When we asked readers to tweet about the moment they knew they needed to de-stress, the responses were alarming. Breaking points were marked by health crises, family problems and other types of suffering. We decided to go deeper into some of these stories in the hope that others can recognize signs of extreme stress and start to figure out their own paths to de-stressing.
Before the ink on my college diploma was dry, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of working in the entertainment industry. By 25, I ended up as a television literary agent at one of the most prestigious entertainment companies in Los Angeles. I had an office with a view, an assistant who answered my phone, an expense account, a real salary, power lunches, industry screenings, clients and business cards. I dated and attended industry events. From the outside, my life looked great. I appeared successful and well on my way to "having it all." There was just one problem: I was absolutely miserable.
Daily I tried to talk myself into liking my job. I felt obligated to stay because this was what I thought I wanted and had worked so hard for, but the fact that I hated what I did every day made me sick. I had migraines at least twice a week, the stress threw my hormones completely out of whack and I was becoming someone I did not like. In order to save myself from a total meltdown, I quit.
Leaving my career changed my external circumstances, but I still found myself miserable. Completely burned out and craving a total change of direction, I became a personal trainer -- I thought that it might be my "passion." Wrong again. I had nine different jobs in three years, constantly searching for something that would make me feel better about myself. Since the career obviously wasn't doing it, I looked to a relationship. I fell in love, moved in with him and got engaged. Six months before my wedding, he called it off. So there I was at 28: heartbroken, in debt, physically sick, at odds with my family and lacking direction in my career. I was having a quarter-life crisis.
There was one significant moment on my bathroom floor when I realized I had two choices: I could throw in the towel, move home and try to forget about the life I had failed at; or I could dig in, look at my life, and try to figure out who I really was, what I really wanted and how I was going to get it. I finally started to understand that I was working so hard to compensate for my insecurities by chasing achievement and external validation. I opened my mind to the possibility that somewhere in the midst of this drama, there could be a blessing.
I realize from my own quarter-life crisis that we are not supposed to have our entire life figured out by a certain age but rather that our entire life is a journey. I learned that I was going through a very normal rite of passage that no one warned me about that turned out to be the exact wake-up call I needed. Although the unknown felt quite daunting, it was happening to give me an opportunity for transformation!
That pivotal night on my bathroom floor where I committed to give up my attachment to external success and look within for my answers, I also made a promise. I wasn't exactly sure who I was making the promise to because I wasn't particularly spiritual at the time, so I promised the "Universe" that if I figured my way out of the dead-end I felt I hit, I would dedicate my life to helping other people do the same.
The next day I woke up with the idea for my first book. And I began to write it. I shared openly about what I was going through. I stopped trying to prove myself or pretend like I had it all figured out. The more vulnerable I was, the more people wanted to talk to me. I started to see that I had gained an incredible amount of wisdom from the most awful time in my life. That experience inspired me to become trained as a coach so that I could support other people in transforming their perceived crisis into an amazing opportunity for transformation.
That began in 2004 and today I am blessed to have an incredibly fulfilling career as a life coach, spiritual counselor, author (working on my third book now!), workshop facilitator and professional speaker. If someone had told me back in 2003 when I felt like my entire life was falling apart that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me, I don't know if I would have believed them.
Difficult situations are often The Universe's way of getting our attention because when life is not turning out like we planned or desired, we are often motivated to start looking within. Trust that you will get through whatever you are going through right now, no matter how stressful it may feel. And if you are willing to ask "What am I learning?" rather than "Why is this happening?" you will discover life-changing lessons that will alter the path of your life.
Is there a moment you hit a stress breaking point and knew you needed to change your life? If you'd like to share your story, please send personal essays under 1200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in this series.