in the accounting profession is one of the top 10 for burnout. But, I think that's what happens with so many people is Oh, I'm suffering from burnout. Okay, gotta get back to work. 

Erin: Yeah, this is such a cliche way to say this, but you just don't have time to be burned out. But there's work that has to be done. 

Booth: Absolutely. 

Erin: So I think that was the first time I ever even heard the word. But, that was many years ago. And then I continued just and now that I've read not The Body Keeps the Score, the White Knuckle Book, 

Booth : Oh, Try Softer by Aundi Kolber 

Erin: I think about white knuckling so much how I definitely did that for a long time. So whenever you were looking for founding members. And I remember, we have a mutual friend Erika, who said, this is just like something else added to the list. And I was like, This can't be something else on my list. This is so important to me. And I had been at that time already in a year's worth of talk therapy. And I thought this is going to be a good supplement to my talk therapy because I loved when I would get something from my therapist, you know, a worksheet or something, I had to carve out time to do that worksheet and work through the exercise. And I latched on to that so much. So when you launched your course it was such an easy “yes”, for me, because I still from all those years ago not had the right resources or recovery techniques for recovering from that burnout that actually deep seated itself, that and still exists in my life today. And it's not even just professional burnout. I think I had all the burnout, right? Like we were talking about our children, I don't want to exclude anyone but when you're a high achieving mom specifically, it's too much too high achiever at work. Be the best mom, you know, you're watching these other moms and they got all their, you know, like their fancy Valentine's and you went and got the card, the box of cards at Target, you know, it's just like, Oh, well.

Booth: Everybody looks like they have it all together. 

Erin: That's right! And all that increases those symptoms of burnout and those symptoms of just overwhelming stress in each area. 

Booth: I love that you drew that out. Because a lot of the writing around burnout is specifically around burnout at work, but in my own story and in your story. It's not just work, your work is a piece but we take those high achieving type A never slow down, just keep pushing, always push through habits and behaviors into every aspect of our life. It's not just work. I had a client one time who said wherever you go, there you are. And I think that was kind of one of her lessons from us working together is, no matter where she went. Those deep seated habits and behaviors and beliefs go with you. And so it's not just changing environment. It's actually doing the work to change those habits and behaviors. So you also brought out a really important point, I think, for many people who might even be tempted to think about this course, which is if you're on the path to burnout already, how do you find the time to do the work? Do you have thoughts about that? 

Erin: Yes. So I think, just like I was saying, I really couldn't, because here's the other thing, too, is, if you're someone and I, again, I hate to really make this a generality, but a lot of women in the sphere of entrepreneurial women, you know, we see the Amy Porterfield 's of the world, the  coaches of the world who are doing all the things, they're making all the courses, it's the podcast, it's the blog, it's the email list, it's all the things and you want to latch on to that because you think it's going to help you do the next thing. And there are courses out there for that kind of stuff. And for me, this course was so opposite of that stuff, I knew that I didn't have to do it. And at the end, have produced something, I didn't have to make a course, I didn't have to start a podcast, I didn't have to, you know, what I had to do was be healthy. I think the outcome of the story for me in the course was so I wanted it so badly that I didn't have that. Put this on my list. It was I can't go on not making time for this. 

Booth: I love that. And I think it's so true. I think it is so easy for us as - again high performing workaholic high achievers to say we don't have time to slow down. And I can't tell you how many times I've said that to myself, and that I've heard other people say I don't have time to slow down and take care of myself. And the reality is, we actually can't afford not to slow down and take care of ourselves. But we wait often until we're at a crisis inflection point, before we go, oh, oh, okay. And often unfortunately, that crisis inflection point, like for me was the onset of chronic severe mental illness. For other people, it might be heart disease, or high blood pressure, or sometimes even, you know, chronic and or fatal, autoimmune diseases and other things. So I love the perspective of I can't, I can't not do this. 

So what was it like working through the 6 Steps to Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention? 

Erin: You know, we're doing podcasts, you guys can't see me. But as soon as you asked me the question, I couldn't help but smile. Because when I think about my journey through the course, and even just not just this course, but my whole mental health journey, and you have this group of these things that you're in all the practices that you can put into place in your life, it's not a one and done thing. So working through the course and even today, because it's not like I worked through it. And now I don't ever look at it again, I pick it up constantly, in fact, because I wanted to make time to do it. And, you know, just share this part of the story. I knew this was something that was really important to me, I have other things that are really important to me, like sleep is really important to me, but I knew this was I wanted to make time to so the way I fit it into my schedule was I just took my Saturday morning, and I let go of my mom guilt, I let my daughter watch TV on Saturday mornings, and I would work through parts of the course that I was on for that week and reflect on some of last week stuff. And I would take all the time I needed if it was out one hour, two hours, three hours again, letting go of my mom guilt, letting myself just be healthy. And the journey through the course was so I would say enlightening. Because I found out things about myself, the way I parent, the way I show up at work, the way I show up to my friends, things about me that come from self reflection, and I always... I always would have described myself as a self reflective person. But this helped me really define instead of hearing in my mind the things I have always heard Erin is superduper bossy, okay? Like people who have known me my whole life, or no man is an adult. Like this is just an adjective that comes with me, I just have an assertive personality type. I also am quite frequently known as a know-it-all.

