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The Healing Cocoon Podcast

How to Avoid Emotional Burnout with Frontliner Trauma Awareness Guide
Jamie Smith

The imperative difference between empathy and compassion.

Posted by:
Jacobie Gray

In today’s episode of the podcast, we are joined by Jamie Smith, a contemplative science educator and trauma-informed embodied awareness guide. In our chat, she shares her journey of becoming passionate about caring for those who care for others and how she teaches them that self-care is truly essential to prevent burnout in their professions. 

Jamie was introduced to yoga and meditation 22 years ago at her secondary school in Sewanee, Tennessee, and completed her first yoga teacher training in 2010 before receiving her B.A. in Psychology. She has experience teaching survivors of domestic violence, people recovering from addiction, veterans, those with chronic and/or terminal illness, caregivers, children, healthcare providers, end-of-life caregivers and family, and first responders. 

Jamie is passionate about sharing mind-body coping skills with frontliners. Recently, she launched an online course called Deep Relaxation for Frontliners, which can be found on her website. 

The 9/11 Pivot

Suffering from some complex childhood traumas, by her teenage years Jamie had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She tried medication after medication and none were helpful. The soundtrack loop in her mind had consistently been, “The world is not fair. It needs to be fair.” This voice became even more intense after the collective devastation of 9/11. As she tried to reconcile how there could be such evil in the world, it was too much for her young mind to process. It led her to reject the world entirely, resulting in an attempt at taking her own life. “I don’t want anything to do with that…peace out,” she decided. 

Thankfully, Jamie’s journey didn’t end there. Instead, it led to a new beginning. She learned to adjust the familiar voice in her head that said, “Life is not fair. I want it to be fair,” to, “Life is not fair, but maybe we can make it more fair.” She began to focus on how she could be a part of the solution, and to not just be one of the good guys, but to serve the good guys.

Salinger and Strangers

The book, Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger had always been one of Jamie’s favorites. In many ways she found it paralleled her own life. She learned that Salinger was a veteran and that he wrote the book during the time he was freeing victims from concentration camps. Already having an affinity for the book and author, discovering this opened a portal of recognition that would change the course of her life. She had known she wanted to help others have the transformational life experience that she had and this news inspired her to channel that energy into helping veterans. After a year of relentless pursuit, she pioneered a yoga program at her local VA office that continues to this day. 

The teenage angst that had plagued Jamie was mainly a result of seeing unhinged people hurt complete strangers and innocents. But she found beauty in the reverse of that—the angelic, brave frontliners that rush in to save the lives of strangers. Reciting Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” So she chose to focus on the people that are good, doing the insanely brave things, not the insanely bad things. And to serve, empower and heal those people.

Attuning on the Frontlines

After finishing her yoga teacher training in 2010, Jamie expanded her passion for helping veterans to other frontline workers. She observed that a common coping mechanism for people in frontline jobs such as nurses and doctors can be to dissociate emotionally from the people they are helping in a subconscious instinct of self-preservation. Jamie’s passion was to teach them it was possible to respond compassionately without taking on the burden of their patients’ suffering, which was leading to the desire to shut down internally. In essence, she taught them how to down regulate and remain grounded, instead of emotionally embody, the constant pain and suffering they were met with.

When it comes to being present with suffering, the mantra Jamie encourages is, “I care for your suffering, but it’s not my suffering.” Defining the difference between the two is crucial for frontliners. If we’re extending so much empathy, we’re actually not serving the patients as well as we could be if we held an even space and allowed the patients to come into coherence with our nervous systems. We can provide the anchor for the other person to attune to. That’s why self-care is an essential part of the work of serving others.

Learn more about Jamie at, and find her on social media at @healersandprotectors.

For the full interview with Jamie, listen via the link on this page,, or find us on Instagram @thehealingcocoonpodcast.