Time equals money equals stress

My life as a fulltime freelancer took a bad turn after a shoot last week. I had a stressful day and a half, and while I was chilling on the couch later that night, my husband pointed out that I was scratching my face. This isn’t new, I often scratch my skin when I’m stressed out, but when he pointed it out I realised that it actually itches. So I went into the bathroom and discovered that not only is my face itching, my arms are itching as well. I pull up my shirt and find that the rash I had before the wedding is back. And it’s everywhere.

Somehow I think I’ve always handled my time carefully. I always show up early for meetings, get up extra early so that I have time to take it easy in the mornings, plan my work so that it doesn’t pile up and almost never wait until the last minute… and yet here I am, covered in rashes with a brain not operating fully due to long-term stress. I’ve blamed myself for this. “It must be me, everyone else seems to be able to handle life”. But in the last few months I’ve watched people around me break down, one by one, and I’ve realised that it’s not just me. It’s not up to us as individuals to try to cope, something needs to change.

Looking back at past jobs and job interviews where they ask you how well you operate under stress, makes me want to go back in time and give a lecture about the negative effects of long-term stress and how it isn’t a positive thing for the company to hire people on the premise that their job is stressful. If the job is stressful – change something! No one will thank you a few years down the road when you crash and can’t function like a normal human being.

Stress-related illness is a rising problem in society, and we cope by changing our mindset, trying out a new diet or becoming more “spiritual”. Sure, we can try to learn mindfulness, do yoga on the weekends and “not get ourselves worked up”, but how is that going to change anything? How is mindfulness going to help you when your boss emails you late at night, telling you he needs your project, that you haven’t even started, to be done by lunch tomorrow? How is mindfulness, or yoga, or excersise going to fix the core problem? The core problem being that time equals money.

I blame consumerism and our outdated views on work. We need to realise that yes, time is precious, but time isn’t money. Money requires time. Quick results might seem tempting, but letting things take their time is more beneficial in the long run. Innovation, inspiration and new ideas can’t grow in stressful environments. And think about how much money society loses on sick leave due to stress. We’re talking billions.

We need to talk more about these issues, especially with employers, and not apply for jobs where the word “stress” is in the job description. Health comes first.

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The struggle of wanting more – while being exhausted

Photo by: Victor Norgren

When I was a kid, “The Little Mermaid” was my favorite movie. It spoke to me. And it stuck with me. The feeling of being different, of not settling, of wanting to explore and do more. One of my high school teachers once told me “You seem to be a strong person. You run your own race”. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But in many ways the “wanting more” has made my life miserable.

To me, “more” doesn’t mean money, power or fame. It means doing something meaningful. Something that will have a positive impact on people. I have such a strong feeling that I should be doing something else. Right now, my life is all about survival. The only thing I think about is money, and how we can earn enough to get by every month. I’m making decisions based on what I think will give us a more stable future in terms of money. And it’s making me sick.

I don’t know enough about life to know if it really pays off to be a good person and work towards your dreams. But I do know that I don’t want to spend my life working a meaningless job, feeling shitty about myself every night and having anxiety 24/7. And that is why I’m in this position right now. That is why I’m on antidepressants, why I’m not employed and why we struggle to get by. And you know what? I am so grateful for everything I have at this moment. Right now I have love, I have a roof over my head, food on the table, lovely friends and family that care about me. What more could I possibly need right now that money can buy? Nothing.

But I need to find my purpose. I am and have always been an ambitious person. When I do something, I go all in, which is why I haven’t really done anything in the past year. I haven’t had the energy to go all in. I think that might be the problem with us who struggle with exhaustion – we constantly want to do more, and nothing is ever enough.

The University programme I talked about a couple of weeks ago is still on my mind. It’s not what I’ve dreamt of doing with my life. Quite frankly, most people would call this profession boring and old-fashioned. But being the ambitious person that I am, I already came up with my own ideas of how this profession could evolve into something global and groundbreaking. Because that’s who I am. I question the way things are. Which is not always welcome in the educational system, despite what you may think (but that’s a totally different story).

I’m not sure where this blog post is going, I just felt like I needed to get these things off my chest and to give you an update. I’m alive and doing pretty well in terms of my mental health. So now I’m slowly trying to stear my focus towards personal development instead of survival.

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How do you find your life purpose and choose a career?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life purpose since the realisation that I chose the wrong path in terms of my career. A couple of weeks ago I got an idea of what I wanted to do instead, and it didn’t take me long to get things moving. I found a programme at the local University, asked around for internships and even managed to get an interview with two people who are working in that particular field. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into before I decide to apply for two more years of school. It all seemed great and I was super excited. But surprise surprise, I’m starting to doubt the whole thing now.

The applications aren’t open yet, so I haven’t made an official decision. I’m afraid that this is going to be another bad turn. When talking to the two professionals I got the sense that one of them wasn’t very happy with his job, and the reasons for it are reasons that I know will bug me as well. It’s an administrative job, often controlled by other decision-making people, and everything has to go through them. Me being a person who needs control and has an issue with authorities, might have a problem with such a business structure.

But I need money, I need to make a living, and this job would mean a steady income. That is, if I actually get a job after the studies. Cause you never know. The statistics are looking pretty okay at the moment, but a lot can change in two years. Including my mental state and feelings towards this line of work. The whole reason why I came up with the idea in the first place is because I was searching the internet for jobs that suit my introvert personality. I found this profession interesting and “easy” enough to work with my anxiety problems. But is that really the right way to go? Am I settling for less than I actually want out of life?

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. To do great things that people will acknowledge. I wanted to help and change people’s lives. I still do. But I’m not well and have no energy to attempt something greater right now. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m just afraid of failure? Or stressed out about the whole money situation. Having your own business can be very rewarding on a personal level, but the money won’t exactly pile up the first couple of years. It’s tough, and you need to be mentally prepared to stick with it, even when business is bad. I guess the key is to start a business you’re really passionate about, and where you can see a sustainable future. I don’t know what kind of business that would be, and as excited as I was for that new path I started exploring, I think I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But then again, do we ever find what we are looking for? I think we’re all just lost souls searching for something we believe will make us happy. But happiness isn’t around the corner, it’s right here. Even if I don’t feel it all the time, I know it’s here. To me it’s not the happiness I seek, it’s the meaning. A greater belonging. A sense of fulfilment. One of my greatest fears is being basic. Wow, I’ve never actually thought of it that way… That’s exactly my problem.

I feel like this is beginning to sound like a therapy session, so I’m going to end it right here. Please comment if you have any thoughts on this. Are you also afraid of not living up to your full potential? Have you found the right path? How do you know what you are supposed to do with your life? Do you just focus on surviving and providing for your family? Is your career important to you?

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