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The next update in my year of FREE is the part where I go ahead and chuck in my job. And that is exactly what I have done. 

I am sure that last year I was experiencing what is becoming more well known as a quarter-life crisis. Over the last five years I had put all this pressure on myself to be the best, the top, work hard, never disappoint or let anyone down – and suddenly all that pressure built up into overwhelm and insecurity.

I feel that since forever I have been encouraged to be my best (nothing wrong with that!), that I could be anything I wanted to be. It was expected that I went to university (not that I begrudge this at all!). It was the middle class expectation to be in a job that your parents are proud of, and can boast about at dinner parties “Oh Leah? Yes, she is working for xx – getting such great experience!”

When my parents were growing up, kids went to uni if they wanted to, or if they were highly academic (neither of mine did). It wasn’t expected. Working in a bank, or as a receptionist, or in a shop was a perfectly legitimate career – and to have the same job for 10 years was fine. Having a JOB, any job, was a sign of success. It was A-OK to just have a job -you didn’t necessarily need to have a CAREER.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my years at uni and the career I have worked hard at so far. I loved working hard, long hours – and being busy and stressed by work seemed to be the way I showed that I was successful. Being made redundant from my first job and coming out unscathed with a fancy job lined up immediately in Sydney was just another feather in my cap. Eventually moving up the career ladder was what I WANTED.

Or so I thought.

Last year, the Quarter Life crisis was in full swing. Is this what I want? Do I even enjoy this work anymore? What If I have done all this study/career ladder climbing and it’s not me? I can’t start again can I? Do I even know what I am doing? I can’t believe these people are paying me to tell them stuff I am making up! Am I making it up? Do I know what I am talking about? I am too young to know what I am talking about!

So instead of trying to answer those questions, I threw myself back into it with gusto! I became even more of a “harry hardout”.

– I had this fancy job title, working for one of the countries top company’s, being flown around the world. TICK.
– I won the Young Practitioner of the Year. This was something I had my sights set on since I left uni, so I went out and DID it. TICK.
– I sat my APR course of study & exams, becoming one of the youngest APR qualified people in the country. Why? Coz I COULD dammit. TICK.

And how did I feel after all of that? Proud? Yeah. Satisfied? Not really. I still had the exact same questions – what am I DOING WITH MY LIFE? (I know, deep right?)

Right now, I don’t actually know what I want to DO anymore. I have lost the clarity and focus, and it all seems so fuzzy and inconsequential. I do know, that I don’t want my career choice to be the only thing that identifies me. I want quirks and hobbies and interests – and more than anything, I want to get away from it all and FREE myself to find out exactly what this job/career thing means to me. I am not scared that I don’t know what’s ahead, instead I take comfort knowing that the right thing will present itself to me. The right thing for me is out there.

So…what am I DOING about all this?

BIG NEWS (which has already been splashed all over twitter and facebook so you may quite possibly be more than well aware!) is that both Jase and I resigned from our jobs last week. We have a loose plan – fly to Vancouver at the beginning of May, and find work. Not career work – but some form of employment that pays the bills, and buys us a beer at the end of the week – be that in hospo, retail, admin – I don’t care. After six months or so, we want to head to one of the mountains, again get work – and learn to snowboard. We are calling a massive TIME OUT to just be us, have fun, and forget about all the pressures we both had. Time out to be FREE.

After a year, our tickets take us on to the UK where it is likely we will seek out jobs in our professions again (as we are both good at our jobs and it really would be silly to be on the bones of our arses when we could be making a few bob). I am hoping the year of freeing my mind will allow me to relax, destress, and get through this quarter-life crisis!

So I’m FREE, to do what I want, any old time!

With 2011 being the year of FREE, part of that is freeing my body and my mind.

I have stayed away from writing this post, because I knew it would be hard for me to be honest and share where I am at, and where I was in 2010. However I want to be able to share my journey – and to do that, I need to fill you in on the beginning.

To put it bluntly, 2010 sucked for me body wise.

I put on weight – around 7kgs which is a LOT of weight considering my height (1.6m). I also suffered from some pretty awful symptoms – I couldn’t work it out, why my body was failing on me.

Weight gain
I am a pretty active person – I go to the gym regularly (on average 4+ times a week) and never shy away from getting sweaty. Jase is really active and so would never let me sit around on my butt and do nothing! Food wise – yeah ok, I like my food and while portion control may have been an issue, I am certainly not a massive junk food person. I keep an eye on what I eat and try to do my best. I don’t drink a lot – in fact, getting drunk is a rare occurrence.

So why was I putting on weight?

