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 former healthcare equity analyst turned health & wellness consultant. She is an expert at helping businesswomen cope with stress and create a healthy work/life balance through holistic health coaching. If you're interested in optimising your health and lifestyle to achieve more with less stress, reach-out and request a free strategy session today.
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