Accountability and Mindfulness

Who’s in charge of your life? Who’s responsible for your successes and who can you blame for your failures? Resilience researchers use the word self-efficacy for how much we believe we control our environment. The less we believe we are in control, the more stressed we are. So, gaining control over our day, our dreams and our time is an important method of stress management.

Who’s driving your life?

This time of year, many people set goals for the year or resolutions. We aim to be better: physically, emotionally and mentally. We want to gain new skills or acquire new knowledge and even own new stuff. It’s a good time to find ways in which we can gain more control of our lives.

We do that by owning what we think, do and say. Knowing that we are at the steering wheel of our lives is empowering. If you want a new career or to change something in your life, you can initiate that change by making plans, researching ways to do it and by incorporating new habits into your life. That may be by exercising in a new way, signing up for a course or getting a life coach to help you meet your goals. Whatever you choose, it’s important to know that you are in control, you’re taking accountability for your life.

What does it look like when we’re not accountable? We are whiny and we blame others for the way our life is, or the way things turn out. We don’t take ownership of the things that we are tasked with in our lives. We think it would be great to have no responsibilities in this world but I don’t really think life would be fulfilling. To achieve anything important, we need to push through some of the less-than-exciting aspects of the job. For example, raising children can be so rewarding but brushing their teeth every night isn’t exactly thrilling. It’s important to acknowledge that there is struggle in achieving anything of significance in life.

So how do you show up? Are you whining about the things that you have to do? Or do you simply take on what you committed to and do the best job possible? Are you present and focused on what it is you are busy with? We all feel pressed for time and we all wish we had more hours in the day to get things done. No-one can gain more time but we can gain the perception of time through mindfulness. Ironically, the more we slow down and really focus on what it is we are doing,the more time we feel we have available. Trying to juggle six things at once is not the way to feel on top of things. That’s a guaranteed way to lose self-efficacy.

Own your stuff

I can say with certainty that the people I engage with who are mindful and who take accountability for their lives, are the ones I respect the most. It’s hard to respect someone who’s blaming everyone else for their troubles and constantly trying to get out of their responsibilities. If you want to gain the respect of others, mindfulness and accountability will take you there. Imagine what would happen to your relationships if you owned your part in every failure and took ownership of your life.

Suspending Judgement

It’s so easy to judge others. We spot someone behaving badly, being impatient or shouting at their child in public. We jump to conclusions so quickly about what they should and shouldn’t be doing, all based on our point of view. The trouble is, they are not us and we can never know what’s happening in their life or inside their head.


This Christmas holiday was so different from the many that preceded it. I was calm, happy and I really enjoyed it. I forced myself to rest and I say forced because I love what I do and it’s hard for me not to do it in the holidays. But stepping away is a good thing and brings us some perspective and probably more enthusiasm than if we never took a break. I’m writing my second book and am very excited about the contents, the process and simply the writing itself.

The holiday was great because I had energy. I had enough energy to tidy cupboards that have been bothering me for years. I had enough energy to have fun with my kids – to swim in the pool with them, race them and all after a grueling 90 minutes of Bikram yoga. This is the first time I’ve had energy to really enjoy my family and my holiday since I can remember. I managed with all the usual holiday frustrations: my seven-year-old waking me up at dawn, the never-ending laundry and the housework that seemed to be undone as soon as I did it.

But it didn’t bother me. I had energy to bake and to try new things. The experimental macaroons were a disaster but it was still worth trying. I enjoyed the time away from homework and uniforms and school obligations. I connected with my children and spent some great time with them, laughing and playing. I built Lego. I raced them in the pool. I toppled off lilos and I even got my husband to throw me in the pool like he does the kids. Clearly, I didn’t go as far as they do, but it was still fun and I said ‘again, again!’ as soon as he let go.

So often, we don’t allow ourselves to have fun, to just let go and be free. We are so constrained by our own rules we impose, or worrying about what other people think. I’ve come to realize that I was so different this holiday because I’m happy and I’ve learnt how to re-frame stress. I’ve come to a place where it doesn’t matter what people think of me, I’m happy with who I am. There’s great power in feeling that way.

I’ve come to this place through a lot of personal development work and it has taken years. I know there is much  to still achieve and much growth ahead of me, but for the first time, I feel genuinely happy. I seek things that make me happy and I move away from things that don’t. Much of that work has been around self-compassion and learning to be kind to myself.


