Here it comes. The shift from travel posts to something very different. This is what I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time now, so I intentionally will shift to other topics for a while now. I have been now back in Finland for the whole summer after Portugal, with a lot of changes happening in my life, and I am now ready to share a part of it here. Before going to the actual topic of this post, I share some reasons why I suddenly decided to write about these things, what led me to it and also in general, what is going on.
In my previous post when going through the pros of working abroad, I touched my backgrounds a little and described where my head was at the end of last year. (Go and read the post here). To summarize, beginning of this year I made the decision to finally let go my stressful and meaningless job and find something better, more importantly something healthier. I decided I would apply only for those positions that truly interested me. It turned out that I got the second job I applied for. I was happy, because I could really see myself in that position. That’s where I am working now, and I can honestly say that now I am at the right company, in a nice team, surrounded by great people and doing something that interests and fits me well. Not only that has changed; we came back to Finland, got a new, nice apartment from a pleasant neighborhood located in walking distance from my office. Having made only these two relatively big changes, I can already see a big difference in myself compared to the times before Portugal; my everyday life is much more convenient, joyful and even brought the motivation to concentrate on my physical health better. I have slowly got out from the darker place where I was last year, and again started to feel that purpose in my everyday life, which feels great.
All this have led me to think a lot about myself, my life and especially the stressful, high paced life I had been living for so long (basically my whole life to be honest) without even realizing it. Or I did realize it but I thought it is how life should be, full of busy times and stress, that’s just how the society works these days, right?. Even though this seems to be very obvious and people talk a lot about burnouts and anxiety, I have only this year started to seriously realize how dangerous, unhealthy and unworthy that kind of a lifestyle is, and realized I was myself living in that danger zone for quite a while, even though I had for long thought everything was just fine. For the first time ever I’ve stopped to think about it all; first of all, what stress even means? Like what it truly means? I haven’t even asked myself that question ever before, I have just thought it is a normal part of anyone’s life. But should it be? For me, it really was a wake up call once I learnt from a biological and neurological perspective the meaning of the word stress and about all its side effects. (I leave those facts out from here because I don’t want to say anything wrongly, so if you are interested in how our brain works, I highly recommend to read some books about it). Looking back, I should’ve started thinking about these much much earlier, but better later than never.
Thinking through my life until now, stress and worry has always played a relatively big role in it, from childhood until more or less to the present moment. To put this into perspective, let me tell you a “funny” story from my childhood when I was freaking out about my big sister having a bad grade from one school exam when she was on third grade, only because I thought I could never beat her; if she got a bad grade, I will for sure fail that same exam in two years once I would enter third grade myself and be a total loser. In TWO years?? Was I joking? For sure I was not, I was 100% stressed out about it. And I was a 7-year old child. I still remember that day when this upcoming exam scared me two years prior and I cried over it. I was so nervous and anxious about it. And about pretty much everything else that felt even a bit challenging or out of my comfort zone. The funniest thing in this story is that I don’t even remember that exam at all. I guess it went well after all, so all that stress and worry over nothing. And you might already guess, this was how I grew up, and as years went on, I turned out to be that person who always found another thing or event, to which to target stress and fear, and mainly beforehand, of course.
Fast forward to around 2020, and nothing had actually changed; I still felt stressed out over too many meaningless things, had the tendency to be a people pleaser especially at work, and didn’t know how to say no when someone threw some more tasks to me that never belonged to me, but I was just too kind to say the simple word no. For sure over time the perspectives have changed and during the past decade I’ve been also stressing over some more serious and real worries in life, however deep down it is still the same reaction; the feel of stress, anxiousness, worry and fear, that have been somewhat leading my life, based on which I have formed my state of being. This year, I not only have decided to take action to change my job, home, physical health, but also to take action to change the way I think about life and more importantly about myself. I’ve finally decided to take the full responsibility of my own happiness. And I got to say, getting to this point was not easy, and it took time and a lot of self-reflection. Only now I feel like I am touching a new beginning in my life. And this is where the mindfulness comes in. In order to even slightly reduce my stress levels and prevent a new burnout from knocking my door ever again, I have decided to give mindfulness a go. Not because it is a “trendy” thing to do, but because deep down I feel like I need to do this. Because I know, it will do good for me.
Despite mindfulness being so out there and everyone knows about it, I have never thought about it seriously. Yoga is something I enjoy doing time to time, but I’ve always found it difficult just to concentrate on the breathing. I have thought I am not calm enough as a person that I would be able to sit still and focus on my breath for more than 10 seconds. But lately, I have become more and more interested about my behaviors, especially those harmful behavioral patterns that appear in certain circumstances and have read some books about it but I haven’t gone past the reading phase. I haven’t taken any action to actually improve the way I think or behave. I mean, reading is never a bad thing and understanding where some behaviors come from or what has happened in the past is one thing. But it is totally another thing to take action and make those real changes. Another learning I’ve made during this year is that without taking action and change of mindset nothing will ever change. I have stayed in that passive “reading phase” for so long and no changes have happened so far. I am basically still that same person (ok not completely but you get the idea). I haven’t got the courage to change myself because I have been so comfortable being the person I was familiar with rather than take action and become the person I want to be. So now it is time to take action and get closer to that person I know I have full potential to become. I can – and you can too! – improve myself and the way I think and act, and I am going to do it. And I want to take you with me on this journey and would love to hear your thoughts about this all! Have you been able to make some serious changes in your life and decided to take full responsibility of your own happiness and stopped repeating old excuses to yourself? What has changed? I would love to hear your experiences!
You might think what I’m going to do in practice? As mentioned, this year has been full of changes so why stop here? I want to explore my mind and try to connect with myself and my emotions on a deeper level than I ever had until today. Next week I will start an 8-week training program of “mindfulness based stress reduction”. It is an online course, and every Tuesday I am having a Zoom call with the coach and a group of other participants, following an official 8-week program of MBSR and practicing mindfulness every day in between these Tuesday’s sessions. The purpose is to take you with me in this journey in real time, so I will write about the progress in the next posts. I am more than excited and so motivated to take this step and explore something totally new! I am going to share more details about this 8-week program during the next weeks, so stay tuned if mindfulness interests you at all!
x Mari Susanna