How it happened that my favorite profession nearly ruined my life
or About the internal combustion engine
If you stopped to wake up in good mood, if your favorite job lost its previous sense for some unknown reason, if pleasure from your hobbies disappeared, if you do not understand from what you are physically and / or morally tired, if a bed, a pillow and a blanket have become your favorite items at home – my story may be useful.
If vacation and vitamins do not help, if you studied everything that Google advised you about burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, laziness, if willpower training and the advices of coaches to get up at 05 am in the morning only aggravate the condition – don’t pass by.
It may not be as simple as it may seem even to people who know you very well, usually giving the right advices in another situations. Finding the main cause of the problem is not as difficult as pinpointing the stage where you are. To find right way out, we need not only to find the system to do it but to bring it into immediate action.
I must admit that even starting to write on this topic was incredibly difficult, although eight years had passed. I tried to do it several times: started, put off, tried again, made the decision to abandon this idea and to allow myself to keep it private. Moreover, my story did not seem to be unusual and special. I doubted that someone will be interested in this. However, in real life thanks to my experience and non indifference, at least two my friends stopped on time and they were able to avoid a catastrophe that I almost got into myself, quite skillfully rushing along the path to my goal along a beautiful road. It was not always easy, but I chose this route myself and I liked it very much. However, the very moment came when the “car” almost fell into the gap, despite the excellent technical characteristics, the presence of the navigator, road signs, good visibility and the absence of obvious obstacles on the road.
There are periods in life I don’t want not only to write about but even to remember for one second. At first stage it takes time to recover, to move away everything what happened from the memory, without any desire to talk about it with anyone in purpose to forget everything like a horrible dream. Much later, the time comes for a comprehensive rethinking and acceptance of this experience. And one day the readiness to share it with others appears.
Each person has his own beginning of the path, unique initial data and a personal scale for success measuring. I came to study in St. Petersburg from a small provincial town. My family had faced a lot of complications of 1990s felt on the hundreds of thousands families in the post-Soviet space. It was impossible to call it easy times, to put it mildly. Having remembered all this at the level of sensations, I set a goal to make my life the way I want. In my assets I had a great desire to study and to start working as early as possible, dedication and the amount of energy that would be enough to launch a rocket to fly to Mars and back.
In my student years, I changed a whole series of work, having received a versatile concentrated experience in a short period of time. In the fourth year of education I was thinking what and how my future profession should be. After completing my studies at the University I was lucky: I found it immediately.
In the profession of a real estate agent, I did not see a single flaw: every working day is different from the previous one, there is no monotony, no need to sit in the office from 10 to 18. No similar property or even the story, communicating with different people, applied human psychology and interior design (and the link between them). I determined the amount of work myself, everything was going well and I was able to have quite a good income.
In parallel with my work, I studied a lot related to the field of my chosen profession, took on any tasks, considering each one a valuable contribution to my experience, trying not to miss any opportunity.
Our team was great, the number of clients was growing rapidly, I felt needed and in demand and voluntarily took upon myself the load of two times more than the real estate agent should do. The wall in the office was regularly replenished with the number of letters of thankfulness. From times to times the shareholders of the company were kicking me out from the office to home so that I could have a rest. I considered myself absolutely fulfilled in the profession being still a young perspective specialist with a level of income exceeding the initial expectations. All this seemed to me right and perfect.
The danger began to sneak up unnoticed. At first I discovered that I simply had no time to spend the money I had earned, that was not surprising for a person who had no time even to eat and sleep. But it was not irritating me and seemed usual. I started to travel abroad more frequently, though not for long time. Many trips were happening at the last moment, when I realized that I could make time 3-4 days from the schedule. I learned the art of preparing a suitcase an hour and a half before the train departure, carrying intercontinental flights with a temperature of 38, late in the evening being able to find a travel company where at the last moment I could buy a cruise in purpose to sail to Stockholm early in the morning. With all this, it cannot be said that I had no time left to communicate with friends, for another spheres of life or other interests.