I remember the way I was years ago, before my burnout. I was grumpy and I shouted at my kids a lot. I shouted at them for just doing the things that kids do. I just wasn’t managing with life. I was stressed out of my mind with the burden of a business I had no passion for. I felt obligated on so many fronts to be holding it all together. I had no respite, no chance to just relax and do the things I wanted to do. And worst of all, it was me who put me there. I didn’t give myself permission to have fun, to chase my dreams and to do what I wanted to do.

Of course, after my diagnosis and during recovery, I was frustrated. I was angry that I got sick and that I had to change my life so much. I wanted to live like everyone else did – eat what they want and do exercise without having to recover. It took a long time to grapple with what happened and to build a new life, a new career and a new me. It was difficult and frustrating and that showed in my behavior.

There is no possibility that we can understand or know what’s happening for someone. We can’t live their childhoods and know what thoughts are bouncing around in their heads. We can’t feel their burdens or understand their frustrations. I’m asking you to reserve judgement when you see someone doing something you feel is wrong. Maybe they are in the midst of a severe health collapse, intense grief or something you just can’t understand. Instead, send them love and treat them with kindness as they probably need it more than you do.

2018: Opportunities, Lessons and Achievements

My life changed dramatically when my health collapsed from burnout at the end of 2014. I had to work very hard to understand how it happened and to transform my life into a happy one. It’s important to me to live on purpose, to actively make sure my life is happy and to share what I’ve learnt with others.

It took me years to recover and I can truly say that I am at the other side of burnout. The journey was an interesting one and at first I was intensely frustrated at the long process of recovery. We are often so busy looking forward and directing ourselves towards our goals. It’s important to look back and to acknowledge the progress we have made. This post is about my progress this year, particularly in terms of forging my new career.

Public Speaking Opportunities

I did a number of speeches at my Toastmaster’s club to earn my advanced certificate. I delivered many speeches to various groups of people and was paid for the first time to speak. These were as follows:

  • A talk to business owners on lessons learnt in my business
  • A speech to 150 nurses in the Fourways Life hospital on how to avoid burnout
  • I was a speaker at the first Global Wellness Day in Johannesburg
  • Talks at networking events on positive psychology and burnout
  • A talk to executive personal assistants on self-care
  • Three restaurant talks where I was able to sell my book, Avoiding Burnout

Speaking is a great way for me to promote my book and to get my message to a greater group of people. I like to engage with people on topics like self-care, stress management and happiness.

I held a workshop but struggled to get enough people to attend. I realized that building credibility with my readers and followers was a necessary first step before I do another one. I held a mini-workshop for a client on happiness, including exercises I picked up while researching for my first book. It was a success and I really enjoyed it.

Promoting my Book

I hired a public relations expert with a wealth of knowledge and connections in the literary arena. This led to some wonderful PR opportunities:

I sold my book at two book fairs which didn’t offer much in terms of sales but it gave me a chance to engage with readers and to build more awareness about my book and the things I’m passionate about.

I paid for some beautiful electronic images for advertising and I got a banner made for when I speak and sell my book at events. I got my website running and now sell my book on it. I ordered branded aromadough as well as a handcream/lipbalm combination as giveaways at events and speeches. Branding was something I loved in my previous business and I learnt a lot and practiced what I learnt on my brand.

Business and Networking

I registered a company and an accounting system so that I can professionally invoice my clients and start formalising my offering. My next step is to set up a business bank account.

When I was sick, I lost much of my business and informal networks. It’s difficult to maintain them when suffering from chronic fatigue. At the end of last year, I joined an international networking organisation and attended almost every week, including other chapters. I also attended women’s networking events and met some wonderful people. I gained so much from meeting people, crystallizing my offering in my own mind and benefited from their offerings too. I was also able to sell my book to the new contacts in my network, accounting for almost a third of my sales this year.

Avoiding Burnout

Reviews are very important when it comes to books. Readers are influenced by what others think of the book. A few of my readers wrote wonderful reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I decided to offer a giveaway to South African readers, in the hope of more reviews. It didn’t work very well since I didn’t get many reviews and the South African postal system is barely functioning so the delivery was not optimal.

I hired a distributor to distribute my book to all good stores nationwide. This was done mostly, with the exception of online sites. The distributor sadly failed to pay me and effectively stole the revenue for 100 books. This was a disappointment but a learning and it offered me the chance to do better due diligence to find a more reliable and professional distributor, which should be established early next year.