And those two terms, bossy and know-it-all have followed me my whole life and watching my now six year old daughter do and you know, have some of those characteristics. If people say that to her, like don't say that her, she is who she is. And if she's assertive, she's on the path to be an exceptional leader. So it wasn't that I didn't know how to untangle those things. But I really had to sit with those things. Instead of saying, No one likes a know-it-all, which is like people say that. Like no one likes know-it-alls. Is there a healthier way for me to present this information as the expert in this space or as the authority on this topic? Because if I don't, people are getting really bad advice from the tic tocs of the world. If I'm not showing up as who I was made to be then other people are going to suffer. I'm suffering because I'm not doing the thing I'm supposed to do.

So it was a lot of sitting in a lot of tension in some of those things finding, where does this fit in my story? And does it get to stay? Does this belief that I've had does it get to stay? So I liked the bucket exercise a lot. But when you're filling in the holes of the bucket and figuring out where's that water like falling through, because I'm having this belief, or this belief that might not be true about something, and how to fill that in with a healthy adjective. That's one that I look at a lot. 

Booth: I love that. I have my bucket actually still posted in my office. So I love that you're talking about which beliefs get to stay. So much of the course, for those of you who haven't been exposed to it is about just observing the beliefs and habits that we have carried with us, perhaps sometimes even for decades, and challenging whether those still serve us and choosing which ones get to stay, and then engaging in intentional practices to create new habits and new beliefs and new patterns. 

So you mentioned the bucket exercise, are there other highlights from the program pieces that really stood out for you or had an impact? 

Erin: I hate to only use the first part of the course but the Why worksheet, which I still work on today. One of the exercises the seven why's so you're answering the why question over and over and over again. That's one of the exercises. I started with why do you do what you do? And the first answer that I had was I love to help others. And then I answered and answered and answered. And the last thing I put on my last why was why because I believe my worth is tied up in what I can do for other people. When I got all the way to the bottom of the Why list, I was like, Oh, this is a lot right here. And I have to… we got to spend some time on this. Right? Because first of all, is that really what I believe? I definitely think so. But is that even true? Of course not. Of course, my worth is not from what I could do for other people. But if I've been believing that for, like you said two to three decades, and to work through that we need to move on, because that's not healthy. So it was I think the why worksheet all of the seven why's and then also one of the other ones was what my dream day looks like. And this has become a very frequent practice. For me, I write about my dream day all the time. And that's like a game changer. I love writing about my dream day, because it changes so much every day. It's not like, this is what I would like for it to look like. And I let go of the idea that I had to be a morning person, this was really tough. Everyone kept telling me, you got to be a morning person if you're going to be successful.. my whole life. And it just wasn't natural for me. But I kept thinking, one day, I'm going to be a morning person. But then I realized if I just let myself lay in bed for a little while, and I let myself wake up, on my own timeframe. And then I grab my journal and I start writing. I'm like, Oh, I love the morning, even if it's 8am It doesn't have to be five or 6am to be functional. And I don't have to be up at 5am, 6am to be functional. In fact, I'm not. And trying to force myself to be that was actually very unhealthy. And I always felt so guilty when I couldn't be this, aspired morning person I wanted to be or the other people told me I should be. And this is a very.. even daily practice. I have, journaling practices I do every day. And sometimes if I miss a day, I go back to the day before and I write, I'm not sorry, that I missed that day, we're all right. No shame or no guilt on that day, because I missed it. But also, I'm living a life here, in being you so on top of myself for those things that  I didn't succeed on or or someone else's version of success for me.

Booth: I love that you're referencing the self compassion piece, I think is... not going to beat myself up because I missed it in a journaling. Because life… life is a real thing. And I also appreciate that you pull out kind of this hustle culture mentality, and the fact that there are certain people who have been highly successful, who have been held out as kind of the pantheons of this is how you must behave in order to be successful. And what I want to say to you and to everyone listening is just because it works for one person doesn't mean it works for everyone.

It may work for them to be determined for some of them, I wonder, how long will it work,  because it worked for me for a while too until it didn't. But really connecting with who you are and what you need. And investing in that so that you can show up as your highest and best. The whole point of the seven why's well there's multiple but it's connecting with your purpose. So you have that grounding or to your point, that giant Aha, why am I doing this? or Why do I believe this about myself? And how do I start to change that pattern and belief. But it's also because I so firmly believe that when we take care of the vessel that contains our soul, we can actually position ourselves to bring our soul's purpose to life in this earth in a much more impactful way, when you take care of yourself, not only can you be a better, more effective business owner, but also a more effective mother and a more effective friend. And you can be all the things you were put on this earth to be, but it has to start with you, right? So what would you say you gained as a result of the program, or what has changed for you as a result of the program. 

