Friday, December 21, 2012

taking charge: a conversation with paul huljich, author of the book "stress pandemic"

a few months back, i had the opportunity to speak with paul huljich, author of the book stress pandemic. right before getting to have a chat with paul, i was in over my head in doubt about my job, my life and my battle with depression. i had no idea what path was the right path to take in order to get myself healthy and i was terrified that i was moments away from having a stress induced nervous breakdown. 

and then, out of nowhere it seemed, i was connected with paul and became fascinated by his journey.

like myself, paul worked in the corporate world and started to develop stress related disorders. he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and after a nervous breakdown he lost his rights as a citizen and became a ward of the state. though he was told there was no cure for his state of being, paul searched for answers and ended up at mayo clinic in minnesota. ultimately, paul overcame his conditions and learned how to master his stress and no longer needs medication for what formerly plagued him. paul used holistic methods to cure himself and give himself a happier, healthier life. paul document’s exactly what he did in 9 steps in his book, stress pandemic.

paul’s story struck my heart and the core of my fear. i was scared that i would be heading on a path to a nervous breakdown, losing everything i loved and cared about, and most importantly, losing myself. i didn’t want to add a perscription cocktail into my life in order to try and “prevent” further distress and i didn’t want to be dependent on the habits i had built into my life that were keeping me from a better, healthier and happier life. i had so many questions i wanted to ask paul about his story; how he found the courage to keep going and what ultimately helped him overcome his stress related conditions. at the center of it all, i was looking for him, someone who had been where i was, to tell me i’d be alright, too.

while paul’s book addresses his 9 steps to wellness, part of his goal is to make people aware of the warning signs of serious stress induced conditions. we often overlook or shrug off key signals our body or mind is using to get our attention. paul told me he could have avoided losing everything - he lost so much due to stress - if only he had known and paid attention to the signs. i had a gut check moment for myself. was i paying attention to the signs as real indicators that something needed to change? or was i shrugging them off as the “norm” of my life? without thinking twice, i knew i had been shrugging things off, assuming things would get better in time and without any work on my part (and believe you me, that never works).

throughout our conversation, i felt good knowing that much of what paul recommends is right in line with what i’m trying to do now to change my habits in healthy ways; eating better foods, getting rid of the bad habits, getting more exercise, etc. but the most important step, and the first step mentioned in paul’s book, is taking charge. this isn’t something i thought about before. in a way, i think we err to the side of playing the victim in our lives, feeling like we don’t have power over anything, especially ourselves. after all, how many times have i told myself that i don’t have control over what i eat? too many times to count. but the truth is, we do have control. everyday we have the opportunity to change what happens to us, to change how we respond to things and to change the actions that we take. this perhaps is the most powerful message paul relayed to me during our conversation. i will never forget one of the last things he said (written nearly word for word):

“you’re not alone, alicia. you’re worth it and you can fight back. you can fortify yourself against the stresses and challenges of life. you have to take charge of yourself and know that where you are right now, it’s not working. and you have to make the commitment and learn to follow your inner most feelings.”

paul was right. who i was at that moment, and all the moments leading up to then were the result of a person who was making me sick. this person was holding me down and preventing me from having an amazing life. how could i let someone do that to me?! paul told me i needed to recharge myself. i needed to make a decision and make a firm commitment to myself. i needed to tell myself, that former person, that i was worth more than i was giving myself and it was time to change.

and i have changed. i have made so many steps over the past year to give myself the healthy, happy life i deserve. i’m convinced that once we become outraged by the fact that we are what is holding ourselves back from what we want (no, it’s not that piece of pizza or pumpkin spice latte), that we overcome a mental barrier that has been preventing us from actually making habits of the changes we so desperately want. once we take charge of ourselves, we can change anything. i took charge and now i am changing a lifestyle that was keeping me down to a lifestyle that keeps me healthy and happy.

i’m truly appreciative of the conversation i had with paul. i can only hope his message helps others, just as it has helped me.

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