Gradually, I began to notice that getting up in the mornings was not just hard: something seemed to break inside and some internal fire was gone for no apparent reason. The desire to run and create became to give in to the desire to sleep. I began to confuse the days of the week and mistakenly coming to the office on Sunday, thinking that it was Wednesday, falling asleep in vertical position while standing in the subway and in cinemas, even on horror movies. Later I stopped hearing the alarm clock and recognizing my friends on the street. Some of them became offended by the fact that I could not meet to drink coffee at 12 o’clock in the day off, not believing that in such days I slept for 16 hours in a row and woke up only in the evening. They considered that I became conceited and arrogant.
In this state, I came to the idea that it would be necessary to improve my physical condition with two methods: sport and sleep. I didn’t do sport before, assuming that I was already running from morning till night. By this time, my back started to hurt, headaches appeared, and this could no longer be ignored. At this stage, the hope that sleep will help at the weekends did not work. In the gym in the mornings I fell asleep on a mat right on the floor with any level of any music decibel.
Therefore, I decided to do away with sports in the mornings and to go to the gym in the evenings. 70% of such visits looked like this: I came to the gym, was sitting in the car on the parking, looking at one point for a long time and I was thinking “to go or not to go”. I did not even have the strength to get out of the car. I was coming back home in a state of complete dissatisfaction with my willpower, combined with growing anxiety. At that moment I still did not know that there are different stages of energy exhaustion. And in my stage the engagement in active sports was contraindicated.
Ragged rest, some events, picnics, meetings, photo shoots – I cannot say that my life was monotonous and lacked saturation. Social networks were proving this. A lot of my actions was done just automatically. But at that moment the only thing caused great joy for me: it was the fact that night would come soon and I can go to bed.
A little later, it came to the point that even the thought of having to do any simple action, for example, getting up and pouring tea for myself, began to cause horror. I stopped driving the car and started to move only by taxi. The slightest stress (or even the fact that it almost was not related to stress) immediately began to cause a wild headache in the right temple. I understood that something terrible was approaching, but I could not afford myself to make mistakes. I had too much responsibility for another people, one deal was completed, seven still are in the process and all this was infinite. I didn’t see any reason to complain to anyone. Get some sleep, rest. Traditional solutions of problems that for some reason stopped working.
At some point, I received the offer to continue my career in Moscow. I understood that by applying there as much efforts as in St. Petersburg, I can achieve much more in one unit of time. Automatically I started to search the apartment for rent in the city center (and this was one of my favorite activities) and at that moment I came to a clear conclusion: I have no more strength for anything at all. I cannot physically even collect one box of my stuff, and the more so I will not survive moving to another city.
Circumstances suddenly happened in such a way that unexpectedly for everybody I went to Vietnam for one year, drastically changing my lifestyle. Emigration to this country was not easy. But this exotic experience has become my life raft.
The absence of an alarm clock and the possibility of waking up without it seemed to be a miracle, as well as the opportunity to drink coffee in the morning with no rush, to have the breakfast not being in a hurry, to dress up slowly, to sit, and to think calmly about something, to observe what was going on around. Gradually, I started to notice that there is life around me and I live in it. Only four months later, the desire to communicate with people, to laugh and smile began to return, because I wanted, and not because I must. Slowly, desires and interests began to return as well, I started planning something. The feeling of oppression began to evaporate, the spectrum of emotions and their brightness expanded. Then the sport started to attract by itself, I began to notice the sensations of the body and to pay attention to its needs, and most importantly – finally, the strength to do physical activity appeared. Headaches disappeared and painkiller pills left the inside pockets of my handbag.
There was enough strength even to start learning a new foreign language and to build up business processes in a new way. In the absence of the opportunity to stay employed in St. Petersburg the path to entrepreneurship has become inevitable.
