Hi. My name is Natalia and I’m a (former) Stress Addict.
Tell me what a day in your life was like when you were a stress addict. How did you spend your time?
Oh, boy. I would basically wake up and immediately become tense with worry. I’d think of everything on my to-do list for that day and probably week and maybe month, and of course freak out to some extent. My mind would race. My body would be tense as well. It just wasn’t healthy, yo! In fact, I had a ton of health issues and was constantly getting colds and the flu. And whether I exercised or not (since I go through phases), any change toward calm wouldn’t last too long because my mindset remained the same. And even though I wasn’t that negative a person (anymore), I was still struggling to reframe my thinking and didn’t have the proper help, so shit just snowballed in my head.
What were the biggest causes of stress in your life during that time?
There was a lot of stuff: I wasn’t happy in the country where I was living (and couldn’t leave), my support system was back in the U.S., I was making very little money out of college doing things I wasn’t even interested in, my health had taken a huge dive, and so on — those were the basics. So it was hard. Of course, while there were concrete things going on outside of my head that I arguably didn’t as much control over, I did (arguably) have control over my mindset (something I didn’t knowat the time). So my negative mindset was keeping me stuck and unable to see possible solutions clearly. Funny how it’s all connected!
Was there a specific turning point for you when you realized things needed to change? Was there a moment where you felt like you hit rock-bottom?
Certainly. I was studying for the LSAT at that point to get into law school in the U.S. when I realized that I wouldn’t be happy as a law student or lawyer (and now I’m a jolly web designer/developer so I was right on!). So suddenly I was in limbo, which created a huge existential quarter-life crisis for me. I fell hard, for that and other reasons. I got bronchitis for two months and had to quit my job. A lot of shit went down. That was absolute rock-bottom. I would walk 50 meters and be exhausted. I was useless. Helpless. Miserable. Living alone in a country with a culture I couldn’t stand (more sexism, racism, and so on than in the U.S.), trapped, lonely and depressed as hell, and the list goes on. At that point I knew things had changed but I had no say in the matter in terms of steering — I had no control. And that was even more terrifying. It actually took me some years to find direction. And I am so damn grateful that day came.
What’s a day in your life like now that you’re a (former) stress addict?
These days, I am more careful with what I eat: that I get protein throughout the day, for example. I sleep more. I’ve started visualizing and sometimes meditate. I spend a lot of time outdoors thanks to my rescued dog a.k.a. my daughter Naomi, staring at the ocean and taking leisurely walks and jogs with her. I get out of my house to socialize with humans in person (not just online!), as I’ve realized what a colossal impact that has on my mood and well-being. I’m sure to get Nat time to recharge. And I make sure to always laugh, so for instance I’ll watch way more comedies than dramas. You wouldn’t think it, but that’s a big one!
What’s the one thing you changed that had the greatest impact?
I reframe my thoughts regularly: “what’s another way to look at this?” I’ll ask myself. “What’s the worst thing that could happen, and is that really so bad?” Questions like those help me keep perspective. It’s amazing what that can do!What is your secret to keeping toxic situations and people out of your life?
Natalia Real is the Website Superhero at www.website-superhero.c