I created a second edition of my book where I fixed the two known typos and included some reader quotes on the back cover. I printed 500 copies. Shortly afterwards, a reader alerted me to another error. There’s a challenge for anyone who hasn’t read my book yet.

I converted my book from one Amazon platform to another (from CreateSpace to KDP) which was painful but necessary. I received a lot of wonderful feedback during the year and so enjoyed engaging with people on the material of my book and how I can be of service to them.

Writing Books and Articles

I got the opportunity to write a monthly blog post for Future Females, an incredible organisation promoting female entrepreneurs. They love my content and it’s a great opportunity for me to reach a new audience.

My first paid writing opportunity came in the form of my self-preservation tips for Fair Lady. It was amazing to be paid to write about my story and it was a great opportunity to promote my book.

I started ghost writing a book for a friend which also earned me some income. It offered me the chance to write which feeds me and I learnt a great deal from the contents of the book. It will be finished next year and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

I wrote for an online human capital publication until they fired me for the free content I was delivering. It hit me hard but it did offer me an important catalyst, however, to shift my focus and to start engaging with other people on their stories of stress and burnout.

Mastering Stress

This led to a series of events that initiated my second book, Mastering Stress.  I decided to do an exciting experiment where I launch one chapter of my new book a month to an audience of beta readers. I  now have 23 people signed up to provide me with feedback so that I can enhance the quality of my book and deliver a product that is useful and meaningful to my readers.

I interviewed 31 people about stress in their lives. I was deeply affected by their stories and their willingness to share their life struggles. I also conducted a survey reaching almost 200 people on stress. It’s still open so if you’d like to offer your input, please do so before 15 January 2019.

I started a Udemy course on mastering stress which will feed my  second book. I’m hoping it will be of benefit to a lot of people and it is fun to experiment with a different format of spreading my message.

Health and Personal Life

My family is a key source of happiness and love. I relish the chance to spend time with my children, watching them thrive at their new school and develop into wonderful people. My husband continues to offer me support in my work and provides me with honest feedback.

My health is  the best it has been in many years. I have even started reducing medication for my adrenal glands which was a significant sign of recovery. It’s hard to explain how important feeling well is, and I am so thrilled that I can accomplish everything others can do. I try not to take it for granted.

My life is not perfect and I still experience disappointments, frustrations and setbacks. But overall I am so grateful for the life I live and I feel blessed. I am so excited for the year to come and I’m overwhelmed with the support from people for my new book. I’m so excited to work on it and I really hope it offers something meaningful to the world.

Aligning with your Values

I usually try to blog twice a month but I always find November to be a frantic month. This is my first entry this month and I’m sorry to let you down. There are a lot of school commitments in November and I am very busy focusing on my second book.


My calendar is full of appointments where I interview people about stress in their lives. I am finding it so rewarding and I love the process. People open up about very personal things in their lives and I am humbled by many of their experiences. Talking to a lot of people shows me that people are struggling with many things. They are carrying around heavy burdens and my life doesn’t appear to be that hard in comparison. It gives me perspective and helps me to appreciate all that I have.

Last week I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to a Dr John Demartini talk. It was the first time I got to see him live and it was so interesting for me. As a speaker myself, I wanted to experience a talk from someone as accomplished as him in this space. The topic was also very pertinent: how to transform adversity. As someone who has experienced great adversity in the past few years with my burnout, it was a wonderful topic for me.

He spoke about aligning with your values, a topic I briefly cover in my book, Avoiding Burnout. What I realized during his talk is that my days are a lot better when I’m working towards things that I care about. I love my kids and I do want to be there for them but sometimes my days are completely dominated by their activities,  needs and demands. I spend hours in the car each week getting them to their various commitments and I often end the day feeling resentful that I could not tackle my stuff.

I feel torn in the late afternoons between doing the obligatory cooking and evening routine, and trying to squeeze in a hour or so of my work. It sometimes feels like my work gets pushed to the end of the list of priorities and gets abandoned. This leaves me feeling defeated and wondering how I can ever accomplish my dreams. A defeated person is not an inspiring person. On the other hand, someone who has focused on their dreams and spent some of their day achieving things, feels happy and ready to give.

Just as Demartini spoke about, it doesn’t feel tiring and I’m not exhausted at the end of the day. I have recovered fully from my burnout and I’m able to tackle a lot in a day. I’m able to operate like a normal person – squeezing in trips to the shops at short notice and rushing the kids around to multiple things on the weekend. I love my work and I want to keep doing this as long as I can. I am excited about my next book and when I’m excited, those around me are lifted too.

