Emma, 36, Amsterdam, Netherlands

“I live with anxiety, though I recall dealing with mental health issues my whole life and in particular being depressed as a teenager and in my early twenties. Today I’m really glad to say that my mental health is in a good place with my anxiety “under control”, thanks to the fact that I’ve been actively working on creating a lifestyle that’s supportive of that.

I became a mental health advocate in 2017 when I published my first blog post. I had just about recovered from several burnouts and decided to start talking openly about mental health so as to raise awareness and help others feel less alone. Often when I was struggling I used to question myself, ask myself whether I was crazy or if I had imagined it… So I wanted others to know “you’re not crazy, you’re not alone, and it’s ok”.


During those years (2012-2018) I experienced at least 4 burnouts all while working in the same job. I never took time off, I just kept working and throwing myself back into that same toxic situation. Looking back, I can’t believe how misaligned I was with myself and my values, there’s no wonder I was burning out. Since then, I’ve learned the damage being in such a constant state of stress and fear has on your body and your mind. The fear and anxiety become such a “natural” state that your body is practically craving it and so you are repeating the negative cycle again and again making it difficult to break it.


I was in a toxic work environment and my first burnout left me a shell of myself. I hadn’t slept for a year and a half due to my anxiety, I had lost my self confidence, I was plagued by self doubt… I wasn’t in a good place. However I met a friend back then who was open about mental health and would talk to me about it. She acknowledged how bad my experience had been and she helped me feel “normal”. I also had a manager who was open about mental health and listened to me, making me feel heard. Both of those people were instrumental in my “recovery” and how I started to get out of this negative spiral.


Around the same time I also started working with a coach. It was more out of curiosity about the coaching process but as it turned out, it really changed my life. I started by rebuilding my self-confidence, learning to speak up and stand-up for myself at work. I also learned to set better boundaries and stopped pushing myself so hard by working long hours and weekends. This was how I reclaimed my independence from that harsh environment. I became better at communicating those boundaries with others as well, in a way I was self-managing my environment (since no one there was looking out for me), and the things that were within my control that had been detrimental to my mental health.


I learned to become less emotionally invested in my work, take things a lot less personally and let go. This also helped me a lot when it came to some of the reasons why I was burning out and feeling so awful, though of course being in such a toxic environment was one of the main contributing factors. Finally thanks to coaching, I started to become much more aware of my core values, what drove me, what actually mattered to me in life outside of my job, so that I could gain the inner strength and perspective needed to move forward.


It was (and still is) an amazing journey, which has led to so much personal growth and to me being in a much better place today with my mental health. I feel much more grounded, I’ve not experienced bad anxiety like I used to in a very long time. Sure like everyone, sometimes I get anxious and I go through phases. I went through a lot of uncertainty for about 10 months in 2019-2020 and I used to have panic attacks or moments where I felt a bit burned out. But I am so much more mindful about taking care of myself and prioritizing my mental health when I feel like I’m falling off track.


I feel confident in saying I’ve made a series of choices that have led to me having a better job, actively seeking out better work environments all while continuing to set boundaries, look after my mental health, listen to myself and my intuition and not put up with the types of behaviours that were so detrimental to me back then.


Mental health is a journey so although I’m well now, I know that it’s not permanent and things can change. I’m mindful of prioritizing myself and better at recognizing the signs of stress, burnout or depression.  Thankfully now I have learned a lot of coping mechanisms to help me get through, but I know that not everyone is that fortunate.


I try to make the most of the present moment and use my experience to help others, for example through my website. Now I’m comfortable speaking about mental health I want to help normalize that conversation and break down the stigma. Show others they don’t need to feel ashamed or question their experiences. I do this not only by sharing my own stories but by trying to shine light on a variety of experiences. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do that, and to know I might have made a difference to someone.”

You can follow Emma on her website.


Check out our ethically made, from 100% organic cotton – merchandise to help raise mental health awareness: https://kayska.teemill.com/

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