Taking some time off at the end of an intense year, emotionally, physically and business wise, set the tone for what’s coming next. It was especially important for my mental health. I needed this so badly, if I don’t wanted to go down the same rabbit whole like a did in the past. I always tend to overwork, forget to take breaks or want to keep myself busy to not deal with certain emotions or situations. Working remotely and traveling was never really vacay time. There was me, my schedule, my to do list and my busy mind. This was always a recipe for disaster as I burned out. It’s a very old pattern and very hard to break.
We all know how intense especially the end of the year can be, with all the Christmas craziness, finishing old tasks to not take them into the new year and reflecting on everything that happened throughout the year as well as functioning all year around.
Last year I decided to end differently. I decided to not be part of this repeated craziness. Regardless of what other people might have expected (or at least I thought have expected). I set myself and my mental health first. So, I took off to India. Initially I was joining a wedding of my friend, but then decided to stay longer, work, surf and fulfill my dream to go to an ashram. This was something I wanted to do for a while, something that was on my vision board quite some time (Yes, I do have a physical vision board on my wall, showing all my dreams and desires).
Finishing the trip by being in an ashram was very special to me and came exactly at the right time. Many people might not have an idea what exactly is happening there. I had no f*** clue. I just knew, somewhere deep down, I wanted to do this. For me it was a very back to the basics experience. I stayed in a 32-bed girl’s dorm; everything was very simple. We all followed the same schedule. Getting up super early, meditating, chanting, tee and chat, 3-4h yoga per day, simple but yummy rice dishes twice a day, lectures on different topics and karma yoga. Even though it seemed like a full schedule, it did not feel like it. It was just the perfect structure I needed. I put away my phone and laptop, focused on the experience and could finally fully turn off my mind and relax.
What I really loved about India and also the Ashram is the holistic approach of the Indians to body, mind and soul. This experience was nurturing all three of them and it was the biggest reminder that one cannot stay healthy without taking care of the others too. Sure, that´s no crazy news, but for me it felt always hard to connect all of them.
Therapy in the western world has not much to do with such a holistic approach. Therapy creates awareness mostly on the cognitive level. You talk, you try to remember and you learn skills. And if you are lucky and can afford it, you might have access to other therapy forms like body therapy, where you learn about actually feeling your emotions through your body, dealing with them and heal your subconscious. But none of the therapies will ever treat all of them together. At least not the ones your health insurance is covering. Nobody will work out a proper holistic healing schedule. You got to choose (if you are lucky).
There is one thing the western world seemed to have forgotten. If one of the three things is out of balance, it will poison the others. Don’t get me wrong therapy is good and helps a lot. But it just doesn’t stop here, as everything is connected. If the mind is sick the body will most likely be or get sick too and vice versa. Whenever there were depressed episodes or I was distracting myself from any kind of emotions, every single muscle in my body was so tense, I had stomach issues, head aches, muscle pain, my immune system dropped etc. I could just keep on going.
And exactly that happened to me lately again. I tried so hard to take care of mind and my soul but I have forgotten my body along the way. My body over the months got more and more tight and I was basically every single day in pain until the point I couldn’t move anymore. One month before I left to India with the intention to surf and do some yoga and meditation, my plan seemed to crumble. I was devastated. But I also was very aware I completely ignored the signs screaming at me to take a break. Everything my mind and soul couldn’t deal with or release, I stored in my body, making myself more and more sick.
I managed with physical therapy to move again, even though the pain was still my permanent companion. I managed to get back on my surf board and also did some yoga. But never without being in pain. Even sitting was as uncomfortable as it gets. My body was so stiff and every muscle tight. It felt like I was trying so hard to hold myself together, afraid of falling apart again. After episodes of high stress, the coming down is so so scary, because you never know how hard you will hit the ground.
I needed a break! A break after the product launch, after all the personal shit happened throughout the year and after so much pressure I put myself under, nonstop. My body showed me what my mind already knew. I have not taken good enough care and now it painfully forced me to eventually stop.
Part of my mental sustainability routine was and still is not just therapy but also my spiritual routine including meditation and journaling. I got in touch with meditation in a very early age through my dad, but never really understood it or even practiced it. Many years later that changed. I can’t completely recall when I started, but I know the worse I felt the more I was searching for some skills to make me feel better. I was trying different kind of meditations, from guided to silent. I wanted my thoughts and my mind to just be quiet, but it got louder and louder. Paired with my anxiety it was a recipe for disaster. My mind went through to do list, through past and future situations, through my meal plan, basically everything. The more I pressured myself the less it worked for me. I was not even enjoying it, rather saw it as a daily to do I had to cross off my list. I needed space and a break to take out the pressure and to remember what’s the purpose of my whole routine. And it was for sure not to have an extra task on my list.
As mentioned, luckily I was able to take my break in the Ashram. Besides the above-mentioned daily schedule, it was the biggest reminder to create new and healthy routines. Some of the routines I stopped the busier and more stressed I was. When we are stressed and busy, we tend to first drop our routines and selfcare habits, instead being on the phone nonstop or jumping out of bed straight to our desks, even though these are the times we need the healthy routines the most. There is a saying, to take some time to meditate daily. If you are busy and have the feeling to not have time at all, take the double amount of time.
I started to slowly stretch my body again and relieved my tight muscles and mind. I started meditating properly again and did learn some new breath work technique’s, that changed everything for me.
Sure, I was anxious If I could stay with my routines being back in Berlin. It´s so easy to fall back into old, unhealthy habits as soon as your everyday life takes hold of you again.
But I managed (so far) and it makes all the difference how I start my day. To start my day away from my phone, with me time, meditation, breathwork and writing my damn diary every day. Sure, I still wake up anxious and there are days I have to force myself. But every single time I do, the anxiety is gone, my mind is more silent, I handle my daily tasks differently and feel strong enough to face whatever comes up that day. These 2h in the morning is my selfcare time, is my recipe to feel grounded and my warranty for sanity.
So maybe, if you read this, it gives you a tiny push to take some time for yourself and some new or old routines; some me-time in the morning or evening, when the world is still silent and create structure. There is no right or wrong or just one way to do your meditation or whatever daily (spiritual) routine. Everything that invites joy, peace, silence or put a smile on your face is the absolute right way. Everything else can and should wait.