I still remember the day I fell on the floor vividly in my mind and heart. I remember thinking, what happened, and how did I get here? I felt empty without any energy and motivation to get up or to ask for help. I inherited from my late father his pride as he ingrained the belief in my mind that people are unreliable and mean harm. Mind you, he was an immigrant in the Netherlands during the ’70s and faced a lot of racial outbursts and discrimination at work. His frustration and pain turned into weekend teachings to his children and formed our belief system’s foundation. But that’s another story!
That day when I crawled back into bed, I finally decided to face my fears and listen to my body. I stayed home for over four months. Those months felt like years as I was battling my emotional depletion and physical fatigue. When I look back to that period, I smile, and I appreciate the lessons. As the lessons, I learned helped me thrive during these COVID times so I can help others. Life always works out in ways you can hardly grasp at the moment when shit hits the fan. Had I not gone through my own isolation period, I would not have been able to relate to people experiencing similar feelings. I would not have been able to smile and inspire hope and light in their life.
Today I want to share my five lessons on what I learned during this period of mental confinement. What do I mean by mental confinement? When you become a prisoner of your thoughts and you are stuck in the cycle of negative thinking, your mental clarity turns into mental clutter, and your emotional well-being is degraded. If you are stuck in these cycles long enough, you become prone to depression and depletion.
Let go of resistance
I am a go-getter and a high performer. When I want something, I wanted it yesterday. I never knew how to take no for an answer when I set my mind to something. It is an admirable quality that can break you if you don’t use it with care. Life speaks to us in so many ways, and so many times, yet we refuse to listen. Until it screams and forces us to make changes so we can bring back balance into our lives. I refused to rest as I suffered from the disease to please. In my mind, I was a warrior and a strong woman; there was no way anyone could see the depleted and weak Nadja. That meant that people thought something was wrong with me. Until that moment that my body said:
“The heck with your disease to please, it is time to take a break and take care of yourself!”
I finally learned to let go of resistance and go with the flow. I took life one day at a time, and I no longer tried to do or want anything, just be present. It sounds like a lot of ‘whoo-whoo,’ but it turned out to be one of my greatest lessons in experiencing the true meaning of life in the present moment. The moment you let go, is when you start to let in. You let in all the blessings and the beauty that you take for granted.
This is a nice segway into appreciation. Many scientific studies have shown the benefits of gratitude practices. It helps shift your mindset from lack to abundance, increasing your mental clarity and emotional well being. I like to focus on appreciation rather than gratitude as the latter may remind us of what we have overcome rather than accepting what is right now. It feels better to appreciate what we have than to be reminded of the struggle we have overcome. Some people prefer to feel feelings of victory over adversity, and that’s totally ok. Do what feels right to you, not to someone else, as we all have our own map of the world.
During my period of burnout, I focused on appreciating little things that became big things. For example, how many of you appreciate your breath? You probably take it for granted, but without it you would be dead. Same for your heartbeat, for your blood flow, and all of your other vital organs.
“How many of you appreciate all the things you already have?”
The brain is wired to want more once it has achieved what you set as a goal. So you will never feel satisfied IF you only focus on feeling good ONCE you accomplish the goal. Appreciating what you want to achieve, enjoying the process towards your goal will help foster more positive emotions. Emotions you need so you can move away from feeling tired and depleted all the time. It takes consistent practice, though, and willpower to want to make this kind of change in your life. Many of us are so used to correlating suffering with achieving our goals. Until you change your narrative, and understand the power of inspired action, you will keep struggling your way through life.
It is ok to be selfish
I grew up in a family where social responsibility was high on the list. As a woman and a young girl, your happiness and needs came last. This was a generational practice and belief system that was carried on in my childhood. I correlated being selfish as a bad thing and irresponsible behavior. After all, I was born to please everyone else before I could please myself. Why on Earth did I believe that I had the right to choose me and what I wanted to do that made me feel good?
Luckily, my rebellious and free spirit knew better. This is what I realized along the way as I healed from people’s opinions and expectations:
- I am not responsible for someone else’s daddy or mommy issues, only for my own.
- I deserve to feel joy and happiness because of my birthright.
- I do not believe that a joyous and happy life precedes struggle and strife.
- I do not need to prove or justify my self worth to anyone.
- I do not put people on pedestals; we are the same at our core and in the bathroom.
- I fill my own cup with love, and everything that runs over is for someone else.
- I love my family and friends deeply. I still choose to live my life irrespective of their opinions and beliefs.
- I will no longer deny the world of my gifts by playing small.
- Everything always works out for me one way or the other. I trust myself fully and completely.
- I will always strive to live the highest and most authentic expression of who I am, not what other people want me to be.
Some of you will laugh or find these ridiculous, but there may come a moment in your life when these words will resonate with you at a profound level.
Change your narrative
Ok, I was a master in being stuck in the past and telling myself stories that reflected my self-worth. I had developed deep-rooted belief systems from childhood that my self worth equaled being ok with receiving breadcrumbs. Not all of you may resonate, only those who recognize this as familiar. My familiar narrative was based on the struggle to be successful, money does not grow on trees, love is a fairytale, never trust people, you are just an immigrant’s daughter, and so on.
We believe what we think we are, so I attracted experiences in my life that matched my subconscious beliefs. Until burnout woke me up, and I started to dissect these beliefs that no longer served me. I created a new vision for my life and the person I wanted to be. I focused on crafting a narrative that reflected that version, not the past. Not what my parents or friends wanted, but what I wanted for me.
I wanted to show my son that he is free to choose the life he wants for him and that I would love him and support him no matter what. This practice of telling myself a new narrative brought so much clarity and freedom in my life. I could now let go of people and experiences who no longer honoured my authentic self so that new people and experiences could flow in who did. And letting go of people and experiences you care so deeply about is hard, but those who are meant to be in your life will stay or come back.
Don’t take yourself or others so seriously
This sounds cliche and yet is very important. Life is hard enough as it is. We make it even harder by taking everyone and everything so seriously. Now, taking people seriously is essential so that people can take yourself seriously. But when we look in the mirror, we realize that we overdo it at times and get so caught up in our worries. We develop worse case scenarios, and we allow our fears to get the best of us and others.
When you stop worrying so much, you start relaxing more. When you start relaxing more, you start enjoying more. When you enjoy more, you begin to unleash your happy hormones in your brains. And then your vibe so much better with people and with life! You don’t need to laugh your way through life, but you can laugh your way through moments to accept and see things as they are – not the horror story you made up in your mind! Energy flows where attention goes. Where are you focusing on?
I hope some of you resonated with these examples and can find solace in knowing that life is meant to be lived with you in the driver seat. Don’t be a passenger in the backseat, be the one that takes charge of your direction towards your vision. A vision where you are the author of your story, the master of your destiny, and the captain of your ship! Or, in this case, the driver of your car 🙂