Interview with Jemma Mrdak from a Stylish Moment

Who are you?

I am Jemma Mrdak. A 24 year old style, health, wellness and travel blogger and social media manager from Canberra.

What do you do? Why do you do what you do?

At present, I work full time in a Communications role, am studying my Cert IV in Fitness Part Time, and am working my #GirlBoss butt off so that I can turn my blog, A Stylish Moment and my social media management business Dak & Co into a full-time venture!

I do what I do because I love it. I am a firm believer that if you are doing what you love, you will never have to “work” another day in your life. I want to get to a point where I am blogger, doing social media management and personal training – full time, as these are the things that I love to do. I want to work with people, inspire them, help them – and create an environment for women in particular where they can feel love, be happy and be inspired.

Routines and rituals for the soul: can you tell me about the little or big things that keep you feeling balanced, connected and well.

Exercise for me is key to feeling balanced, connected and well. I talk about this all the time on my blog, but exercise for me is my form of medication. I find that if I exercise every day (whether it be HIIT training, a walk, yoga or Pilates), this ensures that my anxiety is kept at bay, and that I feel balanced. I also like to get regular massages, facials and other pampering sessions to give myself and my body a break.

What are your 5 favourite things?

  1. Massages and facials
  2. Candles – obsessed with having them all around the house!
  3. A good book
  4. Clothes…hehe
  5. The beach and warm weather.

What can’t you live without (and why)?

I can’t live without my phone/laptop – it’s my business and how I make a living 🙂

Favourite breakfast

Smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs

Favourite scent/smell?

Viktor & Rolf perfume

What’s on your bedside table?

Lot’s of books to read, my gratitude journal and a glass of water.

Favourite sound to fall asleep to?

The rain during a warm summers evening.

Tips for a restful night’s sleep

No phones in bed, or before bedtime. I always try and read a book too before falling asleep!

Tea or coffee?

Tea – Green, always.

Favourite place on earth?

Cairns, Queensland. It holds so many special memories for me.

What is something you haven’t done and would like to do in the future?

Become a qualified yoga teacher.

What are three of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt over the years about life?

  1. Be yourself and never try to be anyone else – it won’t get you anywhere;
  2. Everything happens for a reason, whether it be good or bad; and
  3. You’ve got to work hard for the things that you want in life.

Tell me a little about your mental health journey and how you have learnt to manage it.

Throughout most of Year 11 and 12, when I was in the thick of senior school and dealing with the pressures of being a teenager and having adult-like responsibilities; I began suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and strong anxiety. This was my first time experiencing these disorders, and is a time of my life that I will never, ever forget.

Although I’m not and never will be 100% sure as to what triggered this sudden onset of mental illness (other than having a strong family history), it was something that I had to deal with, whilst also managing studying my senior school years and passing my grades (which was extremely stressful in itself).

For those who are unaware, OCD is characterised by the presence of recurring intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, impulses, obsessions and repetitive behavioural and mental rituals. For someone experiencing OCD, particular thoughts can become obsessive (recurring), and can influence an unhealthy pattern of behaviour that can cause difficulty in performing day-to-day activities, as constant obsessions or compulsions (acts performed to alleviate the distress or neutralise the thought), are present.

For me, it meant that I was having to overcome compulsions, by following them through with a particular action that I would make up in my mind. Most of these compulsions would involve me convincing myself that something bad was going to happen, if I didn’t do a particular thing at a particular time.
In order to overcome these compulsions, I’d follow through with a variety of weird actions, that at the time felt completely sane and normal, but now I think back and realise they really were weird and took up a lot of my time.

Some of these actions included having to perform repetitive chants in my head as I walked to the bus stop each morning before school, or I’d have to touch a car door 10+ times with EACH hand over and over until I felt that I had done it properly (sometimes I would stand there for 10 minutes and do this repeatedly). Washing my hands over and over became a frequent ritual for me, as I felt the need to “wash” my horrible thoughts away. I was a chronic counter, repeatedly counting everything I could see in sight, and was constantly checking everything – from whether or not I’d shut the front door, locked the house, or turned my hair straightener off.

Along with the OCD, I experienced really strong anxiety that would result in countless evenings in terror and crying for hours and hours over silly things that I had blown into massive proportion.

Of course, we all know that teenagers go through periods where they are emotional and get upset and have issues, but this was different; this was a mental illness.

I thank my lucky stars every single day that I was lucky enough to have incredible parents who were there for me every step of the way, and decided it would be best for me to see a professional psychologist and get some help. My options were either medication, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and due to me still being in school at the time and quite young, we opted against medication and instead opted for the CBT.

Today, I deal with my anxiety and manage it in a few ways.

The first being through keeping up with a consistent exercise routine. I’m not obsessed with exercising, I just know that in order to keep my mind happy and healthy, I must do some form of it each day. Whether it be a HIIT session, yoga, a run or walk, I do it and I manage my anxiety this way. I also maintain a healthy eating/well-being lifestyle and fuel my body with good quality, nourishing food that makes me feel good on the inside.

The second management technique I use is practicing my cognitive therapy techniques (breathing, relaxation etc), whilst the third, is ensuring that I am constantly surrounding myself with positive and uplifting people, and not getting stuck doing things that don’t benefit me or make me happy. These are the strategies that work best for me and I’m so glad that I was able to find a coping mechanism this way.

What are the last 3 books you have read?

  1. Remarkability  – by Lorraine Murphy
  2. You are a Badass – by Jen Sincero
  3. Embrace – Taryn Brumfitt

The not-so-hot days. We all have them. How do you combat overwhelm, self-doubt, anxiety?

I make sure that no matter where I am when an overwhelming thought or feeling hits me, I stop what I’m doing and take some deep breathes, counting down from 5 to 1 with each inhale and exhale. I then make sure I head outside and get some fresh hair, if I have time I’ll go for a little walk around too. And then I also talk to someone; whether it be my boyfriend, parents or friends, I let them know how I am feeling. This also helps take the weight off my shoulders.

What inspires you?

Both of my parents and my boyfriend
My dad – because he shows me everyday how important hard work is.
My Mum – because of her kind and loving nature
My boyfriend – he shows me how to relax, have fun and enjoy the little things in life!

Your current mantra/ affirmation

My life is just beginning – the best is yet to come!

What tips would you have for staying calm?

Have a good support network around you, have a set routine that you follow when you feel stressed, and always know that “this too shall pass”.

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