How anxiety, stress, and negative feelings have helped me to live better?

How anxiety, stress, and negative feelings have helped me to live better?

Sometimes anxiety, negative feelings, and difficulties in life can be the messengers we need to make necessary changes in our lives. Following the cues of my own pain, anxiety, and shadow has led me on an incredible journey and brought many great things to my life. Acknowledging that something is off and the willingness to do something about it were the first steps on my path toward a more authentic life.

Looking at my life today, I have to say that this is not what I imagined some years back. While exploring and investigating alternative and authentic lifestyles, I’m also trying to build one myself. And it’s been an interesting and eye-opening journey so far. The other day I was trying to figure out how it all got started. How did I end up on this quest?

It’s a good question without a simple answer, but a lot of it has to do with anxiety and feeling like shit. It’s not my highest self and the best version of me who took action in the first place. Many times, it’s been the anxious, exhausted, and suffering version of me making decisions and changes. The common cliché tells us that what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. I don’t think any pain or difficulty can make us stronger if we don’t deal with it. But if we dare to acknowledge and listen to our negative feelings and suffering – and act on them –  those dark things can lead us to great places.

If something is off, acknowledge it and do something

For years I’ve had this nagging voice whispering to me that life has so much more to offer than what most of us settle for. For many of those years, I was also dealing with anxiety and negative thought patterns. When I finally opened myself to the possibility that life might have more to offer, it has magically started to provide more.

The first important turning point in my life was the decision to leave Finland. The world had been calling me for years, but something always came up. As much as I love my homeland and my people there, I had the urge to see and experience something else.

And yes, feeling like shit also motivated me to change the environment. Before moving out from Finland, I felt lost, exhausted, and often out of place. On top of that, or maybe because of that, I was dealing with general anxiety disorder spiced up with some neurosis. At that point, I didn’t know how I wanted to live my life, but I knew I needed a change. So, changing a country seemed like a good idea, and it also happened to be a long-term dream of mine.

Different country, different problems

It could be said that my anxiety led me to Stockholm. I didn’t get very far, but moving to a neighboring country was a step out of my comfort zone, and it felt good to start building a life in a new environment. The atmosphere in Stockholm was light and more diverse. I found good friends quickly, and I settled easily. My new job was very international, just like I had hoped for.

This led me to a somewhat crazy journey, where I learned tons, met a lot of interesting new people, and ended up working way too much, at times, in an unhealthy set-up. While many of my old anxieties had dissolved and I felt more alive and excited about my new life, now I was repeatedly on the edge of burnout and often found myself angry AF.

While I was very happy about the move and liked my life in Stockholm, I was also struggling. This is how life sometimes is; it can be good and not so good at the same time.

I had managed to build a nice life in Stockholm for myself, and my Senior Consultant’s job looked fancy on paper. And it was fun at times. I was consulting international clients on how to build attractive employer brands and facilitating workshops around the world. But at the same time, my nervous system was screaming, I was in a survival mode, and stress and hustle were leading my life. I needed a change, again!

During those crazy times, I had a work trip to Costa Rica. I managed to squeeze in a long weekend for myself in a surf town close to the capital. I found myself sitting in a hammock at Selina Jaco, staring a mural where a smiling woman surfs in foamy waves. The text under the surfboard said, “Sol, Surf y Travesuras”. It’s Spanish and means sun, surf, and naughtiness.

I thought for a moment if I’d find the meaning of life, but instead, I got an idea and a solution to my problem. The idea was to take a leave of absence and buy some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. Eight months later, I started my six months leave exactly from the same spot, greeting the lady in the mural.

Making friends with negative emotions

It’s not hard to see that the upcoming six months delivered quite a different experience, and life showed me the other side of the coin. I felt more alive than ever; I enjoyed the present moment and found a new connection with myself. It was a journey of awakening, where I truly understood that life has so much more to offer.

What struck me was the realization that life doesn’t have to be about hustle, stress, and being constantly busy. While those things pushed me into this incredible journey, I didn’t want my life experience to be dictated by the grind culture anymore.

The next moves I made from a place of peace and alignment, but it’s good to remember that there was a lot of suffering preceding these decisions. I decided to quit my job with the intention to find more peace, aliveness, and meaning. And most definitely more freedom. I figured that if building an authentic and alternative way of living was possible for all those people I had met on the road, it had to be possible for me too. Whatever it would mean.

I took the leap of faith, and I’m still on that journey. While I’ve found plenty of peace, balance, and joy on this path, I’ve also found out that negative feelings and some level of anxiety show up in my new life as well. I guess they want part of the fun too!

While most of my anxiety and neurosis have dissolved as a result of my self-discovery, spiritual practice, and boundaries, I still get anxious, and I’m certainly not free from negative thoughts and feelings. But I’ve learned to work with them. I’ve actually learned to appreciate them too. Often, they tell me that something is off. That I need a change. Or that I have something to heal and deal with.

Instead of resisting or repressing difficult feelings or situations, I’ve learned that I can try to make friends with them and let them tell me what I need to know.

Instead of becoming a victim of my circumstances and hardships, I can rise above them and take full responsibility for my life (or at least I can try my best). By accepting and embracing my own bullshit, I’ve also experienced incredible healing and received wonderful insights about myself and life in general.

My favorite Buddhist nun (not that I know many of them) Pema Chödrön writes “nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know”. So, let’s embrace our bullshit, it’s there for a reason, and it can take us to great places – if we allow it!

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