I loved my career as a scientist: the freedom, the travel, the connections with other scientists, and the fascinating quirkiness of studying insects for a living. I especially loved the ability to mentor others to develop their own career in science. One day I realised that I wasn’t living up to my own expectations of what a good scientist should be: I didn’t care so much about the problems that my research was trying to solve – I cared more about the people I was working with and how I could help them be their best. Understanding that led me to develop my leadership capacity and led me to take on a team manager role alongside my role as a scientist. Then motherhood happened. After a year out on maternity leave I knew I needed to work part time. I was offered a part time role as a team manager, and with that I stepped away from my nine-year career as a scientist.
Two years into my team manager role overseeing two teams, I found my stress levels increasing, my sleep quality reducing and a lack of energy taking the fun out of life. Then, over Christmas, my digestion packed in and I found I needed to change my diet to feel OK. Thankfully no medical causes were found and stress turned out to be the culprit. A session with a counsellor led me to investigate adrenal fatigue and how chronic stress impacts the body. I sought out the support of a naturopath, as the medical system offered me very little help on the subject. A coaching conversation with someone in HR helped me realise I needed to take a break from work to get my health back in order.
Stepping away from work allowed me to slow down and dial back the habitual stress state my body was in. I discovered, however, that the overactive mind and physical tension that drove the feelings of stress remained with me, despite having removed every external stressor I could. After talking to a doctor I realised I had generalised anxiety disorder, which for me translated as feeling physically jittery and mentally hypervigilant. Reluctantly I went on medication to increase my serotonin levels, and after a few months getting the dose right I found it made a massive difference. I was more able to calm the jitters and relax. It became easier to get into mindfulness meditation, which I knew would be important in managing my anxiety.
Over time, and with the support of a coaching group, I unpacked some of the ways of thinking that fed my anxiety and let go of a lot of residual fear. I realised the combination of medication, a change in diet and mindset, daily exercise and regular mindfulness practice had removed a baseline level of anxiety I had always lived with. It felt like a wall had been broken down and I was free. I found I was more comfortable and confident with myself, and the arbitrary limits I had always held myself within had gone.
One day during a meditation, I realised I wanted to change my career and focus on helping people improve their wellbeing. As I investigated what this might look like I realised that re-training as a coach was my first step. I discovered I loved the work and had a natural affinity with it. From there I started developing my business, LifeLab Coaching.
After my experience with chronic stress I knew I needed to prioritise balance in my life to continue the self-care practices I had established. I also wanted to work part time so I could be the primary caregiver for my school-aged daughter, and manage the household tasks. Thankfully my husband’s full-time job gave me the freedom to develop my business and work in this way.
The rest, as they say, is history. Here I am today, two years into my journey as a coach and business owner, and I can say I’m truly satisfied with my life and career choice. It ticks all my boxes: balance between work time, family time and self-care; freedom to create my own business and decide how to manage my days; and the immense satisfaction of transformational coaching conversations. Having found my own brand of success, it a great privilege as a coach to help my clients write their own sweet success stories.