A little over two years ago, I hit what I would describe as a road block in my life. On the surface, life was going pretty good. I had not long returned from an overseas trip and was on the cusp of a promotion at work. I was engaged to my partner of 8 years and we were proud home owners a 2 bedroom unit. I was enjoying cross fit 3 to 4 times per week, kick boxing and eating as healthy as I could.

Then suddenly, there was a shift and it felt like my world was falling down around me. I started experiencing brain fog which is one of the most debilitating things I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t concentrate at work. Tasks that usually took 20 minutes were now taking over an hour to complete. I was taking work home as I was struggling to get through my workload and was spending less time with my fiance. I had trouble remembering things. Even simple tasks, such as choosing what to wear each day, were difficult. I lost my usual energy and enthusiasm. I’ve always been a morning person, but there were days when I dreaded getting out of bed. The company of my friends and family became less enjoyable. I found myself craving to be alone more and more. To be away from the stimulation and mental activity of ‘normal’ life.

I was experiencing issues with low sex hormone levels at the time (after coming off the contraceptive pill) and had seen a few specialists to investigate what was going on. I was subsequently diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and later discovered to have a parasite. Another test showed I had leaky gut.

This experience led to a significant shift in my life. I had to step down to a lesser role at work and curtailed my intensive workout regime. I started taking natural supplements to help with my symptoms. I saw a psychologist on a few occasions (something I never thought I’d have to do). But perhaps most importantly, I turned inward to try and find answers as to why I was feeling the way I was. Slowly, over time, things started to improve.

Although this was one of the most challenging times of my life, I’d chose to go through it again if I had to. It led me down a path of self discovery I wouldn’t have travelled otherwise. It made me so grateful for the support of my family and friends and made me realise what amazing, loving people I have in my life. I realised that I didn’t feel fulfilled in my job, and lacked passion for the work I was doing. I yearned to do something I truly loved. I had a somewhat fixed mindset with regards to my diet and exercise. I was (in all honesty) probably pushing myself too hard to achieve optimal health and fitness.

Through this experience I discovered my inner strength. I’ve always been a determined, energetic and motivated person, but can see now I was always pushing to do more, more, more. I wasn’t taking time to connect with my internal world. Through meditation and mindfulness, I was able to identify toxic thoughts and fundamental beliefs of myself I didn’t even realise I had. That I wasn’t good enough. That I was never going to be as efficient as my colleagues at the role I was doing, or lift as heavy as the other women at my crossfit gym. That I wasn’t as healthy or fit as I should be.

I share this story because I think we are all too hard on ourselves at times. We all can be too serious and too judgemental. We all have times when we’re unhappy, don’t feel energetic and just feel like we’re stuck in a rut. I want you to realise that you are not alone.

Lessons to take away

The following are some techniques I used to help me get through this tough time and which I continue to this day:

  • Daily gratitude practice: take 2 minutes out of your day to be grateful for 3 things in your life. Or think of 3 memories of times where you felt truly happy. Or identify 3 good things that happened to you that day. I like to do this first thing in the morning as part of my morning routine.
  • Meditation: take time to sit and reflect on your life and if you are truly happy in what you are doing. Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts. It’s about observing them come and go. Identify what you think about yourself and others. Challenge thoughts which make you feel unhappy or discomfort and question the underlying beliefs and assumptions behind them.
  • Connect with friends and family: when I was feeling at my lowest, the last thing I felt like doing was going to a friends place or attending family dinners. However, it always improved my mood and I never regretted it afterwards. We all need to feel a sense of belonging and to connect with those people we love. Make it a priority in your life if it isn’t already.
  • Relax and let go: realise that you’re not always going to eat perfectly, do every single workout you had planned or achieve every goal you set for yourself. Some times we just need time to be OK with where we’re at and in that moment relax and let go. This is often where we find the space we need to excel and perform at our greatest.

To this day, I still haven’t quite figured out what happened to me, and it was likely a combination of factors. But one thing I know for sure is that I’m so grateful for the journey and continue on my own unique path of self awareness.

Originally published at medium.com