Just before my mum was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2015, I could feel a huge shift happening inside of me and I had no control over it. I still have trouble putting into words how this shift made me feel but it sent me into a tail spin! It was a real soul awakening that some big changes were needed in my life. I absolutely loved my life and what I was doing but somewhere along the journey I got caught up in the busyness and overwhelm of running a successful business and raising a young family. My business was running my life, my body was in a constant state of anxiety and stress, and I forgot what balance and self care were. In a nut shell I was suffering major BURNOUT! I was completely exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. I didn’t know what to do- I felt so lost. I had never experienced anything like this before. I didn’t know how to bring myself back to the once vibrant state I used to feel. I felt so much guilt and resentment that I put more focus and energy on my business, and the little quality time I had with my kids was always rushed. I never felt like I was fully present for them. My mind was always overthinking the endless to-do list. I craved a much more meaningful, balanced and peaceful life and I desperaetly wanted more quality time with my family. I was waking up everyday exhausted, with a foggy head and carrying this heavy feeling energy, not even a good night sleep could rejuvenate me and I simply couldn’t handle stress in a rational and calm way like I normally would. I would get so frustrated and angry with myself because I felt so overwhelmed and then take it out unintentionally on my kids by snapping and yelling at the smallest things and then feel riddled with guilt. It wasn’t their fault. I was like walking venom some days and I hated it! I missed just enjoying the journey of being a mum.
To top it off my anxiety was at all time high but I was great at hiding this from others, I kept pushing on like I was ok. I had decided to make some huge changes to my business structure in order to help take the pressure off and allow myself some breathing space to get back on track. As a result of slowing down the business though my anxiety got worse. I didn’t know how to be anything but “busy”, slowing down didn’t feel right! The fear of not knowing how I was going to get through this without it having detrimental effects on the business and our finances was crippling me. I felt myself withdrawing from wanting to be around people and my self confidence was shattered. I began to feel like a complete failure as a mum, wife and business woman. I struggled to take nice deep relaxing breaths, my body physically couldn’t do it and I would feel like I was having mini panic attacks because I couldn’t get a deep breath in. I could feel my body constantly racing all the time- in that fight or flight mode state. How the hell did I get to this point?
For as long as I can remember I have lived with “high functioning anxiety” but it’s only just recently that I have realised that that is what it was. As a young girl going to school every morning I would wake up with that sinking feeling in my stomach and butterflies but I would push through, get up and get going. This continued into adult life when I started working. No one ever knew because on the outside it looked like I was confident and sure of myself and I was always learning, studying, growing and chasing career paths and jobs that I had a keen interest in. When I became a mum my anxiety stepped up to a whole new level, but again, from the outside no one knew. I had my two babies very close together and launched Rustic Hyde when my youngest was just 12 months old. This all happened withing a space of 3 years! I was still in the fresh new stages of adjusting to motherhood and trying to build a brand from scratch all at the same time! Even as I write this I shake my head at myself and think “why did you put so much damn pressure on yourself?!” I would love to go back and tell my younger self to slow down and relax. Live in the present moment and just enjoy the journey of motherhood while those kids are young- as messy and crazy as it is sometimes ( or most of the time! ) Stop worrying so much! Let go of the need to control everything and take pressure off yourself- you are enough! I would also tell her that she doesn’t need to prove she is super woman and “do it all”.Asking for help isn’t a show of weakness but a show of strength. We all need support. I guess the saying “we teach best what we most need to learn” is so powerfully true.
Although “high-functioning” anxiety isn’t an official medical diagnosis, many people identify with the phrase. To me (as someone who lives with it), it’s the difference between anxiety that keeps you frozen, and anxiety that pushes you through life, forcing you to move. Anxiety of the “high-functioning” variety is the latter, and because the person who experiences it is being “productive” and moving forward, it’s easy to pretend everything is OK, even if this isn’t the case.
For me, symptoms of my high functioning anxiety included:
• Being a control freak- I had to plan my own hen’s party for goodness sakes! My excuse was that I didn’t want to burden anyone else with it.
• Being a perfectionist and great at procrastinating because something isn’t perfect. I’m still guilty of this! The pressures of perfectionism are exhausting and it just makes life harder than it needs to be.
• Unable to relax- if I sit down to relax my mind works overtime and I feel “lazy”
• Physical pain in my neck and shoulders. I often felt like I had two big bricks on my shoulders they were always so tight.
• Lots of negative self-talk even though I’m generally a really positive and optimistic person. There is always a little gremlin in my head doubting my self-worth
• Avoiding my thoughts by getting busy and distracted.
