The telltale signs of burnout

w2015-just-for-parentsFeeling sick, exhausted and overwhelmed between work, parenting and all the daily demands? Ottawa life coach and mom of three Judy Mouland describes her recovery from severe burnout and offers advice on what to do when you feel like you’re drowning.

A few years ago, I had 14 different ailments in one year.

I was exhausted, anemic, had bouts of hives, my mouth had swollen shut — twice — leaving me running for the closest pharmacy.

I had sinus problems, swollen joints, high blood pressure, a weird sound coming from my heart, pneumonia, respiratory problems, my anxiety was mounting and depression came and went.

I would see my doctor, an allergist, and my new naturopath and kept hearing the same word: stress.

As the mom of three exceptional children, the demands were crazy high.

Each of my children had a portfolio of needs and managing their files took a tremendous amount of brainpower, acquired knowledge and years of history. Delegating was not an option. I couldn’t just run away to a spa for three weeks or head off to a mountain retreat.

I was also the CEO of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada and I had people counting on me: my employees, board members and those we served. How could I stop when one in 10 Canadians needed our help?

So onward I went — until one day, I finally fell over. I was in full burnout.

My naturopath started me on a regime for adrenal fatigue and my doctor gave me medication, and I went home to bed.

I then took the time to really listen to my body. Here is what I heard:

1) Everything felt overwhelming  we all have days when we are juggling multiple demands, but this feeling is different. The smallest task feels like a massive chore and it feels like one more thing will break your back.

2) I was physically exhausted – I would have sold my soul to the devil for an extra hour of sleep. I tried to ramp up the exercise, thinking it would be good for me, but instead, I felt worse. And once in bed, the anxiety would take over, making it impossible to get a good night’s rest.

3) I was emotionally dull – I didn’t experience any highs or lows and lived in a state of neutral. I would cry at weird times, and couldn’t help it. And the crying felt like more of a release than actual sadness.

4) I was always sick – this is when I took the time to list my ailments and I realized I had gone from the person who always said, “I never get sick” to suddenly being sick all the time.

5) I was constantly forgetful and couldn’t concentrate – it would take three trips to finally get the car out of the driveway. My mind kept wandering and the piles on my desk had really grown.

6) Nothing gave me pleasure – I could not find joy in anything and no experience gave me any real pleasure.

During this time, I started with a life coach. In the beginning, it was a tough and very uncomfortable journey. I felt vulnerable. I hated crying. It made me feel weak and out of control.

But over time, I got inside myself in a way I had never allowed before and began to find ways to change.

And for the first time, I allowed failure in my life.

I stepped down from LDAC. I enrolled in the CTI coach training program and began a six-month process of deep discovery.

I made changes in my personal life and soon my home became a place where I had true support and unconditional love. And I accepted that I couldn’t control everything.

And I slept.

I put the energy I had into my children. I brought our household budget down to a bare minimum, pulled out some RRSPs, learned to endure a messy house and said no to most everything.

I found out that my kids thought I was pretty great, even when they discovered that I wasn’t a superhero.
And I realized I had raised some smart, kind and insightful kids.

I spent the summer recovering and when I knew I was better, I began to coach.

I now practise a short yoga routine daily, spend time walking my dog in the woods and I close my eyes for a few minutes every afternoon.

I see the result of having invested so much time teaching my children to be self-advocates and I let them lead, whenever they can and want to.

I also sit back on my heels and let them figure things out instead of swooping in with a solution.

I now listen to my body.

How about you?

If you feel like you are too busy drowning to ask for help, then you need to regroup.

First, take some time to breathe and then look at your priorities. Give some things up and learn to say no.

Do something that is good for you every day walk, do a short yoga routine at home, have a hot cup of tea. Make it manageable.

Take time to read something you like and put on your favourite music while you cook. If you need help, then talk to a friend, find a support group or hire a coach.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Just focus on doing the very best you can each day and being OK with it. 

Judy Mouland

Judy Mouland loves to challenge the status quo and chip away at the word “normal.”  Over the years, she has learned to embrace and use her own quirky brain to succeed and is passionate about the power of self-awareness. She became a CTI (Coaches Training Institute) Life Coach for people with ADHD, LD, OCD (and their favourite cousins: anxiety and depression) after serving for 20+ years in local, national and international settings, most recently as the CEO of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. She works to empower her clients to live life on their own terms – no excuses – and to uncover their brilliance so they can shine. She is a member of the International Coaches Federation and freely admits that most everything she knows she has learned from her three exceptional children, who never let her brain become idle. Her empowering blog posts can be found at