I spent 15 years as a brand consultant for leading global advertising agencies. At one point in time I actually had 3 desks in 3 different countries and sat all 3 every week. I was burning the candle at both ends, working hard, playing hard, which ultimately resulted in burnout. One morning in 2005 I suffered a major panic attack standing in front of the door to the office and literally could not walk through it.
This is what it felt like:
“I was standing in front of the door to the office and literally couldn’t set a foot inside the building. I froze, my chest cramped, I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was about to faint. Thoughts rushed through my head — What am I doing with my life? This can’t be it. I’m following somebody else’s agenda. I feel like a puppet and everyone but me is pulling the strings. What’s in all of this for me? Apart from a paycheck, and mental and physical exhaustion? Absolutely nothing! I felt numb. I turned around and walked away.”
At the time I had no clue what to do or who to turn to. All I knew is that I wanted to escape the 16 hour days I was working in the world of advertising. I just wanted to stop the world and get off, sit down and breathe.
After a few weeks of rest and sleep it was time to peel back the layers to find out who I really was, what really mattered to me and what it was that I really wanted to have more of in my life. Only by looking within was is possible to start looking forward.
Riddled with self-doubt at first, “What else am I supposed to do? I have no other skills; I don’t even know what I enjoy anymore; I’m far too old to start again; What would my parents think after having invested in my education, who am I to just throw all of that away…”
And the fear, wow, it can feel paralysing. Fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear of financial insecurity.
I continued working in the industry for many more years, but I changed my way of working step by step — from full-time employee to part-time to freelancer. This way I managed to free up some time to dedicate to myself and follow my curiosities, follow that whisper I had been ignoring for so long.
I started to follow my adventurous spirit by travelling much of the world on foot, by train, plane, sailing across the Pacific and living in trees. At the same time, as if I had now given myself the permission, I started to truly follow my curiosity of the origins of human behaviour, the psychological state, social interactions and how they influence us as humans, as individuals. I soon realised not all journeys involve flights, faraway places and crazy adventures, the journey starts within.
A few years back I decided to spend my annual leave on digging deeper into a possible new future — I joined a co-working start-up tribe in Bali. We worked together, supported each other through our ups and downs of being in transition and building new futures. It was then that I first really understood the power of community. Spending more time with like-spirited people has been key in my transition and growth, supporting me through the sea of nay-sayers that I felt had flooded my life previously, opening my eyes to what is possible. New connections resulted in opportunities and projects I previously couldn’t even have dreamed could actually happen.
Having mastered the art of slow travel I was observing and recognising nature in a light I hadn’t noticed before. When we observe nature we see cycles, the daily rising and setting of the sun, the seasons, a circle of life. Autumn representing shedding, Winter representing hibernation, Spring representing rebirth, and Summer representing blossom, the glow of life. It’s a totally natural process and just as important — not just for the outside spirit of nature and our environment to survive — but also our inner spirit of nature.
Through this experience I learned that transition happens slowly at times, taking one step at a time, until we are ready to take a leap. I’ve learned the importance of letting go and creating space for the new, discovering, and then living life in tune with my own natural rhythm. There is no prescribed timeline, right or wrong. We’re all different, it’s all about trusting the process.
By slowing down and taking time to listen closely, feel and heal ourselves we live a more sustainable life on all levels.
So, wherever you are in your life you can always begin again. Each minute, day, month, season that you are breathing provides you with an opportunity for a fresh start. To let go of the old and make way for the new. After all, it is Nature’s way.
I now run my own coaching business offering the support I couldn’t find when I needed it most — I create space for busy people like you to slow down, breathe, connect with what is really important. Through coaching, workshops and retreats in nature.
I hope you enjoyed my story — I’d love to hear yours!