Pause, reflect, reframe and move forward.

If you could go back one year into the past, what advice would you give yourself? Devaksha Christopher, head of organisational design, Job Architecture and Strategic Work Planning at ABSA shares the lessons she will be taking into the future.

Interestingly, I chose the right path for me a year ago as it was a tough year personally. I had two home break ins in a space of six months, whereby I had to pack my kids; dogs and cat and move in with my brother until I found a place we could call home again. Dealing with an autoimmune condition for the past 6 years and having to manage my stress levels at the same time, I needed to get my health back on track so chose to go on a plant based diet, started to exercise furiously and the best decision I made was signing up for a mindfulness programme through an organisation called Mindful Revolution.

2019 was seriously my year as a stepping stone to getting back on track in 2020 and the best part was that I met my future husband during this journey. The advice I would honestly give myself is to be open to possibilities, see challenges and hurdles as opportunities, trust my gut, listen to my body and be kind to myself. We cannot always be everything to everyone and self-care is sometimes being selfish (in a good way) – after all, you cannot give from an empty cup.

What surprised you over the last couple of months?

The work I put in during the latter part of 2019 had amazing repercussions in 2020 which allowed me to deal with the pandemic a lot better than I could have imagined. My personal transformation was an epic journey I was and still am so very proud of. I went into remission with my autoimmune, I felt invincible and that I could take on anything. 

That said, I had a setback in June of 2020, which set me into an absolute spiral – I was back on my meds, in excruciating pain on a daily basis and chronic fatigue felt like it was here to stay – I was seriously out of flow in every aspect of my life. From being in such an amazing space to feeling like “is life worth living”, especially with the pain and fatigue I was experiencing. All of the weight I had lost was now back on due to my chronic meds, going to the doctor for a cortisone injection every two weeks and I felt just awful. 

I threw a number of pity parties over the three months where I was feeling really ill. The last couple of months taught me that resilience and picking myself up was needed now more than ever and I had to back track and really start all over again as my hard work over the past six years felt that it went down the drain. At least I had context, learnings and experience I could rely on to get back up and not start from scratch. 

In the face of adversity, we cannot always remain positive but what we need to do is acknowledge where we are at and rise again. Life is not always smooth sailing and no matter what, we need to show up!

What learnings are you taking with you into the future?

As we settle into the new normal, my take on the learnings into the future is that in order to make a change and transform one has to be deliberate about what it is we want to change and bearing in mind that no one will do it for you. 

As much as many of us were learning new skills, testing our culinary abilities, helping our children through the virtual classroom, supporting our spouses who may have lost their jobs, and lost loved ones to the virus, we were basically surviving. It is okay to feel that we need a break, that we cannot be everything to everyone and we need to pause, reflect, reframe and move forward…and to reiterate, be deliberate about it!

This article by Devaksha Christopher first appeared on on 23 October 2020.