Erin: So I'm going to give a really specific example of something that has changed for me that has actually changed the way I show up to things, this has changed a lot for me. Prior to starting this course, I met him prior to knowing you, I don't even know who this was, I don't even know when this started. But at some point in my professional life, once I stepped out to become an entrepreneur, I became a member in a lengthy legal litigious battle with my former employer. 

And I remember, I would get an email from my attorney, or we get an email from their attorney. And I would have to stop my day, I would go into such a tailspin that this was so overwhelmingly stressful, I could not continue, I would immediately probably have an onset like migraine almost immediately, or I would have to take half the day off because I have to, I don't know I have to take a shower or something I can't think straight because this is just sent me over the edge, even if it was nothing important. And after working through the course, whenever I get an email, well, first of all, I did two things. 

First thing is I muted my email notifications from my attorney, because I have a VA and I told her, if I get an email from my attorney, they are important to me, however, I don't need them right in the middle of my day, I actually can't address them in the middle of the day. I want you to turn on this filter, put them in this folder, I'm going to address them, let me know when they come in, but I can't in the middle of the day. 

And then the second thing I did was I mentally prepared for those times when I knew I had to sit down and address those things. And my mental preparation was, first of all, five to 10 deep breaths, I'm going to sit down and I'm going to do this thing that I know, typically has some kind of trigger response for me, it's difficult, I know it's difficult, I'm going to take deep breaths, I'm going to focus my thoughts on my 20 to 30 minutes, I'm going to sit down with this, I am going to address it, if I need to respond - I will, if I need to grab documentation - I will. Whatever has to be done here. This is my block of time for it. And then when I'm done, I'm done. 

Being able to healthily address that one thing, which is such a big stressor in my day to day life at this current moment was probably one of the biggest takeaways that I had. Because that's just one situation, right? 

But that practice is applicable in lots of areas before I raise my voice at my six year old, I can say I'm taking a little break here, I'm going to take these deep breaths before I address what this is I need to say. Because even if she is wrong, I still have to address that she was wrong, but I can't do it in a way that's unhealthy for me, because that's unhealthy for her, we could spend a whole hour talking about my takeaways because, it's all of the areas like I said, it's not just my professional life, it's not just my home life, it's me as a being like you said, the vessel, my soul is well tended. And therefore there's lots of it feeds into every area of my life where I can show up more healthily to that conversation in that thing. 

Booth: Absolutely. So you've set boundaries around things that you know, generally cause a specific type of reaction. And you've also kind of calmed your nervous system essentially invested in your energy and your well being by not only setting those boundaries, but also even just taking the deep breaths and being like, Okay, I'm going to enter this difficult thing. But I'm going to care for myself while I do it. 

And I think again, so many high achievers, high performers are, they're going to do the difficult thing without caring for themselves until their body can't take it anymore until their body starts to shut down. And so it's not that when we start to invest in our well being that we stopped doing difficult things, we actually increase our capacity to navigate difficult things without taking more out of our reserve account than we have available, which is the the formula or the equation that eventually gets us into a place of chronic illness or prolonged burnout which takes that much longer to recover from. 

So I have one last question for you. And then anything else you would like to share?  What would you tell someone who is considering maybe they know they're on the path to burnout? Maybe they're worried about being on the path to burnout? Or maybe they just want to be the highest and best version of themselves? What would you tell them about this program? 

Erin: Well, some of it I've already said, one of the things that's probably key to this video program is, this is not something to add to your to do list, it is absolutely a journey to health. And you have to see it that way. It has to be a commitment, you know, your financial commitment, your time commitment, your commitment to the course is all about you. It's not about what you're going to do at the end of the course that you're going to produce for the world. 

However, I would say when you're healthy yourself, you're really producing for the world, your best self gives the world like it's.. it's actually a light bulb coming on. When you are light, you give it whether you want to or not. And that's because instead of pouring from a place of empty, you're pouring from a place of abundance. Just by being healthy. I would just say do it, just don't question it. Because I think you're right, whether you're on the path to burnout, whether you know you're really stressed or whether you're not quite there yet, but you could see that your future this is going to help you either way, it's going to be effective teaching for you to live your healthiest and best life. 

Booth: Erin, thank you so much for hopping on this call on a Monday morning to share with my listeners about your experience with this course. Of course you know I’m grinning ear to ear because it also means so very much to me to know that you know, the content and the work that I've put into the world is actually making a difference for people. So that is the biggest gift for me 

Erin: You are the  best Booth. Honestly, I could just listen to you talk all day, when I listen. I love it when I sit down and I do it on my iPad. So I have you on one side of my notebook on the other side and I could just close my eyes and listen to you like read the content or whatever. I'm just like I could just listen to you talk all the time. It makes me feel healthier, just listening to you. 

Booth: Thank you. I've heard that my southern drawl has that effect on people.


So thank you for listening today. If you are not sure whether you're on the path to burnout? Download the FREESymptoms of Burnout that Might Surprise You checklist that is linked in the show notes to this episode. And if you aren't already getting my newsletter in your inbox, I'm including the subscription link in the show notes as well. If you haven't already.

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