I also started seeing a coach lately to have a third party to account to. I wanted to get my book going a long time ago but it tends to slip down the busy to do list. Having a coach is working so well for me as I am pushing hard to deliver on what I promised and I am accomplishing a lot more. I am working harder than I have in months and I’m really enjoying it.

Doing the interviews for my second book, Healing Burnout, is fascinating. I enjoy it so much more than I thought I would. I love engaging with people, hearing their stories and learning from them. I’m seeing new perspectives on how we manage stress and what we put in place to avoid harmful stress. On these days, I don’t feel a pull towards my sanctuary to write and work. I feel content and I’m in a good mood. I feel empowered and that I’m working towards my goals.

It’s interesting for me that we know things and we know what’s good for us but we fail to do it. I knew that I needed an external person to account to in order to move forward with my goals. Yet I hesitated in getting a coach. Now that she’s working with me, I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. Knowing yourself is really important and is the first of my principles of self-preservation in my book. I knew what I needed, yet I didn’t give myself permission to do it. I also knew that aligning with my values was important and that we are much happier when our work aligns with our values.

I also knew that taking care of everyone else’s needs first was one of the ways I ended up burnt out. I’m feeling so much happier and in control of my life now that I”m working on something I’m passionate about. I’m nicer to be around and I can inspire others when I’m in this place. I just need to keep it up so that I don’t slip into bad habits again, ignoring my needs and my values and not giving myself permission to do what I want and need to do.

Are your values aligned to your work? Do you give yourself permission to do the things you want to do?

Exciting Experiment Ahead: Agile Book Writing

I am writing my second book, Healing Burnout. My first book, Avoiding Burnout, focused on how I got sick and principles to prevent such a significant health collapse. I can’t write two books exclusively on my own experience as I want my books to be applicable to a broad audience and to add value to people’s lives. It is also clear to me that burnout looks different from one person to the next.


In the past few weeks I have been interviewing people about their stress and how they respond to it. I have enjoyed this process far more than I anticipated. Setting up the interviews is a little scary and takes me back to the cold calling of my previous business. But people are surprisingly wiling to give of their time and to share their experiences of stress and burnout. I’m learning things that I had not considered before and I’m observing patterns developing. I’m gaining valuable insights that I can include in my book and share with my readers.

My husband is a coach in agile software development and we both have software roots. Being the rock star coach that he is, he reads up on methods of achieving efficient product delivery. I’m reading one of these books and I’ve decided that I would like to apply this approach to my next book. I’m going to experiment with releasing draft chapters to an audience and obtain feedback.

Agile software development has a core premise of absorbing customer feedback early in the product life cycle and including it into the ultimate product. Writing a book traditionally is like developing a software product. You spend months and sometimes years working on something that you are not sure people actually want or need. The first feedback an author receives might be from beta readers or the first reviews. By then, much money and time has been spent and there might be a lot of waste. It’s risky and costly.

My plan is to release one chapter at a time to an audience that signs up via my website. I hope to receive feedback from these beta readers so as to refine and ultimately deliver a useful product that adds value. I think that this will drive a higher quality product and I can build a following of readers in the process.


This is an experiment and there is a chance that it wont work well. But it feels a lot less risky than spending the next year on a book that might not be of interest to anyone. I’m excited about the process and the leanings along the way. And I’m engaging a coach to keep me on track and to have that external accountability that I know I need.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea and whether you’d sign up to receive a chapter a month.

Stress’ Benefits Vanquished my Quest

I usually wait until I’ve finished a book to blog about it but this couldn’t wait. I’m reading Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress and it has shaken my very foundation. I’ve spent a few years telling people about the dangers of stress and warning them that they could get as sick as I did. And I’ve realized that it was the wrong thing to do.


McGonigal’s book explains research from many studies that show how believing stress is harmful is what’s really bad for your health. She shows that the combination of high stress and believing it will make you sick actually does. It has disturbed me a lot in terms of my quest over the past few years to help others avoid getting as sick as I did.

She writes about the many types of stress response we experience and the benefits of these. She talks about the tend-and-befriend response where we release the love hormone, oxytocin in order to build social connection when we need support. She also talks about the challenge response which drives us to perform when we have goals or deadlines. Telling yourself you are excited rather than anxious before public speaking actually improves your performance.

