a breakthrough year
january 1, 2019
At the beginning of every new year, my husband and I like to choose a guiding word for the next 12 months. My word for 2018 was “Breakthrough”... And that’s exactly what I received last year.

10 years earlier to the date, I was beyond excited as I prepared to move to London. I had just graduated from uni with a Masters’ in Biological Engineering, and had landed a dream job at a top investment bank. The future looked promising. I couldn’t wait to start my new life in a city that I absolutely adore, and embark in my new career!

Life looked perfect from the outside for a few years. Despite the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, I was able to keep my job. In fact, I did pretty well at the firm, and made more money than I had ever hoped for in my early 20s. But inside I was struggling... 

These were incredibly stressful times on several accounts, and my work/life balance was completely out of whack. While I was doing pretty well in my career, my private life was falling apart. I wanted to settle down, eventually. But my lifestyle made it hard to keep a committed relationship, let alone start a family of my own.

I kept at it for nearly 4 years though, until I finally got the courage and financial buffer needed to resign and explore other opportunities -- maybe even start a business of my own!

After quitting my corporate job, I dabbled for a couple of years… I trained as a Pilates teacher, deepened my personal yoga practice, discovered life coaching, enrolled in a full-time MBA programme and moved to Holland. 

During this time, I met my husband, and within 16 months, we got engaged, married and welcomed our our first daughter into the world!

Although I always knew deep down that I wanted to be self-employed, becoming a mum was what triggered me to finally start my own coaching/consulting business from my laptop.

My goal was to replace my corporate salary while enjoying more time and location flexibility so that I could be present for my family and have a better work/life balance. However, I soon discovered that being self-employed is no walk in the park...

I tried my best to keep face, but I was struggling to manage a burgeoning business and a young family. I ended-up overworked, constantly exhausted and stressed-out. What’s worse, I felt guilty that I wasn’t giving 100 percent neither to my business nor my family because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent.

Needless to say that things didn’t get any easier after our second daughter was born. I gave myself 6 months of maternity leave, then got right back to work, true to the philosophy that had kept me afloat during the crisis: “the show must go on”...

That’s when I hit a wall. 

One evening, in February 2018, I noticed a strange lump on my lower abdomen. I had no idea what it was. It appeared overnight, out of the blue.

Hoping it would disappear as swiftly as it came, I waited for a few days, but nothing happened. The lump was still there and getting larger by the day, until it reached the size of golf ball!

Long story short, after a series of stressful medical exams, I was diagnosed with a cystic lymphangioma, which is an extremely rare type of benign tumour.

This was a major wake-up call. From my background in Biological Engineering, I knew that stress causes or exacerbates many of our modern-day health problems, including cancer, digestive disorders, insomnia, mental fog, anxiety and depression, premature ageing, and so much more. Luckily, the tumour was benign, but I took it as a sign that my body was starting to act-out under chronic stress. 

I made a decision there and then to get my stress levels under control and create a healthier work/life balance!

My plan was to shift self-care to the top of my never-ending list, and to restore the healthy habits that had helped me the most in dealing with stress in the past: a regular yoga practice, meditation, a balanced diet, and plenty of rest & relaxation.

However, every time a new wave of heavier workload came along, I fell off track. 

Every 2 or 3 months, the same cycle would start again. I got so caught-up in my work that I crammed my days full, started eating badly and my skin would break-out. I got tired, irritable and anxious… So much so that one evening, when I was home alone with the kids, I experienced a panic attack for the first time in my life.

Clearly, the way I had been working wasn’t working… I had to design a self-care and stress management system that would help me sustain optimal physical and mental health -- even during the busiest times.

Over the last 9 months of researching, testing and tweaking, I’m glad to have found a simple 4-pillar framework that keeps me on track. 

It’s based on 4 Core Pillars (Detoxing, De-stressing, Fitness and Food), and it incorporates the best tools and techniques I’ve learned over the last 20 years for coping with stress and optimising our well-being.

2018 was a tough and humbling year, but it led me to the breakthrough I most needed: a sound system for dealing with the inevitable stress and challenges that we experience in life. 

While I still have moments of anxiety and overwhelm, this system enables me to respond to my inner experience with kindness, reground myself and relax. I feel a lot happier, healthier and more balanced -- and I’m a much better mum, wife and businesswoman as a result!

I’ll be happy to share with you more about the 4 Core Pillars and how to apply them to your life in future posts.

Till then, I wish you an excellent start of 2019. May this our best year yet! 

Elsa Razborsek is a biological engineer turned health and wellness consultant. She is an expert at helping businesswomen beat stress and burnout through wellness coaching. If you're interested in optimising your health and lifestyle to achieve more with less stress, then definitely reach-out and request a free wellness assessment today.
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