burnout workshop and stress management title picture

~ My Story ~

From Chaos & Burnout to Recovery & Resilience

The Short Story (Highlights)

—> Early life: A journey through chaos & struggle

As a child, I experienced an extreme amount of stress, lack of safety & instability. I had to grow up fast in a home with a single mother and a younger sibling. My mother was always under an extreme amount of stress and burden, struggling to financially support us and crawl out of our challenging circumstances. We moved constantly, and I ended up attending thirteen schools in twelve years. I was always the new kid and trying to re-orient myself to new environments. I was often a victim of bullying and harassment, and as a teenager, I started drinking way too early.

Most of my life was spent running from early trauma or striving to meet the world’s expectations. As a high achiever, I got almost perfect grades at school. My teachers all loved me. I did community service projects and even took college-level courses in high school. I covered up my pain and struggle. I pushed past my fear and anger. I thought I was resilient, but I was running off of adrenaline and living in a constantly dysregulated nervous system. 

Eventually, I left a chaotic home life and went to University. I graduated, started my professional career, and found myself married to an addict. I found myself in chaos again and eventually at 29, I lost everything: my home, stability, business & husband. I ended up like my mother, raising a child on my own and struggling to make ends meet. But I was determined to rise from the ashes.     

—> Later life: Rising from the ashes

Hard work was always a part of my experience. I had no problem rolling up my sleeves and doing what needed to be done. After I lost everything, I was at rock bottom. I had to build a life from the ground up. I rebuilt my business, worked on my healing & recovery, raised my beautiful daughter, and found a path forward. 

My personal recovery informed my professional work. I learned how important stress management, mental health & personal development were to running a business or leading a team. I started doing deep work with founders, leaders & high achievers, helping them to find optimal performance and more fulfillment & freedom.  

I continued to coach & speak and eventually opened a work/life balance center in Austin, Texas in 2008. In 2010, I met my Australian husband and ended up moving to Australia for 8 years. We have been blessed to live and work around the world. 

I continue to hone my work around stress management & mental wellness, understanding both personally & professionally the power of regulating the nervous system and finding recovery from stress & burnout. 

I found a path to recovery & resilience

And it isn’t just my story –  I have had the honor to work with thousands of people around the world on their recovery & resilience too.

Picture of man on dock after stress management coaching

The Long Story

(click one of the boxes to open my story below)


Chaos, Change & Survival

My early years were marked with chaos & constant change. My parents separated when I was 2, got back together, and had another child when I was 5. Soon after, we moved from New York to Dallas, leaving behind a solid community of family & friends. After living in Dallas for a short time, my dad left my mom permanently, and my mom was forced to raise two kids on her own. 

Life with a single mother is hard, especially when that mother is in grief & survival. I was also in grief & survival, but even as a small child, I was a high performer and more capable than my mom of covering up my stress and fear. 

I spent my childhood being the emotional support for my mother, a second parent to my sister, and putting all of my needs last.  

In my childhood, I never felt in control of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom was dysregulated and trying to run from her fear by always changing our circumstances. I went to 13 schools in 12 years, moved to a new neighborhood every year, and was forced to always adapt to new situations & communities. 

We were always in financial struggle. We went from some financial stability into poverty, back into some financial stability, and then into poverty again. 

I lived in constant fear and never really felt safe. I was a latch-key kid and rarely had any parental support or guidance. Parenting a younger child, when I was as young as 9, felt like chaos and I was stuck between the pressure to take care of her and the fear of failing her. 

As I grew older, I had complete autonomy & freedom. My mom never knew where I was or what I was doing. I started drinking alcohol at 14 and found myself in a lot of dangerous situations. My teenage years were hard, but that is a story for another time. 

Living in chaos & fear throughout my childhood meant I lived in a dysregulated nervous system and was wired for chronic stress. 

—> I was a high-functioning survivor.

As a high performer, I could overcome any situation. I thought I was resilient & strong, but I didn’t realize the cost this type of performance had on my mental health & well-being. 

My childhood conditioned my nervous system to feel like chronic stress & dysregulation was normal.

Being a high performer was a huge part of my identity. I really believed it was the best part of me, but this pattern was destroying my relationships & mental health.  

