De-stressing with Bente (#1)


Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

“What’s on your floor at home?”
I thought this a bit of an odd question, and so I answered that I believed I have a wooden surface.
My respiratory therapist, who I was having my first appointment with based on a referral by my general practitioner, laughed and asked further.
“Is there anything soft on that wooden floor, a rug, for example? And do you perhaps have something you can put your legs on while you’re lying on this rug?”
“Yes, in my study.”
“Great. I want you to lie there.”
“Okay, and what should I do while on it?”
“Nothing. Just lie there. Preferably for twenty minutes; but for ten at least.”
I was shocked by that. I mean: how would I manage to do that, to lie still for twenty minutes?!
“Do I also get an instruction booklet on that?” I squeaked.

Time for a digital introduction. My name is Bente. I graduated last year, am now working as a freelance journalist, and spend a lot of my free time worrying. Last summer, I turned 23. During that same period, I had about twenty panic attacks. While my friends sunbathed by swimming pools in Spain or licked ice cream in Italy, I tried to focus on my breathing. Because I could no longer understand how something like normal breathing worked.

Deep down, I knew it was all down to having had a very busy year. And my personality wasn’t exactly helping. Read: perfectionist, ambitious, control freak. On the verge of a burn-out—that was the explanation for my constant hyperventilation and panic. There had to be a stop button for it.

So there I was, with my respiratory therapist, on a Wednesday morning. Already panicked by the thought of having to lie on my rug at home for twenty minutes without doing anything else. But it was much needed, because my body was done, my therapist told me. And I had to learn to listen to it again if I wanted to get better.

And that’s exactly what I do want, to get better. I want to learn what it is like to go through life with less stress. To be completely in the present, without constantly thinking about everything that I still have to do. I want to have a quiet mind and to be kinder to myself. I want to know what it’s like to be relaxed, without stress.

After five years of feeling stressed every day, it’s going be a tough journey. But it’s one that I am undertaking with the intention of never returning to my place of departure, and I’d like to invite you to join me on my path to a—hopefully—stress-free life. My first stop? The rug in the study.