It came back with a vengeance, on my hands and the backs of my upper thighs. I couldn’t wear jewellery and pretty much never wore my rings all of 2011 because my hands would come up in small blisters. I tried creams and lotions, but it would flare up and flake. It was awful.

Anxiety, Headaches (Migraines), Mind screwing symptoms
Feeling like it was all too much, worrying about things that I didn’t need to, loss of concentration, intense mood swings, a heightened confusion in mildly stressful situations, and experiencing panic attacks.

Sometimes I would eat something and within 20 minutes I was running to the bathroom. Intense stomach pains and an upset stomach. It was this symptom that finally made me seek help.

In February last year I found my awesome naturopath and went for my first consultation. Kimberley was amazing and listened to everything I was saying and told me I wasn’t crazy, that it was all connected and we would get to the bottom of it.

– I did allergy testing and confirmed (I always suspected) my intolerance to all dairy/lactose. Immediately changing to soy products has changed my life, and I have barely suffered from IBS since.
– I also stay away from oranges, apples, garlic, and onions as allergy tests identified them as reactor foods
– I did a 3 month homoeopathic detox kit which cleansed my kidneys, liver, immune and lymphatic systems
– I stared taking fish oil, magnesium, vitamin c, and a strong multivitamin daily
– I supplemented those with various herbal tonics for mouth ulcers (I was getting those when I was run down), Echinacea (for when I went travelling to boost my immune system), rescue remedy (to aid the anxiety), probiotics, and bach flowers and withuania (for calming)

What we have discovered over the year is that my biggest problem is how my body reacts to STRESS. All of the above symptoms led back to stress in my life – both conscious and unconscious stress. Sometimes I didn’t even think I was stressed at all – and yet my body was telling me something different. It all seemed to kick off around the time of my Granny’s death, and built from there.

My body had gone into a state of chronic stress – and this is where the weight gain comes in.

When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol (produced by the adrenal gland).

Cortisol’s primary functions in the body are:

  • increasing blood sugar
  • suppressing the immune system
  • aiding in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism

It is your “fight or flight” hormone – it kicks in when you are in trouble. Back in the day, when you were in trouble your body would store fat around your vital organs as protection and for extra energy to burn when you may not have access to food.

Unfortunately for me – I was “fight or flighting” – but without any threat. Food was abundant and I wasn’t in any danger. But my body was packing on the weight – around my tummy. HELLO weight gain!

So – cutting a LONG story short – part of the reason 2011 is the year of FREE is because I need to FREE myself of stress, in order to lose weight.

Interestingly enough, I went on holiday over the New Year break – camping, lots of reading, swimming, enjoying a few wines etc. I was stress-free. My eczema finally left my hands and I put my rings back on (and haven’t taken them off since). I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to what I was eating, we didn’t do any major exercise…yet I lost weight. As my naturopath said “you must be the only person who eats healthy and exercises lots and puts on weight, yet you go on holiday and eat chips & dip and drink wine and you lose it!”

I really am trapped in a crazy body. BUT, I am working on understanding it.

Small changes that I am making in 2011 to help me reduce my stress (and my weight – it is all linked) include:

– trying to de-gluten-ify my diet as much as possible. I recently read Eat Right For Your Type (finished it in an hour, I was enthralled) and it made complete sense. I am an 0 blood type, which is the oldest blood type, the hunter. The hunter thrives on meat and vegetables – there was no dairy or wheat products around in those days. While I am not going to be one of those “I can’t eat anything but air” type people, I am striving to only put things that make me feel good into my body

– exercise because I want to, not because I have to. I tried my first Body Attack class a couple of weeks ago and I am addicted to the high it gives me! I have joined the work dragon boating team and I can’t wait for the festival in March when we compete. I have signed up for round the bays and I plan to RUN the whole 7km! Training so far is going well

– after being a lacklustre Weight Watchers online member, I took the full plunge and reset all my stats and am going hard on the food tracking (the new iPhone app makes everything so much easier). I have started going to meetings and am making my weekly weigh in a priority and something I look forward to! This week has been particularly awesome – a bunch of us who are on twitter started a private facebook group and the sharing and motivation that has come from that small group of like minded people has really got me going! I am going to be a success and nail this weight gain on the head!

– reducing stressors, and increasing stress-relievers. The biggest thing I have done in 2011 so far has been giving up coffee. I loved my daily coffee – but coffee spikes cortisol levels, so I have switched to Green Tea (I don’t drink normal tea either). I am still allowing myself a soy latte as an absolute treat every now and then – but have only done that once in three weeks!

So there we have it, 2011 means freeing my mind of stress, and freeing my body of the weight it has gained.

Stay tuned for updates!

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