Some of the things I received from my early years:

Confidence that I could survive anything and adapt to change 

The ability to work with my emotions, self-reflect & hold space for other people’s experiences & emotions    

The value of reading, studying, and researching which I still use every day

A passion for figuring out what makes humans work & what lies under the surface of our thinking & reasoning  

A gift for reading people & situations – being able to observe and feel the truth behind what is presented or performed 

An in-depth understanding of what it feels like to live with chronic stress & nervous system dysregulation, both in myself & within the people around me

The discernment to see the difference between optimal performance and high performance masking chronic stress 


~ The chaos & change in my childhood  shaped me & set me on course  towards my life’s work ~
~ The chaos & change in my childhood

shaped me & set me on course

towards my life's work ~


Freedom, Failure & Rising from the Ashes

The first time I felt in control of my life was at university. I left home at 17 and for the first time, I wasn’t subjected to my mom’s choices & changes. I could choose what I wanted & how I wanted to live. 

If my childhood didn’t do it, my time in college put me on the path to burnout. I worked 50 hours a week to support myself & pay for school. I also took a full load of college courses, got all A’s in my classes, partied hard…and slept, on average, about 2 hours a night. 

This level of over-functioning was normal to me. 

Given that I had started my psychology degree in high school, I went to college certain I would complete a degree in psychology. Midway through my 4-year degree, I realized I didn’t want to be a traditional psychologist or a teacher. 

I accidentally fell into an advertising class and realized I loved the psychology of advertising and marketing. My parents had both been entrepreneurs and I wanted to study more about business & leadership.

So I changed course &  graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising, journalism, and marketing.

Something happened to me in my last year of college that set the foundation for my life’s work. I needed an extra credit class and stumbled upon a class called Stress Reduction through Dance Therapy. This class transformed the way I saw myself and the world. 

It was my first introduction to stress management, somatic psychology, and the power of our body & biology. 

Before this class, I had normalized my high levels of stress. I never even considered that stress was a problem for me. 

I started to pay attention to my body and my stress level. I gained tools to manage stress & to continue my self-development journey. It changed my life. 

This transformation led me to take a year off after college & live one of the best years of my life. I waited tables, took all the pressure off myself to perform or achieve, and had amazing life experiences. 

During this time I enjoyed life & had a lot of personal growth, but I still burned the candle at both ends, drank too much, and ignored my body’s needs for rest and recovery. 

I was still living with a dysregulated nervous system that continued to produce chronic stress & life challenges. 

 At the end of that year, I met my first husband, and the same chaos I experienced as a child enveloped me again. My first husband was an alcoholic and drug addict, something I didn’t understand in the beginning because he was sober when we met. I simultaneously started my professional career and my first marriage.

I got my first “real” job at a big branding agency in Denver, Colorado. It was exciting work, but came with a very toxic culture. There was a robust team when I started, but within a few months most of the team had quit and I was one of the few creatives holding all the accounts. 

My work partner was a high performer too. We rolled up our sleeves and worked night and day to handle the work of 6 people. We produced 4 years of work within 10 months and won awards along the way.   

At our performance review, the agency was unwilling to match our salaries to our performance, and we decided to quit the agency and start our own branding business. 

Welcome to 1999! The beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. We were trailblazing in a time when very few women were running businesses. I started consulting & coaching business owners, at first around their brand and message. I also started my speaking career teaching men in male-dominated industries how to market to women.  

My business was growing, but my personal life began to fall apart. My husband and I followed the normal track: we married, bought a house, and had a child. But having a child changed everything, and the stress level a child had on our relationship sent my husband back into alcohol and drugs.

He couldn’t keep a job, so I was taking care of a baby, building my business during the day & waiting tables at night to pay for our new home. 

It was the ultimate juggle and my high-performance wiring kicked back into gear.   

I barely slept but I was determined to survive. Because I was so consumed with survival, I missed the signs of my husband’s relapse. He became erratic and he started exhibiting dangerous behaviors. My daughter and I were no longer safe, and I had to leave my home & most of my belongings in the middle of the night.   

At the same time, my business partner was struggling with the intensity of my personal life and decided to end our partnership with no warning.  So within two weeks, I lost my husband, income & home. 

I can honestly say this was the most challenging time of my life!  

Despite losing everything, I picked myself up again, determined to create a beautiful life for me and my daughter.  

We moved to another state and I filed for divorce, custody, and bankruptcy. I found a full-time corporate job but continued to run my consulting and coaching business on the side. I spent any spare time with my daughter and used late nights, lunch breaks, nap times, and early mornings to heal myself. I meditated. I journaled. I read self-help books and studied psychology and spirituality.  

I was still experiencing chronic stress & anxiety, but I hid them well.

Eventually, I realized that my life needed to change, so I quit my full-time job and moved to Austin, Texas, with my daughter. 

My life had burned to the ground, but I was able to rise from the ashes. 

