How working from home has changed my mental health

It’s been close to three years since I started as a freelancer. I graduated university quite late; I was 28 (this is a topic for another time). During my studies of International Business I did a 7-month internship at a company specialized in measuring and improving service. I won’t say which company, it doesn’t matter. But I really enjoyed my internship. When I ended my internship in 2013, I didn’t know I would end up there again to write my Bachelor thesis. And I kind of stuck around. They hired me as a project manager. I loved the work I did, I really liked my coworkers and I was happy to have a job. I worked 40 hours a week, give or take.

Heading towards a burnout

Things changed, and like many companies that want to grow, there was a lot of reorganization. It eventually meant I had to travel an hour each way, which in reality was more like 1,5 hours, because traffic on the highway is no joke here in the Netherlands. Now my boss at the time would let us drive during work hours, but of course this wasn’t ideal, because it would mean we would have 3 hours a day less time to finish our work. Where other people had 40 hours, we had 30. Now, I do work at quite a high pace, but it meant that I could never rest. And let’s be honest, sitting in traffic for hours every week is no fun either.

After two years I noticed that my mental health was suffering from the stress. I had some health related issues and I decided that enough was enough. I’d seen many people around me burn out and I knew that if I didn’t do something, I’d be next.

The choice to become self-employed

I quit my job and I had two options: go work for another company closer to home or become self-employed. I’d always had this dream of working for myself. It never came of it because I got a job straight out of university; a job that I loved.  I did the calculations and thought about the pros and cons. I talked to my husband and I realized it’s now or never. We were in a very good financial position for me to try it out and if it didn’t work out, I could go back and find another job.

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One thing led to another and here I am, three years later, just happier than ever. I still work, I still make a good income, but here are the things that changed my life.

Recharging

As a highly sensitive person I get sensory overload. A lot. Much quicker and worse than the average person. So this means I need longer to recharge my battery for a shorter amount of time being exposed to “noise” and tension. I get to set my own work hours/days, so I immediately gave myself a three day weekend to recharge and this has made a world of difference. Fridays I get the house all by myself and I can recharge for three days over the weekend. This means that on Monday my battery is full and I happily start my workweek!

Productivity

This is actually twofold. I can’t really function very well in an environment where I’m surrounded by people who are talking. Even if they’re not talking to me. It really messes with my concentration. If I am home, I just have silence or music on and this is the way I concentrate best. So I can do my work much better. But also, I am a total morning person. My regular work hours used to 9am till 6pm. My brain always got foggy around 4pm. I would find myself staring at the clock and not be productive, whatsoever. Now, I usually start work at 7am and usually work until about 1pm or 2pm. This is when I am most productive and get most done. After that I close my laptop, forget about work and do other things that require less brainpower.

Diversity

I always loved my job, but what I love most about being self-employed is that I get to do a lot of different things. All things that I enjoy doing. I may be working on a translation, do some project coordination and write a blog in one day, and the next I will do some transcription or other types of content creation. I love every second of it because I can do more of what I enjoy.

Stress-Free days

Another amazing pro of being self-employed is that there is no more stress around when you start working. I do have set times but I don’t always stick to it and that’s okay. There’s nobody to tell me off if I start an hour later because my body needed some extra sleep that day. It also means no more sitting in traffic, which is the mother of all sensory overload! And if I do sit in traffic, I don’t stress about being late for work. If I have another appointment, I will move my work hours around so I can go to that appointment without too much hassle.

I never realized how big of an effect these little moments of stress can have on your health and happiness. So I’m extremely thankful and glad that I get to live out my dream in the best way possible!

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What’s left on my travel bucket list

I am a lucky gal, I know this. Over the past years my list of countries visited has grown tremendously. My counter is at 34 now, with Brazil being 35 when I go there for seven weeks in June – August.

Bucket list items ticked off

Back five years ago I remember having a bucket list for travel that had some countries and places on there which I have been able to visit over the past couple years. One of them was Jamaica. Well, on our honeymoon in November 2015 we visited Jamaica and it was absolutely wonderful! Another one was Brazil, and as I wrote earlier, I will be living in Brazil for seven weeks this summer and I couldn’t be more stoked. I also wanted to go to Ireland and we visited Dublin back in 2017 for a country music festival and I absolutely loved it! I hope to go back there one day and see more of the country, but Dublin was wonderful.