How do I reconcile this new knowledge with what happened to me? I burnt out from severe work stress primarily. I developed a lifelong illness and as much as I acknowledge the gifts that burnout offered, I’m still a little confused. When completing online surveys, I rated my stress as moderate before I got sick. Of course, that was not an accurate assessment. I experienced very high levels of stress but I didn’t realize it was affecting my health.


It took me a long time to place the label of burnout onto what happened. I struggled for years with chronic fatigue and to get my health back on track. I didn’t see that stress was the trigger for a long time. How do we know when we are stressed? I can say that I’m much more in tune with my stressometer now than I was before I got sick. I know that I start feeling overwhelmed and that I’m not coping.

I think it’s very important for us to identify what kind of stress we are experiencing. There’s the stress that comes with preparing for a speech. That’s the stress that shows me I care about doing a good job and I want to be able to remember everything and to make a difference to the people I’m addressing.

There’s also the too-much-to-do stress which I’m feeling at the moment. My youngest is turning seven on Sunday and we are having a huge party this weekend. My car stopped working, the oven broke and I’m running around ordering ice cream cakes and buying prizes for party games. This stress can be managed by writing lists, putting reminders in my calendar and outsourcing where I can.

Last year I experienced the stress of my child being in distress. I didn’t manage the stress well and it affected my health negatively. I know the stress came from wanting to help my child and wanting to take away her suffering. I need to find a way to offer my children support and guidance, without letting it affect my health.

There is also the stress of a trauma. I wrote about this in my book, Avoiding Burnout, where I experienced a stressful event that ultimately triggered my autoimmune disease. Amy Myers writes in her book, The Autoimmune Solution, that on average it takes about five years for an autoimmune disease to surface after a stressful event. This could be the death of a loved one, being a victim of a violent crime or a divorce.

My health deteriorated for years after this event and finally led to a lifelong illness.  It wasn’t the only factor of course. The work I was doing was the opposite of my strengths, I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I was pushing myself physically and mentally beyond breaking point. I have been reading a lot about burnout lately and I know that the standard warning signs were there: an increasing cynicism and a sense of hopelessness. My thoughts were spiraling negatively and I couldn’t see a way out of the misery.

It’s hard for me to see how I could have prevented getting sick and if I could have been educated to see stress in a different way. If that’s not possible, then I have no quest. If I’m not able to steer people away from the type of illness and suffering I endured in my three years of recovery, then I’m doing the wrong thing.

How we think about stress matters. Believing it is harmful and is to be avoided does not serve us. I accept the  notion that there are positive responses that help us to live in modern times where stress is unavoidable. But we do still want to avoid burnout. I’m wondering how viable it is for me to influence people to change their lives in order to avoid burnout. Would you listen? I know I would not have.

All the Effort has been Worth it!

At the end of 2014, my health started to collapse. I experienced a range of symptoms that I finally labelled as burnout. It took some time to get the right medical diagnosis and medical care but I was treated eventually for two things. Firstly, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland causing fatigue, weight gain and a range of unpleasant symptoms. This illness is for life and requires monitoring by an endocrinologist. I am also more likely to develop other autoimmune conditions.



Secondly, my adrenal glands malfunctioned and were not releasing enough of a hormone known as DHEA which is responsible for energy and is used in generating a number of other hormones. This imbalance was not originally picked up by the doctors I approached and was only treated a year into my illness after finding the right practitioner. After spending a full year at home, not working, my blood tests revealed the lowest possible score in the range, indicating the chronic fatigue I was experiencing.

My thyroid function was chaotic at first. At the end of 2014, my thyroid became overactive, causing troubling symptoms such as tremors, heart palpitations, sweating, overheating, fatigue, weight gain and many more. It is hard to describe how terrible I felt but I thought I was dying. During 2015 my doctor slowed down my thyroid with medication. Since then, it is working and all my efforts have been on making sure it doesn’t collapse.

With my immune system attacking my thyroid gland, tissue is destroyed and I am at very high risk of becoming hypothyroid. For this reason, I have been working very hard in the past few years to calm down the attack. This is done by managing stress which is  not so easy, as well as cutting gluten out of my diet.

I sought a lot of medical care from a range of practitioners. The most valuable ones were my endocrinologist, homeopath and integrative (or functional) practitioner. The costs have been enormous, including consultations, medication, blood tests and supplements. I healed many aspects of my health that were contributing to fatigue. This includes eliminating viruses, improving the function of  lymphatic and digestive systems as well as reducing inflammation.