~ I learned firsthand how  chronic stress & high performance  affect our health & well-being ~
~ I learned firsthand how

chronic stress & high performance

affect our health & well-being ~

My growth YEARS…

Growth, Wisdom & My Life’s Work

Austin was an amazing time of growth! when I arrived in 2006 I didn’t know anyone, but by 2010 I had developed a new family and a huge business network

During those four years, I ran my coaching business, traveled around the country teaching self-development courses, and co-founded the first coworking space in Austin.

If you have ever listened to one of my podcasts, this is where I met my co-host, Laura Shook-Guzman. 

Laura and I were passionate about being entrepreneurs and supporting our clients’ mental health & wellness. We were also single moms. 

Together, Laura & I had a brilliant idea: if we moved in together we could share finances and co-parent our two beautiful girls.  

We used to sit on the couch after our kids went to sleep and talk for hours about psychology, therapy, and mental health. We would eat ice cream and talk about how to change the world.

Eventually, we co-founded Soma Vida, a work/life balance center that combined wellness services like massage & yoga with business support and child care.   

This coworking space outlasted most of the coworking spaces in Austin, eventually closing its doors at the beginning of COVID. Laura and I lived together until she met her current husband. 

In 2010, I met my current husband. We had an online international dating experience – he was in Australia and I was in Austin. We fell in love quickly and within a few months, we were married. I moved to Australia and began a new chapter in my life. 

I loved my years in Austin, but when I arrived in Australia, I was burnt out. For years I had been a single mom running two businesses. I had done so much on my own for so long that I didn’t realize the toll it had taken on me. 

Moving to a new country, disrupting my old habits and responsibilities, and having a partner to lean on, allowed me to wake up to the fact that I was exhausted and dysregulated.

What I had perceived for so long as my strength & high performance was driving me and my body into the ground. 

I got pregnant within the first month of being in Australia but suffered a late miscarriage. My body paid the price for decades of stress, and it was several more pregnancies and a lot of work on my stress and health before my second daughter was born. 

This was the first time in my life I ever slowed down and the first time I truly acknowledged my burnout & dysregulation. I still had periods of time when I pushed myself to my limits, but I had space in between. 

I finally learned the difference between optimal performance & “high performance” that masked stress & dysregulation. 

During my 8 years in Australia, I continued coaching and crafting my life’s work. I worked with a lot of founders & entrepreneurs. I helped them slow down, redefine success, and find optimal performance. 

All of the awareness and healing I did on myself translated into wisdom I could use with my clients. I studied psychology, business, leadership, neuroscience, and anything that would support my clients to improve their mental health, reduce stress & live more fully. 

I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of people from all over the world. I did everything from coaching individuals & groups to training & educating through online or in-person events. 

I was remote working long before COVID and in 2018 my husband and I decided we wanted to be nomadic. I had always longed to travel and our daughters, who were ages 4 and 16 at this time, were keen to experience something new. So we sold everything and left Australia. We traveled to Bali, and back to the USA, and ended up in Mexico for 18 months.

Mexico changed me! I had learned to slow down and regulate my nervous system, but Mexico was a whole different level. Mexico operates at a very different pace. There is space to be, to enjoy life, and to enjoy community. We were very blessed to meet some amazing people and have amazing experiences. 

During that 18 months, I decided to take a break from coaching, my first since 1999. I instead focused all my work on corporate wellness training. I also decided to do some deep study around trauma and somatic therapy. I became officially “trauma-informed” to support my corporate training & eventually my coaching work. 

My time in Mexico helped me experience what it was like to be regulated most of the time. I spent 18 months truly relaxing! I let go of high performance. I enjoyed my friends. I had days of doing nothing. I prioritized my health & well-being over my to-do list. 

This time changed me and it influenced my work!

In 2023, my family decided we were ready for something new. We wanted to spend some time back in the USA and close to family. We moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where we are currently living until our next adventure. 

Moving back to the USA was a test of our growth. We wanted to deliberately keep the balance between life & work. We wanted to maintain some of the relaxation we experienced in Mexico while still running businesses and being back in a fast-paced environment. 

We are loving the life we have created! We love our work, but we enjoy our life. We focus on staying as regulated as possible and keeping our stress levels low. It is always a work in progress, but we are happy with what we have created. 

My whole life has informed my work & I know both personally & professionally what it takes to reduce stress & improve mental health. 

