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Overcoming adversity and stress through writing

My story about relieving stress through writing fiction

I could barely breathe. The walls closed in on me. I thought that I would stop breathing. 

Of course I didn’t. It was all in my head. 

Ever since I had this anxiety attack, I wanted to find answers… I examined my daily habits. What made me feel this way and how could I overcome it?

I want to express where I am in my life right now. My company is currently in a downward spiral. For the past couple of months, I’ve felt stress as I’ve never felt before. I feel overwhelmed by what’s happening, by new opportunities, by possible financial insecurity and by the general uncertainty of it all.

My weeks are really like a rollercoaster ride, with one day being high on life and opportunity, and the other down and having self doubt about my competencies.

Above all, if I am really honest with myself I can’t stand the fact that I can’t control the situation, since I am largely dependent on other people’s decisions. This gives me the most stress. Normally, I am someone who has a nice sense of balance in his life. Until now.

I used to suffer from hyperventilation attacks almost daily. Whenever I talked to people I had the feeling I was about to faint.

Of course feelings like this can manifest itself in many different forms. I am triggered by my current situation. Others maybe deal with these issues because of other imbalances related to stress, whether it’s personal or professional.

Luckily, there is one thing I enjoy so much, it has made my days brighter. Something I am pursuing every moment I get off and something that I had always dreamed about.

Last year I finally decided to take action upon something I have always wanted, to write fiction. After a couple of months of stacking up on short stories, I launched my website www.turnerstories.com last September. On the site I publish one short story every month, accompanied by an illustration. The stories can be described as a cross between (the TV-show) Black Mirror and fairy tales. Inspired by magic, science fiction, futurism and humanity, I reflect on our shared human experience.

The stories range in topics. There’s a poor man who finds a money tree growing in his garden. How does his sudden fortune affect him? Future people called Humai, who wear eBrain extensions visit the long lost Homo Sapiens in the Sapien Zoo. Are they still in contact with their human nature and values? A hacker rearranges society by providing everyone with a basic income and introduces a new form of democracy through an app. How will people from different layers in society cope within that new world?

Recently I’ve also started blogging on my site about my writing journey and I share tips and tools that I’ve come across for fellow starting writers.

My dream is to eventually support myself through writing and publish novels and collections of my short stories.

To write is to escape in worlds of my own imagination. Worlds I can adjust to my own liking. To be someone else through my characters. To find answers to life’s questions in their journey. For me it is one of the best ways to calm myself down.

It’s a form of escapism that’s way better than just flopping on the couch watching Netflix. You tap into a source within yourself, full of creativity, wonder and most strikingly, relaxation – at least that’s how it feels to me.

In these times of push notifications, reactive work, keeping up appearances on social media and FOMO, getting into a flow-state is almost regarded as an unreachable holy grail. But you can just reach it within yourself. Whether it is through writing, or another art form in which you can pour your creativity.

Recently I stumbled upon the following quote from the Gospel of Thomas which I found to be striking:

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.


So, coming back to the overwhelm of the situation with my company, I have found a silver lining. Maybe that is something you have experienced as well. As many doors in your life are suddenly closed by different forces, you’ll find one opens in a place you never dared to look.

Besides writing, I found practicing stoicism and meditation is extremely helpful. Stoic practices help me look at my current situation as something I can’t control myself. The only thing I can control is my reaction to this situation. However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Journaling every day helps. Analyzing my thoughts, where they stem from. Writing down the joys in my life, the things I am grateful for. And lastly, breathing exercises. It gives me back control over my conversations.

Eventually, I believe these obstacles will make me stronger as a person and allow me to grow and become more resilient.

I reached out to Arianna Huffington to tell her my story. She kindly invited me to tell people about it on her platform Thrive Global. So here we are.

What are your best ways to cope with stress and anxiety?

Originally published at www.turnerstories.com

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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