I have made many difficult life changes. I changed the work I do, relationships and many aspects of my lifestyle including sleep patterns, diet and exercise. It was a struggle to make these alterations and I kept wondering if it was worth it. I also spent a lot of time and money on alternative healing, addressing emotional and spiritual aspects of recovery. I sought the help of a psychologist for a few years to help me in unpacking how I got sick and to build my resilience.

I did my best to alter my life and direct it towards a happier existence but it is impossible to avoid stress completely. In times of high stress, for example at the end of last year when we had to change schools for our girls, my health deteriorated. I felt demoralized at times like this when I went to the endocrinologist and he increased my medication. I felt like I was on a downward spiral, despite all the hard work I put into healing and recovery.


This week I had blood tests and my DHEA levels are as high as someone in their twenties. Of course, this is not ideal for a 43 year old but what it means is that my body is making enough such that I don’t need as much supplementation any longer. For the first time in four years, I can reduce my medication for the adrenal glands. My endocrinologist said that the adrenals are the key to thyroid recovery so this bodes well.

I finally feel that all of my efforts in the past four years are worth it. All the struggles to eat well, to get enough sleep, to make myself meditate. It’s worth it and it actually works. I felt like a failure after burning out and on top of that I just couldn’t seem to make headway with my health. This week’s news has given me such a boost in knowing that I have been doing the right things and all that effort was indeed worth it.

Personal Development

I am a big fan of personal development. I read many books on self improvement and I am passionate about building a better life for myself. I like to learn things and the top thing I like to learn is how to be better. This doesn’t mean that I’m particularly  unhappy with who I am but there is always room to grow and learn.


This week I went to Cape Town for six days for a course in personal development. It cost more than I would usually spend and I was apprehensive about whether I’ll get my money’s worth. My cousin recommended the course and said he thought it would make a big difference in my life. It was complicated logistically because it’s school time and it’s a little tricky to enlist my husband to do all the homework, lunches and laundry. Of course, I’ve done all of the childcare when he has been away but he’s only a guy, after all.

I worried a lot about whether the family would cope without me and whether my health was strong enough to manage the long days in a room with other participants. When we travel, my husband usually handles the car hire and the accommodation. It was a challenge for me to sort out the logistics and I was very nervous about the whole trip and the course itself.

I figured out how to get around and navigated my way between the hotel and the training venue. I managed to drive a strange little car with manual transmission for a few days. The content of the course was good and I gained a lot but I also gained an insight from the mere trip. I realized that my health is strong enough to do what other people do and I handled the logistics and the long days of the course without issue. I’ve been feeling handicapped, or broken in some way. I spent three years recovering from burnout and I see that I became fearful, holding myself back in case my health deteriorates. That’s getting in the way of doing the things I need to do to move forward in my life and career.

I did a yoga class while in Cape Town and for the first time, I didn’t put any medical issues on the signup form. I actually feel that I can live life like a ‘normal’ person, not that there’s such a thing. I realized that I can accomplish much more than I have been allowing myself to imagine. Feeling as empowered as I do after the course, I created a list of things, all starting with ‘I can’ and I got to twenty one before I ran out of paper.

I spent two days in Cape Town after the training, enjoying the city. I went to the beach and spent time with the sand between my toes. I had fun on my own without the responsibility of getting people to dancing on time, getting homework done and feeding a bunch of other people. I had two days fully to myself which felt like an unbridled indulgence. I bought myself delicious meals like sushi and enjoyed the break from cooking. I slept late, I did whatever I felt like and I felt completely entitled to it. I can’t tell you a time in my life when I’ve felt more free.

I know I have to return to reality but it was such an important experience and I want to hold onto it. In the course, I learnt about reconnecting with relationships that I’ve let become distant and damaged. I realized that I’ve hardened my heart to many people who are close to me because I want to protect myself from hurt. But when we do that, we stop ourselves from letting the love in and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to risk being hurt because it’s worth it.

On the course, I spent time with people of a variety of cultures, backgrounds and ages. I saw prejudice and grace. I laughed along with my fellow countrymen and women, enjoying the unique aspects of our people. I was touched by the stories people told of their traumas and experiences. I was moved and inspired to make my life better and to stop whining about my problems when I saw such potential in others who live with larger constraints.

