There have been countless times I have hit refresh along my life’s journey so far and, each and every time, I have often wondered why I hadn’t done it before.
I have always had an addictive personality, continually searching for perfection whilst at the same time being very hard on myself. For many years I was living a life of complete misery, sadness and addiction. I was a 19 year old attractive girl with everything going for me, but I was physically and mentally weak with zero self-esteem. Addicted to starving myself and bent on self-destruction, I became someone with no joy, gratitude or happiness in her life. My diet consisted of apples and the odd banana, and my daily routine was working out in the gym and figuring out how I could eat as little as possible without anyone realizing.
Having spent several years in a downward spiral of self-destruction I managed to find the inner power to change my life. It was through the healing spiritual practices of yoga, meditation, with the strength and courage to hit refresh and to trust myself.
After graduating from university, I left the UK and moved to Spain, Madrid. In fact, this was my first real refresh moment. I had previously lived in Madrid as part of my Erasmus year and had fallen in love with this vibrant city; its buzz, the people, the language, the food and the sociable friendly atmosphere, so it almost felt like coming back home..
From the word go, Spain was kind to me in every way. I met so many amazing people from all walks of life and was lucky enough to get a job in the fashion industry. Fashion is a passion of mine! I absolutely loved every minute of this job, although after a few years, I realized that my eating disorder was still lurking around in the background. I still had a long way to go on my healing journey. Even though living in Spain had helped me so much, especially in learning how to enjoy eating again and develop a healthy relationship with food. Every social event in this country is related to food and drink, if your not meeting for lunch you are having late afternoon tapas with a caña! I knew that I needed to resolve my issues, and this realization somehow led me to yoga.
There was not a day that went by that I wouldn’t go to yoga classes, I was addicted, as it felt so good! My body and mind were cleansed every time I practiced yoga, and little by little I began to feel physically and mentally stronger. For me looking in the mirror, discovering who I really was, learning to like what I saw and who I am was a huge turning point for me – extremely powerful.
Even though I thought I had the dream job and enjoyed living in Madrid, I was once again finding it difficult to cope and hit rock bottom. I knew it was time to hit refresh again. In 2011, I sold everything I owned and decided to train as an Evolation Yoga teacher. I bought a one-way ticket to the USA and was open to whatever life had waiting for me. This was a massive step for me, but most importantly I felt it was a natural process. I had a strong calling to learn more about yoga and to share this amazing practice with others. I completed my first training for teaching Evolation Yoga in Buffalo, New York not long after my 30th birthday. The training was intense, more than I could ever have imagined and although I went through tough moments, it was worth every minute. I truly feel that this was just the beginning of my healing journey.
Once the training finished I decided not to return to my beloved Spain, instead I headed for Australia where I began to teach yoga and live a simple and calm life. I lived in a small coastal town called Coolum, the complete opposite to the ‘madrileño’ sociable lifestyle. I exchanged the late night city life for early morning coffee dates in local cafes, walks on the beach and lights out by 9 pm. I used this precious time to completely nourish myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I would practice yoga most days, connect with nature and enjoy writing and blogging with a group of ladies with whom I formed a weekly writing club.
I spent two years traveling the world with a backpack studying and teaching yoga on different continents – USA, Asia and Europe. I studied Thai massage in Australia and Indonesia which led me into deeper self-inquiry. I trained in meditation in Sierra Nevada, California and spent time in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand- in silence, one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life yet probably the most enriching. During this part of my journey I learnt more about nutrition, and ultimately myself, which helped to nourish me both emotionally, physically and mentally.
Traveling has been, and will always be, a huge part of my healing journey. Those moments of hitting refresh and moving out of my comfort zone have changed my life and stretched my mind forever! I can honestly say that traveling alone is extremely enriching and empowering. I have made many lifelong friends all over the world through my “hit refresh” moments. It has not always been easy and there have been times when I have felt alone, but it is in those alone moments that the real transformation happens. I began to know and understand myself more than ever, I had to face things that maybe in other circumstances I would never of been able to. It truly is in those moments of discomfort that you realize you have yourself and that is enough, you are enough!
“Travel far enough. You meet yourself” – Cloud Atlas
In 2013, after 2 years of globe trotting, I decided it was time for another “hit refresh” moment and came back to Madrid where I continued to teach yoga and self-published my first book Boney & I: Anorexia, Ustrasana and the Lost Apple Core; A true story of my battle to overcome anorexia.
Yoga and travel have completely saved my life; without the practice of yoga, travel, the support of family, friends and teachers I really don’t know where I would be today. Through yoga and self-inquiry my whole life has changed, now I feel amazing, grounded and inspired. Not only has my body changed, become more sculptured, flexible and strong but also my mind has changed. My mind is more at peace than it ever was and I couldn’t be healthier inside and out. I finally feel happier and more comfortable in my own skin.
Fast forward 5 years later and I’m just about to turn 38, I am still in Madrid and loving life. I teach yoga and run my own personal styling business, empowering individuals through style to become the best versions of themselves. I travel frequently, if not for work then for pleasure and each and every time I learn something new about myself and life. I can honestly say I am now a passionate woman living my life by my own rules, growing a business that I love, meeting like minded people and embracing each and every moment that life has to offer.
Life is full of refresh moments and to “hit refresh” can mean different things to different people, maybe it is not about moving across the world and completely changing your life. Maybe it is leaving a job that drains you, which is also life changing or trying something completely new that takes you out of your comfort zone and stretches your mind. Whatever it is, know that life is a journey and the key is to never give up, nor beat yourself up. Accept that every day is different. Your journey is unique to you and it doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to get where you want to be, just believe in yourself and your dreams, trust the process!
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams” – Oprah Winfrey
Follow Lou Stokes on Instagram at byloustokes and thestyle_editors, on LinkedIn, in her facebook group Stylish Female Entrepreneur, or on her website The Style Editors.
Order her book Boney & I: Anorexia, Ustrasana and the Lost Apple Core; A true story of my battle to overcome anorexia on Amazon.
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh group. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen. There is no one way to live a life, just your way.