"Wellbeing" is a blog series where I interview and introduce you to inspiring people doing interesting things that can connect to our mental well being.
Today, meet Heather.
Hi! My name is Heather, and some people know me as the "Bliss Girl." I am a Jay Shetty Certified Life and Success Coach and soon to be NLP ( Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Practitioner. I am the founder of Connecting to Bliss Coaching, which started as a movement to help parents learn the tools not to feel like "is this it?".
I became a mom in 2015, and although I adored and loved my daughter a crazy amount, being a mom was far more challenging than I thought.
As I continued to transition into motherhood, I started understanding the underbelly of it all; the loneliness, the fears, the sense of loss and losing your freedom, and the sense of self you had before. Fast forward through my year off, becoming a full-time working mom was like no challenge I've ever had before.
I started commuting 3+ hours a day, working 8.5 hours, dropping my sweet little one-year-old off to spend day after day with someone else, to come home, frantically cook, clean, bathe her, put her to bed, and collapse at the end of the night.
Eight months after returning to work, I was empty and drained. I was also reactive, angry and yelling all too often, impatient and sometimes unkind. I was not being my authentic self in any way.
As a teenager, I suffered from severe depression: meds, therapy, hospitalization, the whole works. And although I came out the other side of that experience better off, I knew I never wanted to suffer like that again. I started to see the signs of depression coming. I felt the lust for life begin to drift, and I got terrified. I didn't want to be that mom that wasn't able to cope. I wanted so much more for my daughter, husband, and myself.
Something big was about to happen, and I remember the day everything changed like it was yesterday.
I was on my long commute home and rushing to get to my daughter in time before the daycare shut. I was in stand-still traffic and felt hopeless and stuck. I began to cry, and I couldn't stop. I pulled over so I didn't kill anyone on the road trying to drive through my tears, and I cried for an hour. I couldn't stop.
Then it happened. Something in me started screaming,
"STOP! Do not let this happen. Do not give in to this. You can do something, and you are not powerless."
I immediately stopped crying, wiped my tears and said out loud, "I will not let this take over. She deserves a mom that is willing to do anything to be okay. She deserves a mom willing to fight. I want to be that mom."
After that day, I started taking any moment I had to learn how to be better. 10 mins here, 5 mins there, whenever I could. I realized that I was feeling the way I did because I was neglecting myself. I started unpacking my own misguided belief that becoming a mom meant that I didn't matter anymore.
I started seeing how I threw every part of me into being her mom that I ignored myself as a person. The more I neglected myself, the worse mom, wife, sister, friend, daughter, the person I became.
I began to understand that being a mom was not the only box that I fit in, and I needed to figure out a way to nurture and love the parts of me that were not the mom. It was a shocking revelation.
Every day since that day I cried in my car I have been passionate and driven to help other parents not hit rock bottom as I did and understand that they MATTER. Sure their kids are important, but kids need us to be the best versions of ourselves. Full Stop.
I am relentless in my pursuit to stop and reverse parenting burnout.
Many people don't realize that the symptoms of burnout and depression are extremely similar! What can parents look for as signs that burnout might be right around the corner?
Burnout symptoms and depression symptoms overlap in so many ways. The main difference between the two comes with the treatment and longevity of the symptoms. Burnout will often lessen or go away completely when you take a break, whereas depression is more relentless and requires more to start feeling it lift. It is important to remember that burnout is progressive and will worsen if not treated and potentially become a depression or worse.
The root cause of burnout is an imbalance between the responsibilities and demands compared to the rewards like time off and self-care. The positives of being a parent no longer outweigh the negatives.
Symptoms of burnout manifest in three main areas of life: Physical, Emotional, and Behavioural.
Common physical symptoms can include excessive tiredness, lowered immune system, frequent headaches and unexplained muscle pain, changes in appetite and sleep habits.
Emotional symptoms often include an overall sense of failure and self-doubt. Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated. Burnout will cause you to want to detach and but also make you feel alone. There is a loss of motivation and a cynical and pessimistic outlook on most things.
Behavioural symptoms include withdrawal, isolation, and procrastination. Often burnout parents consume drugs or alcohol to cope and are outwardly reactive with little to no patience.
There are also different stages when it comes to burnout:
Stage 1 Honeymoon Phase: When we become parents, we learn new skills and have increased energy and satisfaction.
Stag 2 The Onset of Stress: Our optimism begins to wane, and exhaustion sets in.
Stage 3 Chronic Stress: We start to report high-stress levels on a very consistent basis.
Stage 4 Burnout: Symptoms become critical. Continuing with the pace of life becomes typically more challenging.
Stage 5 Habitual Burnout: This is our daily, and we are used to it.
It is essential to avoid burnout to recognize these symptoms before they get too severe or regular, and take the necessary steps to prevent them from getting worse.
What do you do on a daily or weekly basis to support yourself and your well being as a parent?
Self-care is the key to avoiding burnout. For me, that idea was so counter intuitive at first because I had learned the behaviours of self-neglect from those around me.
I take at least 10 minutes a day for self-care. I like meditation, yoga, breathwork, and reading/listening to my book. I will say, though, it took me some time to figure out what "MY" self-care activities were. I fell into the trap before of thinking things like mani's and pedi's, massages, and girls weekends was only self-care that I could do.
Those activities work for some people, but I found they didn't work for me, so I had to play around and try different things to figure out what worked for me. Your self-care needs to make you feel loved and cared about for at least a few hours. (that was how I gauged things)
My favourite form of self-care and one I spend the most time of my available time on is learning. I went a long time in my adulthood not actively learning, so now I am soaking in as much as I can about almost anything! I am a sponge now, which makes me feel great, cared for, and loved up from the inside out. One of my favourite things to say is "ABL - always be learning."
Listen to Alison's Interview with Heather
What is one thing you wish people knew about burnout or mental well being?
I work mainly with parents, and I hear so many of them say things like "as soon as.....". You know, "as soon as school calms down." or "as soon as the holidays are over, that is when I will start doing my self-care." Our lives are busier now than ever, and if we wait for these things to calm down, truthfully, it will be too late. I want people to know that with small intentional changes, the proper guidance, and determination, they don't have to experience burnout until the kids have left home.
We don't have to overhaul our whole lives to find calm, balance and joy again. We all are important, and we deserve to feel good about our lives and ourselves today! NOW! There is no point in waiting.
What is one simple tip we can use as parents to reduce overwhelm on a day to day basis?
Implement 10 minutes a day to do something just for yourself. If you don't know what will work for you, try out new things and test them out for a few weeks. ** stick with it. Depending on your level of burnout, it can take some time to start to feel the positive effects of self-care.
Ten minutes a day is only 1% of your day, but it can make the other 99% of your day so much better.
You can download my 10 Minute a day Self Care Challenge on my website. This challenge has self-care suggestions, a starting checklist, a daily journal, and a 14 Day Reflection.
Where can we find you and learn more about you?
You can find me on
Hi, I'm Alison and welcome to my blog. Here I share tips, ideas and stories of mental and physical well being.
I have been a speaker and trainer for 16 years. I offer Mental Health First Aid in Canada and work with corporate and community groups to deliver training on mental well being, stress management, self-care and more!
Be sure to connect with me on IG @alisonbutlernl or LinkedIn.