I spent many years in recovery from burnout. I became isolated and disconnected from the world and the everyday people of my country. I feel part of humanity now and I have recognized that I need to connect with those I love and care about. Research shows that social relationships are the biggest contributor to our happiness. I need to implement what I’ve learnt and deeply invest in the relationships in my life.

It made me realize that I want to be back in the world again. I don’t want to sit on the outskirts, wondering if I’m well enough to participate in life. I am ready to dive in and be the person I am meant to be. I am ready to bring my gifts into the world and I can’t wait to get started. I am ready to live fully again.


We become absorbed in our lives with all our routines and problems like they are insurmountable. I’ve gained a new perspective. It’s so good for us to get out of our environment and typical company now and then. It’s so valuable to challenge ourselves. We might find out that we can achieve more than we ever realized, or even wanted to achieve. The training material brought me closer to my calling and I’m more inspired than ever to bring my message to the world.

Surrender to the Silence

This month has been confusing. I thought it would be so busy considering it contains National Women’s Day and I love to talk on self-care. I only had one speech early in the month and no opportunities since. I expected a bumper month with at least three speeches. It has been my second highest month in book sales, second only to my launch month. But I’m surprised about the silence.


When you earn income for yourself, a quiet month is not a good thing. My inbox is empty, my phone doesn’t ring and there are no prospects in the near future. It can be alarming and I did panic at first. I started to worry about what I’ve done wrong, what I haven’t done or even if this is the right path for me.

I used the time to meditate and to get admin done. I like to draw cards daily to see what messages might be available. I consistently get the message to just let life unfold as it should without trying to force it. If you operate without faith, you tend to be dominated by your mind and you can get yourself into a downward spiral of worry and doubt. You try to fix and force your way but this doesn’t work, in the long run anyway. There are times to just surrender and to go with the flow.

I decided to do just that, to let go and to trust the messages. I’ve spent more time meditating, I’ve had fun with my kids on the trampoline and swings and I’ve indulged in creativity. This holiday we have made candles, slime, mosaic and mandalas. I’ve worked on a crochet blanket for my oldest daughter and it’s close to completion. We have baked, laughed and connected with each other. Earning money is important but I think these experiences have been even more important.


Tomorrow it is back to school and I feel mixed emotions. Usually I can’t wait for the kids to be out of my hair and for me to be released of the guilt of working when they want to be with me. I usually feel relieved that I’m no longer torn between my girls wanting to spend time with me, and getting work done. This time, with no work to be done, I feel a little sad as I’ll miss the time spent together.

While they have been on holiday, I’ve enjoyed reading in place of homework. From all the books I’ve read, I’ve collected so many ideas on what to include in my next book. It feels like something is shifting in me, the calm before the storm. I’ve had afternoon naps and I’ve taken care of myself. Instead of punishing myself for some unknown failure that has led to the silence, I’m enjoying it. I surrender to the path my soul is taking me on. I’m grateful for all that has led me here and I’m excited about what’s next.

I’ve done a lot of networking in the past year and it has been rewarding. However, I’ve reached a point where I need more challenge in my work. I want to be making a bigger impact in the world. A while ago, I thought perhaps I need to go back into the corporate world and earn good income again. Selling books and doing speeches is something that can happen in the background. Writing my next book is probably also something I can do in my spare time if I get sufficiently organised. So, being ready to return to the working world, I applied for many jobs and nothing came of it. More silence.

I’m going on a training course in two weeks’ time in another city. This course is designed to bring out the best in the participants so it feels like the right thing for me now. I’m hoping this course opens up ideas, opportunities or contacts that lead to something new and exciting for me. I’m eager to see if this is something that will challenge me sufficiently to be a meaningful contributor to society. Even a change of scenery is often enough to spur ideas and to find creative solutions to problems.

Sometimes when things are not going the way we expect them to, or want them to, we panic. That creates a desperate energy that isn’t very useful and is not the place from which good decisions are made. Instead, I’m feeling calm. I’m not rushing into anything just to fill the silence. I’m not blaming myself or others. I’m just accepting that this is what is, right now. There is probably a reason for it. I didn’t get to this place of calm suddenly or easily, of course. Being the person I am, I tried so many things: job applications, contacting a speaker bureau, letting my network know I’m looking for work. And at the end of it all, the silence persists.