Over time, I learned how to plan correctly the amount of work, how to set priorities, to understand what it is worth investing time and energy, and what tasks it is better to refuse. It turned out that instead of 60% of hectic activity, it was better to go to the beach, sleep, read, or do anything else. It had a better effect on my professional results. A year later, I returned to the previous condition of a cheerful person, generator of ideas on high heels.
I would like to describe all this in a shorter way, but I cannot exclude details from the story. Each trifle has played its important role in shaping the conclusions that I made.
If this story responds at least to something in your life, I urge not to let the situation take its course, to stop immediately and to pay attention to it, regardless of gender, age or status.
1. In life there are a lot of very interesting things to do besides professional activity, no matter how amazing and profitable it is. A person in a state of strong physical and / or emotional exhaustion, to realize this, may require a long stop. It is better, that it does not become forced stop and your path is far away from medical institutions. From this follows the next point.
2. Health is the most important asset! It is not wise in the merciless regime to take resources from an organism on credit, without knowing at what interest you are doing this. And no matter how old you are at the moment: 20, 40, 60 or 80. The body will definitely demand paying back. In this case, you set the “payment schedule” yourself, but the most unpleasant thing is that it can be urgent to pay all bills and to return everything at once.
When people sign a loan agreement in a bank, usually they don’t even read it carefully before. And if you take a resource from your body and fail to fill it in a timely manner, there may come such a moment that all the money earned will start to become spent on treatments and pharmacies.
3. The sooner a person begins to cherish and thoughtfully treat his/her energy, to understand how and why the body is functioning – the better. What could be more important than that? Today there is an abundance of information on how to work effectively, and a lack of information on how to be able to have a good, high quality rest. If you cannot live one hour without a smartphone or any occupation, restless thoughts do not leave the consciousness – this is an occasion to sound the alarm. It is easy to load the mind, and it is not easy to unload it.
4. Ideally, do not even bring yourself to the point of fatigue and exhaustion. A progressive approach to solving this problem is to plan vacations and rest time first and build all the work processes and responsibilities around them, and not vice versa, leaving the priority by the residual principle and bringing the secondary into the schedule as the most important action. The brain free from unnecessary thoughts and routine actions, is much more likely to give the right decisions and insights. Such a mind may solve a task in two months term that it could not solve for five years.
5. Today there are a lot of coaches whom people are supposed to listen. The author of this article does not stop learning and I have nothing against them. But from the advices, technologies and other people’s examples, it is important to allocate a rational grain, to understand what is suitable for you and what is not. Everyone has different source data, place of residence (the air of the Swiss Alps has a completely different effect on the brain than the air of Norilsk or Asbest, the same applies to quality of water), the number of sunny days (enthusiastically talking about how easy and necessary is to get up at 5 am works well for Miami, not for Murmansk in December), genetics and health, lifestyle, number and age of family members, personal biorhythms, the degree of intellectual stress, vulnerability of the nervous system and much more.
6. When life is loaded with a mass of incessant things to do in the current multitasking mode, leading to deconcentration and energy loss, we stop separating the important from the unimportant. Under the weight of the routine, there is simply no time to sit down and reflect, to assess in detail the degree of expediency of the application of various efforts. Is a promising project always worth it? Is it really worth spending precious time and energy on this or that action?
7. The mask of a happy person is good thing. But allow yourself to take it off, at least sometimes, to discuss problems with close friends, not to play a role of superwoman or superman. Courageous patience can be more harmful than helpful. Allow yourself to be a living person who can also be sad, anxious, tired. Today somebody helps you morally and tomorrow you will support someone.
8. Implement a maximum of new situations in the routine, change it, do not be afraid of spontaneous decisions such as flying out for two days to another city/country instead of exploring the world around in Instagram and in other people’s blogs. These sources execute only an informational role and they do not bring any benefit to emotional background.
Let us learn to listen, to hear ourselves, do not change and not betray our dreams. For a very long time, we have been learning to survive. Now it’s time to master the art of living (Art de Vivre). It is never late to start.