‘salvation came in the form of the sun rising above the mountains, setting the horizon on fire‘

The change

After drying my tears, and being way past the feeling of exhaustion, salvation came in the form of the sun rising above the mountains, setting the horizon on fire. I drank my last bit of wine and decided it was time for a drastic change. I sent my boss a message: ‘Can we meet for coffee later today? There’s something important I’d like to discuss with you.’ I got into bed, exhausted and rosy from the wine I had.

The die is cast

After a couple hours of sleep, my boss -the country director of the humanitarian organization I worked for- and I met up at a little coffee shop near the hospital.

The responsibility of the department of program development was in my hands; the responsibility for the program of thousands of refugee children in Lebanon. My hands were shaking from stress, a lack of sleep and well, a hangover. Was I really doing this? I could still come up with something else to say. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all?

‘Hi Minou! How are you?’ He sat across from me, listening to my update about my son, the project proposal and other work-related things.

Then I blurted it out. The words came out of my mouth without context, without a reason.
‘I’d like to quit my job.’ The die was cast. My words echoed through my mind while the world around us fell silent. With a questionable expression, he opened his mouth. And closed it. And took a sip of his coffee.

‘That seems rigorous. Are you sure?’ His eyes met mine over his cup of coffee. ‘Maybe you should take two months off and make a decision without dealing with the stress you are feeling right now.” His supportive words felt comforting. I swallowed. I’m not going to cry. I swallowed again. ‘Okay’, I managed to say.

Survival mechanism

Four weeks later, I was sure I didn’t want to go back.

After working non-stop for so long, the feelings of stress finally left my system. A process that took longer than I expected, which gave me a lot of time to question things.

I had always been a star at ‘give me a project, give me a deadline, I’ll make it work. Whatever it is.’

Was that what I really wanted?

What have I learned about myself and others during my life and my career?

 

What gives me a sense of fulfillment?


What was my life like when it was balanced? 

All those questions flooded my mind.

Then I realized that I had lived my life taking everything on with both hands, no matter what it was.

To what extent were those decisions completely my own?

The fact that it had been my survival mechanism dawned on me. It had gotten me far in life and gave me the strength to move mountains.

At the same time, I felt a need to more consciously organize my life. I spoke to other women that had dealt with work related stress and issues with work-life balance.

Where did it go wrong?

That lead to meaningful conversations about recognizing and setting your own boundaries, learning how to say ‘no’, having realistic expectations of yourself and deal with other people’s expectations in a healthy way.

Self-care was an important subject too, as there was often a lack thereof. And claiming your own life, shaping it in on your own terms without feeling guilty for not being there enough for the rest of the world.

Change

Around that time, my son moved to the Netherlands to start his two years of boarding school. The irony.

It led to a remarkable change in our relationship: no discussions about whether he was allowed to use the computer, whether he was allowed to do this or that. Typical teenager stuff.

Our relationship changed rapidly and so did my relationship with friends and family. I realized I never wanted to put those relationships on the back burner again at the expense of work overwhelm.


Self-care was important too. Up till that moment, taking care of myself was something I did when all other things were done, so basically never. Sports? Going for walks in nature? Eating healthily? Quit smoking? Peace and quiet in my mind? I procrastinated all that for years. 

Not having a job meant I finally had time to make those things a priority worth my energy. I wanted to create new habits and stick to them. It was a process of trial and error, but it started taking shape.

Now what?! was the question that arose. Deep down I knew the answer: I wanted to take all my life experience, get certified as a coach and start my own business.

I knew that running a company wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, especially not for a healthy work-life balance, but I was sure I wanted to help others find their way to a happy, balanced life. That dream became reality six months later. 

Create Healthy Boundaries

with Minou Hexspoor Coaching

A brief moment

Looking back on the crucial moments in my life and the work I’m doing now, I realize how important it is to create space mentally to have a healthy view on life and work.

When work and stress overwhelms us, our brain goes into crisis management mode.

We see little opportunities and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Real change takes place in a brief moment.

We might think about something for months, maybe even years, trying to find the strength and the courage to make it happen.

But deep down we know what has to be said and done to get it going. What if you decided that that moment was today?