So, I’ve surrendered into it. This must be a time of quiet, perhaps a time of contraction before expansion. And maybe this is just what I need to give me the strength and enthusiasm for what’s coming. We are in the last week of winter so I should probably align myself with the seasons. Just relax until spring arrives with all its enthusiasm, optimism and energy. This feels a lot less stressful than trying to make things happen when it’s just not working. I’ve tried the A-type struggle and it led me towards stress and unhappiness. For the first time, I have enjoyed the silence instead of fighting it. Let’s see where this takes me…

Does Burnout mean Mental Breakdown?

I used to judge those with a ‘mental breakdown’ as being weak, as someone very different from me. It took me almost a year to insert the label of burnout onto what happened to me. My health collapsed, I got chronic fatigue and I developed an autoimmune disease that I will have for life. I have been very irritated when people I interact with say that I’ve had a mental breakdown. I’m not a mental case. But perhaps this is the thinking that’s been holding me back.

I got quite stressed recently about a few things. I had a speech for a client recently, and a case of fraud with a telecoms provider that I’m still trying to resolve. I let myself get so stressed about these things, worrying about whether my speech will land well, be worthwhile for the audience and whether it was worth spending the time and energy on it.


I sold my book at a book fair last weekend and someone called me ‘the burnout lady.’ I’m not too thrilled about that label but that’s how my brand is evolving. I did feel compelled to call my book Avoiding Burnout. I’m not sure why, but I had to follow that instinct and I know that my next book has to be Healing Burnout. It’s not progressing very well, if you’re wondering.

The next book I write after Healing Burnout has to be about joy. I really want to show people that it’s possible to live a better life. But I have to get my act together first. I can’t spend weeks stressing about a speech that is just one part of my job. I can’t let myself get so stressed about normal events in life, that it affects my health. I need to find a way to do this work that I want to do, enjoy it and lead others towards joy at the same time.

I don’t want to be the burnout lady. I don’t want every speech to be about burnout. I know that my message is not as powerful unless I speak about how my life collapsed. In my speeches, I explain what happened to my health, and my life, as a result of becoming sick from stress. I know that many people don’t understand burnout and I must confess that before I got sick, neither did I.


Like many people, I thought it was a mental breakdown. I imagined a sufferer of burnout in a straight jacket or maybe sedated in an asylum. The option of being hospitalized was offered to me. My psychologist said that I could check into a hospital and the minimum stay would be three weeks. For the first three days, I would be sedated to the point where I wasn’t conscious and I wouldn’t be able to see my family. Just to let my brain calm down from the extreme stress I was under.

I didn’t choose that option. I chose to carry on with life, doing my best to make changes in my own way. I didn’t want to have a psychiatric stay on my record because people judge it and perhaps I wasn’t ready to accept what was happening. I probably prolonged my recovery by making that choice and I wonder if it was the right one. Because people judge anyway. They judge me for having burnout. I keep wanting to call it something else, like ‘stress-induced illness’ so that people can see beyond the mental illness into the real issue: a lifelong autoimmune disease and the chronic fatigue.

It has become my quest to share with people what can happen to our lives if we let it. I want to educate people that they can develop a lifelong chronic illness as a result of too much stress. I want to help people to avoid the suffering that came with my illness. The effect on my life from the chronic fatigue. The effect on my children, my husband and my relationships. The effect on our lifestyle and financial situation. I want to help the world know this. But I think some people can’t get past the mental illness component.

Or maybe it’s me that can’t get past it. Maybe I’m judging myself for letting this happen, for not managing my stress well and for not seeing it coming. Maybe I’m the one I need to convince that there’s more to burnout than the failure. It’s possible that there are people who suffered burnout without the lifelong illness. Perhaps there are people who took the hospital stay and that helped them enough.

Maybe it’s okay to talk about depression and to admit that my brain wasn’t functioning that well when I was diagnosed. I know that I was very irritable, especially with my family but also at work. I know that my decision-making was compromised by the level of stress I was under. I know that I wasn’t leading my business and staff well at that time.

Perhaps what is needed is for me to acknowledge that and to forgive myself for all of it. The depression, the irritability, the shouting at my children, and the bad choices at work. I’ve been working on self-love and it isn’t an easy thing to get right for me. But perhaps this is part of it and if I can embrace it all, maybe that will lead me to a path of peace.

I might be able to be a more-encompassing representative for people who want to talk about burnout and what it did to their lives. Perhaps if I stop judging myself for the mental aspects, I’ll be at ease in talking about this topic and being the burnout lady others want to engage with.