• Need constant reassurance (usually from my trusted intuitive coaches aka psychics!) that decisions or paths in life I were taking were the right ones.
• People have a hard time reading me because I’m great at not showing my true feelings. I can seem strong, calm and stoic but eventually the bottled up emotions bubble over. Visualise a duck gliding along calmly on the surface of the water but underneath paddling like fury. This is what I felt like!
• OCD with house cleaning – I couldn’t rest if a toy wasn’t put away or there was a single dish in the sink (Thank goodness I have let go of those pressures now) It’s ok to want to have a clean and organised house, it helps clear your mind when your space is clear but when you find yourself unable to relax about toys being on the floor or a dish in the sink then you really need to stop and question yourself as to why.
I was also a people pleaser and had no boundaries. I would willingly give away my precious energy to be there for others even though my tank was empty and I hated saying “no” for fear of looking like a bitch.
When you are at the point of exhaustion that I got to you don’t have a clear rational mind- it’s like a thick cloud is hovering over your head. I couldn’t see how to make the changes I needed and my old ways of thinking kept me stuck in this unhealthy pattern. I was afraid to let go of what I knew even though it wasn’t working for me. We feel much safer with the struggle because its familiar. I had had enough of feeling and being like this though and knew there had to be a better way, so after giving myself permission to step back from the business for a while I began to learn and study to try and make sense of what I was going through. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to embark on an incredible journey of healing, self forgiveness, inner peace and empowerment to help me release all of this pain and struggle which in turn helped me find a whole new sense of passion and purpose. I needed to learn how to let go of everything and be ok with the journey so far and all I have learnt. I needed to be proud of the things I had accomplished rather than focusing on the things I hadn’t accomplished. And the best thing I did was learn how to let go of how I thought things should be! When I finally did that, I saw things so differently and a weight lifted off my shoulders.
I never want to go back to the way I was. It took months and months for my mind and body to slowly heal and find that inner peace, balance and calmness again. I still remember the morning I woke up feeling rejuvenated rather than exhausted – after so many months of implementing my self-care practices and seeing small results the benefits had finally showed themselves and my body and mind felt like it was finally in alignment. It was a turning point for me in what I was doing to make life better, easier and calmer was working and it was possible to heal through self-care.
I found a new thirst for knowledge on all things spiritual, something I had always been drawn to but had pushed to the side for a long time. I began to study Reiki, Holistic Life-Coaching, the Mind-Body connection, Angel and Tarot cards, EFT Tapping, intuition and so much more. I also started filling my home with things that brought a calm feel like salt lamps, dream catchers, crystals, calm and clear space mists and plants. Somehow I knew that this journey would help me find my way again and heal my heart and my mind.
My mum’s battle with cancer was like a real smack in the face to finally wake up and make those massive changes in my life NOW! We can’t get time back- we need to commit to living life on our terms and following our dreams now, not tomorrow. Letting go and allowing myself space and time out really did help create more clarity and energy to move forward in life again- who would of thought?! I began to calm down and experience inner peace for the first time in YEARS! When I look back now how things unfolded I can see how divinely timed my little soul awakening was. It all happened for a reason.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, to step back and allow myself some breathing space to learn, heal and grow. I had to challenge many old negative beliefs I had. I felt lazy for pulling back from my business and starting to put my own needs first , even spending money on courses for my own personal development felt wrong and I actually hid what I was doing from my hubby for a little while because it felt so selfish! We really could use that money for so many other things. But my soul was begging me to do this and I knew deep down that it was necessary. I knew I had to fight through these feelings. If someone had said to me while I was in the midst of my struggle and chaos that self-care was the answer to more success I would have laughed and thought where the hell will I get the time for that?! The universe decided it would show me how to make time for it and here I learnt that success, happiness, fulfillment and joy in all areas of life starts with self-care and taking care of YOU!
In the next part of “my journey back to self-care”, I will talk about the actual practices I did and lifestyle changes I made to calm my anxiety, clear the brain fog, exhaustion and heavy energy I was experiencing and find a whole new sense of purpose, clarity, energy and direction in life again.
Here is a link to the MindBodyFood Instuitute where I studied and became a certified Holistic Life Coaching and Mind-Body Practitioner. They recently featured my story on how doing their course helped transform my life. http://www.mindbodyfoodinstitute.com/how-becoming-a-holistic-life-coach-transformed-my-life-business/
If you are struggling with anxiety some great websites for seeking info and help are www.panda.org.au PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia to recover from post and antenatal depression and anxiety, a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Also www.beyondblue.org.au
Asking for help isn’t a show of weakness but a show of strength.
Love and light,