“I bet you look great with your hair down”, he said.

I looked at him confused. My hair was down.

I ran my fingers through it just to make sure, and then realised he wasn’t actually talking about my hairstyle.

I tried to recover but couldn’t think of anything to say, took a gulp of wine and assessed my body language. Right, my arms and legs are crossed. How many times had I checked my work phone? Probably 5 in the last 15 minutes. Had I just been talking about work the whole time? Shit. I hadn’t exactly come across as a young 26-year-old who was on holiday.

That’s exactly where I was – on holiday. It was Christmas eve and we were in a crowded bar in the middle of a quaint Austrian ski village, the type you’d see in the movies. He was a ski guide I’d met the day before and he’d offered to “show me the mountains” while giving my sister and her boyfriend time without the third-wheel sister in tow.

But his comment shook me. This guy barely knew me, but he’d taken the time to see me. More so than the people I lived and worked with back in London. And it shook me because I realised he was right. I was literally that person who said “I’m too busy to meditate!”, lawyering at all hours of the day, ignoring any signs my body was giving to say stop, slow down, take a look around.

They say ‘our souls will speak as softly as possible, but as loudly as they have to‘, and I’ve written before about the fact that we need to listen to the signals our bodies give us. My signals were subtle to begin with, a whisper of doubt, hints of sadness, but after years of ignoring them, my subconscious started to scream: I developed full-blown social anxiety and chronic digestive issues…it was like the fuel light on the dashboard, flashing red, only I hadn’t been willing to stop and refuel.

It wasn’t until that conversation in Austria, that comment about letting my hair down, that I was jolted into a new state of awareness. That awareness, over the course of the blissful week of skiing, turned to pure happiness. A feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was nice getting reacquainted. To feel healthy and free again. The stark contrast of my stressed life in London to that exhilarating trip was enough to open my eyes to the signals I’d been ignoring. I needed to assess what was causing that red flashing light.

Life as a lawyer working all hours of the day left me lacking in human connection, passion, and happiness. Some pretty key aspects for us humans who thrive when connecting with others and following our soul’s purpose. I wasn’t doing either of those and at 26, I’d realised I’d been chasing a life I didn’t even want. Happy New Year to me. I sat in front of the TV alone on New Year’s Eve and vowed to myself I’d make a change.

I quit my job. I went back to those Alps and skied to my heart’s content. I taught English to Austrians and Italians, and learned about wine. I also married the guy that told me to let my hair down.

I realised that no amount of security or money was worth the suffering of a mediocre life or the trade on my wellbeing. But I learned something even bigger: if I had listened to myself all along, I wouldn’t have needed a wake up call.

I’m now on a mission to help others identify and listen to their own signals, so they don’t need to wait for the wake-up call. I overcame my anxiety and digestive disorder by communicating to myself, on a subconscious level, that I didn’t need those signals anymore – I was free.

Once people realise the power of their subconscious mind, both to signal when something’s not right and to help you connect to the person you were born to be, we can create a reality where we don’t need to “wake up” and hopefully a society where wake-up calls are a thing of the past.

Daina is a certified hypnotherapist and Rapid Transformational Therapist having trained with the world-leading psychotherapist, Marisa Peer. If you’re ready to make some changes in your life, or if you’d like more information, check out her website here.