Dubai | Travel bucket list item
Dubai | Travel bucket list item

Places I still need to see

A once in a lifetime country is Australia. I would love to visit one day but it’s definitely not at the top of my list. I know it will be one of those trips that will be amazing, but nothing I need to accomplish within the next 10 years. I would also really like to go to Dubai one day. The architecture and culture seems amazing to me. There’s always some great deals, but the past few years we’ve had way too many other trips planned. I am sure this will be ticked off the list within the next 5 years. I also want to go to Vancouver. I’ve been to Canada before (Toronto and Niagara Falls), but something about Vancouver draws me to it. It is supposed to be a beautiful city. Then I also want to see Cuba, obviously. Cities in the USA that I want to visit are New Orleans and Nashville.

In the summer I will be visiting 3-4 cities in Brazil: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, and perhaps one or two more, depending on how much time I have. But I definitely want to one day visit Salvador da Bahia and the German states in the South of Brazil like Santa Catarina.

There are also just so many countries and cities I want to visit again or I want to keep visiting. Los Angeles is obviously one of those cities I will keep going back to each year. There are some places we’ve visited cruising that I really want to return to, such as Honduras, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico (still one of my favorites!). And I am afraid that after the summer I will want to keep returning to São Paulo.

Ugh.. I need to win the lottery.

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What losing 100 lbs means (to me)

Over a period of nine months I have lost a total of 103 lbs. This is about 47 kilograms. An insane amount of weight. How I lost the weight is not important. At least it isn’t for this blog. What I want to talk about is what it means to me to literally be a whole person lighter and how it has affected my life.

Society sucks

To start off on a light note, now that I have lost all the weight, I really notice how shitty society is. I think losing a big amount of weight is admirable, it’s not easy, so the compliments on my weight loss are very welcome and I take pride in what I’ve accomplished. Now the thing that I have a hard time with is accepting compliments on the way I look. First of all, I know everybody means well, but there’s something about a “OH MY GOSH YOU LOOK SO GOOD!” that gets to me when it comes from someone who has never given me a second look when I was still 50 or 100 lbs heavier. It tells me a lot about this person. I am a nice person though and I want to believe it comes from a good place so usually just smile and say thank you, but it doesn’t affect me in any way. I much rather hear it from people who have told me I looked good even at a higher weight. And why is it that people don’t ask me about how I feel? My health? My mental state?

More energy

I am not big on working out and I never will be. I try to work out as much as I can, but usually I just don’t. But being 100 lbs lighter automatically improves your energy level. There’s 100 lbs less to carry around with me so just walking around the house, up the stairs, in the grocery store, around the city or wherever is so much easier. This also means things like going out are more fun, because I can stand for hours at a concert without pain in my lower back or feet. I can dance all night long without being physically exhausted. Maybe a little, but that’s from old age.

Random changes

There’s some random changes I have noticed.

  • I can cross my legs, which is strange because it never looks comfortable to me, but I sit like that all the time now because it is so comfortable
  • I can sit in chairs without being afraid it’s going to break (not that this ever happened, but I always had to think twice)
  • I could probably ride a rollercoaster
  • I can walk in heels without feeling like my ankles are going to break
Mexico | Enjoying my vacations to the fullest
Mexico | Enjoying my vacations to the fullest

Better travel experience

I travel a lot and I’ve always had a wonderful quality of life but I’ve noticed that traveling is just more fun when you don’t have to think about walking distances and you are more mobile and you can do more activities without worrying whether or not you’ll be able to keep up. I have more energy, did things I’ve never done before and it is just an overall even better experience.

Food is no longer everything

Okay, that’s not really true. Chipotle is still my life. Chocolate is still my BFF. But what I mean is that before I lost weight, I was always occupied with food. I’ve done every diet in the book. Everything. I’ve been obsessed with counting calories, reading labels, watching videos about weight loss, reading blogs about diets, weighing all my food, tracking my intake and weight for 20+ years! Do you know how incredibly detrimental this is to your mental health? This obsession that people have with what’s bad for you and what’s good for you? I am so happy that I can finally just relax. I have no counted a single calorie these past nine months. I haven’t weighed my food, I don’t track what I eat and drink. The only thing I do is prioritize protein in my meals and try to watch my liquid intake, and that’s it. I eat everything I want, in smaller portions. I don’t cut anything out. It seriously has given my life back!

But still, the most important thing I’ve learned is that this weight loss journey has NOTHING to do with what I look like now, or what I looked like then. You can and should love yourself at every weight.

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