~ I have the  knowledge & experience  to help YOU reduce stress & find your optimal performance ~
~ I have the

knowledge & experience

to help YOU reduce stress & find your optimal perforamance ~
~ I have the knowledge & experience

to help you reduce stress

& find your optimal performance ~
Picture of man on dock after stress management coaching

~ A Few Fun Facts About Me ~

Favorite Coffee:

Cortado Breve
(I’m a coffee snob)

Sources of Joy:

Nature, Travel
& Family

My Signs:

Scorpio Sun, Pisces Moon & Cancer Rising

Energy Profile:

Outgoing Introvert

Secret Pleasure:

A Good Drama
Or Juicy Novel

Background & Training

My professional experience :

Twenty-four years as a coach & trainer helping individuals & organizations build a toolbox of resilience-based strategies

In that time, I have worked with thousands of high-achievers & leaders around the world

Experience with many industries from tech to wellness and with many leaders from founders to C-suite executives.  

Innovator & pioneer – I co-founded the first work/life balance center in Austin in 2008 and led the way for bringing wellness into the workplace

Training & studies in psychology, neuroscience, business, leadership, stress management, mental health, somatic & trauma therapy, relationships & conflict, and so much more to be able to support my clients in all areas of their lives

Trauma-informed and certified in Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy – giving me a lens that supports my client with their biological responses to stress & adversity

Experience as an expert on hundreds of stages teaching subjects from burnout & stress management to mental health & wellness

Hosting more than 240 podcast episodes focused on self-development, business development & leadership development. I have also appeared as a guest on hundreds of radio shows, TV shows, and podcasts over the last two decades

Bottom line: For 24 years, I have been developing unique systems and approaches that are evidence-based and time-tested. I have learned some of the most effective approaches to transformation.

Learn more about my professional background here

Sonya’s work is unique! I have not come across anyone as honest, intuitive, and wise in the coaching world. And I searched before I started working with Sonya. Every session with her is a moment of enlightenment. Sonya helped me change my life & my work. I have so much extra time in a day, it’s crazy. With her decades of experience, she helps you see your gifts and skills and learn how to leverage them. Often I don’t even realize how much I learned with Sonya until I need to use the tools she gave me.

A. Kochetkova


Philosophy & Core Beliefs

The foundation for my work:

(Click the + symbol to read more)


Stress reduction & mental health are the foundation for success, happiness & fulfillment:

—> There is a lot of information out there about the keys to success, happiness & fulfillment. I spent my life & professional career testing and unpacking many different paths to achieve these results. Eventually, I realized that so many paths to success ignored some really fundamental principles. 

Without proper stress management & mental health practices, everything in our lives becomes more difficult. I watched so many of my clients set themselves up for success, only to be blindsided by the effects of stress or the impact of their nervous system dysregulation. 

We can’t ignore the foundations. This is why I specialize now in stress management. I work with all areas of my clients’ lives and help them achieve more success, happiness & fulfillment. I just start with foundations first. 

The key to reducing stress and improving our mental health is nervous system regulation:

—> I know that the most effective way to reduce stress & improve our mental health is to do it through the nervous system. Many coaches, practitioners & therapists use techniques rooted in the adage “mind over body”. 

But what we understand now through science is that the body & our biology are more powerful than the mind. Our biology is wired for survival and operates unconsciously and automatically. When our stress responses are stimulated, the rational mind goes offline. 

You can’t “think” your way out of stress & mental health challenges. You have to work with the biology that is creating them. This is why I am a big fan of working with our body, instead of against it. This makes a huge difference in my work. 

The first step is establishing safety & resourcing:

—> Whether it is transforming our personal lives or our workplaces, safety has to come first. Stress responses activate when we don’t feel safe, so the only way to put the “brake” on stress is to establish safety. 

Depending on our history, experiences & habits, establishing safety can take time, but it is an important part of the process. 

I am also a big believer in resourcing first. We have to assess your current circumstances, resources & practices to determine what you can easily and quickly utilize to expand your time & energy, and build more capacity to create long-lasting change. 

The first step in my stress management coaching program is resourcing and at the beginning of every session, we work to establish safety.

Mental health & wellness is a practice, and not a standard definition or destination:

—> One of the reasons my clients get great results is that we focus on their practice of wellness, not a destination or ultimate goal. I work with clients’ unique circumstances, experiences, desires, and habits. 

We look at how to establish daily practices that can shift their experience now, not months or years into the future. I take into account their current barriers and limitations, and their current skills and strengths to ensure we create the right path & practice for where they are right now. 

Mental health & wellness don’t need to take huge amounts of effort, you can start building small, easy & healthy habits right now.

The key to long-term transformation is building small healthy habits:

—> I believe in the power of small habits & practices. I have seen my clients get more for tiny tweaks and changes in the right direction, than big plans that are impractical and hard to implement into their daily lives. 

Everything I offer from coaching to my speaking events is set up to be easy and practical to learn & implement. I know we are in the real world and the real world is demanding. Transformation doesn’t require intense effort, it starts with small & mighty movements.

Best Ways to Get to Know

 Me & My Work
Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.