My story is not unique. It reads like the prologue of any chick lit book. For years, I spent the majority of my time almost exclusively motivated by work and professional achievement. I walked into Cosmopolitan as a work experience student in October 2003 and fell in love with publishing on the spot. I fetched lunch and made tea and dreamt that one day, I would sit in a corner office. And so I set about doing just that, devoting myself to learning everything I could about every aspect of the publishing industry. Dabbling in different departments and taking on different rounds, until eventually I did find myself at the helm of a glossy magazine.
But when I finally looked up and took a breath last year, I had the same bombshell moment that has inspired a thousand podcasts, self-help books and Reese Witherspoon movies: on paper I was “living the dream” but in reality I was physically and emotionally tapped out. I’d been struggling with hormonal problems, anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion for almost two years.
I lived in a permanent state of panic, I rarely had a period, I was glued to my phone 24/7, I felt trapped by a huge Sydney-sized mortgage and life was well, just not that much fun. While I was in it, I thought this was what adulting was all about. I had my dream job, a big house with a backyard and a crushing sense of dread I couldn’t shake, what more could a girl want? When I finally stepped out of it I realised just how depleted I was.
WATCH: How to spot and combat burnout: a handy guide. Post continues after video.
It’s a scenario psychologist and author Gemma Cribb, founder of the Equilibrium Collective knows all too well. “We live in a world where our heroes are often people who have achieved fame and fortune. We tend to measure our own worth by similar markers of status and financial success. Most of us spend a large part of our lives in the pursuit of money,” Gemma says.
Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely NOT rich in a financial sense – nor was I motivated by cash (you don’t become a journalist to get rich quick… or ever!), but from a broader, professional perspective, I was kicking goals. And I was miserable.
This dissatisfaction with professional success has given rise to a new cultural trend, a fresh perspective of prosperity: mental wealth. “We have all heard the saying money can’t buy you happiness. And it’s true, divorce, addictions, mental health issues and suicide are on the rise. It is only natural that many people are looking for an alternative ideology,” says Gemma.
“The rise in popularity of Marie Kondo is an example of the cultural swing away from consuming and focusing instead on things that ‘give you joy’. And, just as decluttering your physical space can bring you joy, decluttering your mental space creates a type of wealth that is far more valuable than any financial wealth you could achieve.”