I am happy to share with you a beautiful story of finding joy and passion by Katharina Geissler-Evans, the fourth of ten talks on the subject of mental health in the Reclaiming well-being series I am honoured to host. I came across her about a year ago and am very grateful for that serendipity, as I find her voice irreplaceable and much needed in our days of constant overwhelm and haste.
Katharina Geissler-Evans (@heitermagazine) is the founder of heiter magazine https://www.heitermagazine.com/blogenglish) (, a mindful life & style publication with a focus on mental health, happiness as well as finding beauty & joy in the everyday. Her warm personality and supportive content make my experience on Instagram that much more enjoyable and offer true value for real-life improvements. Her inspiring story talks about a triumph of spirit and is ended with lovely prompts she shares to help you brighten up your days. Read about how she got from stressed out to heiter, which is a german word for bright.
˝In late 2015 I found myself in an extremely stressful situation and felt completely overwhelmed. Even though I had struggled with my mental health before, I had never felt the way I was feeling at that point. I was so exhausted that it affected me not just mentally but also physically. Before I go into more detail, let’s start from the beginning.
Being a twenty-something, I tried so hard to do it all. I had that idea that I needed to prove that I was good enough; to myself, people around me, work and university. To give you more background info, back then I worked full-time for one of the biggest fashion retailers in the world. In the evenings and on Saturdays I attended university. I wanted to perform well and show that I was capable of succeeding at both. At that point, my husband and I had a pretty toxic living situation too. We were never sure if we could (or wanted to) stay in our flat. On top of that, relationships around me were breaking, simply because I wasn’t able to invest time in them. I was constantly stressed, tired and the word self-care was long forgotten. I felt like I was running down a never-ending road, up until my health began to fail. From one day to the next, I was incapable of writing; a nightmare, given that I was in a writing job and that I had to work on my final university project. I had to stop everything I had been doing.
That nigh I made the decision
The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I was forced to take a break for several weeks. My employer told me that they wouldn’t pay me anymore if I didn’t return to work any time soon. My tutor at university implied that I would fail my year if there was no improvement. I tried to come up with solutions and seek help from others but nothing seemed to work. I was devastated and fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t see a way out of my situation and all I wanted to do was give up.
One evening I found myself on the bathroom floor, crying. I can’t remember exactly what changed at that moment but I suddenly realised that I was the only one who could get myself out of that rut. I was the only one who could make myself better.
That night I made the decision to enjoy life again. I went to bed and slept properly for the first time in weeks. The morning after I took myself out for coffee, bought myself beautiful flowers and went for a long walk along the river. Once back home, I watched a movie that made me laugh and the day after I immersed myself in a creative activity. It took me a while to unwind and unlearn what seemed more important at that time in order to have fun and be playful. After a few days, I felt like my old self was coming back. I was happier and my health began to improve. Mindfully looking for and enjoying moments of joy made such a big difference, those moments had given me a new lease of life. I was so amazed and so excited about my experience that I wanted to share it with others. That is how heiter magazine came about, and that is the reason why I think Heiterkeit has added to my life.
I remember, and that helps
Don’t get me wrong, my life is not perfect. I still struggle to strike the right balance between working & carving out enough time for people I love. I still struggle to keep in touch with myself and plan in time for self-care. I even struggle to be focused on Heiterkeit sometimes, but I remember. I remember how I felt back then and what got me out of it. I remember, and that helps to be aware of heiter moments, even during a pandemic, even on the days I feel like I am failing as a mum, wife and business owner. I remember, and that makes me appreciate lunch with my boys and hearing my son giggle. It gives me energy when sharing my learnings through heiter magazine, but also when helping others through my consulting work. It makes it easier to stop & admire our garden, and it reminds me to consciously enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning.
You might wonder why I am telling you all of this. I am telling you all of the above because there are a few things I’d like you to remember. You can be heiter, even when things around you don’t always go right. You can be heiter, without having to try hard: Heiterkeit is achievable. All you need to do is open your eyes & heart and allow yourself to let heiter moments in. All you need to do is give them a chance. You could try following the instructions below to get started. The focus here is inviting more heiter moments into your life:
Easy to use promts to invite more heiter to your life
1) Take a few minutes of your day, grab a pen and some paper. You can of course get your laptop or phone out too, but I always feel that actual writing has a therapeutic effect on me, so that is why I recommend doing the “real thing”. Without thinking too much, write down all the things that bring you joy (Heiterkeit) e.g. going for a walk, spending time near water, making yourself a cup of tea, watching the clouds go by, painting.
2) Circle all the activities that you feel you could achieve if you had a bit of extra time on your hands. You could even categorise them and/or create columns for them on a different sheet of paper if you prefer a bit of structure. Let’s say, activities you can do within 5 minutes define one category, activities that can be done within 15-30 min another one and so on for 30 min+, 1hr+ etc…
3) Once you have your categories (or circles) in front of you, I would like you to create a rough plan for your week. Write down all the things you usually need to do e.g. work, dropping your kids off at school, preparing dinners, food shopping, walking the dog, Sunday lunch with relatives. If you wish, you can use different colours for your chores.
4) Next I would like you to have a closer look at your week. Are there any gaps? Is there space for you to plan some time for your heiter activities? Even just a few minutes that allow you to mindfully drink a cup of something by yourself? If you don’t have a lot of spare time, are there any activities that allow you to incorporate some of the things that bring you joy? If you need to walk your dog, is there room for you to stop and enjoy the view for a bit? Can you listen to an audiobook when driving to the shops or read on your train ride to work in the morning?
5) Add the heiter activities that are doable to your week, maybe even highlight them.
6) Hang the sheet of paper with your week plan up, I recommend a place you pass frequently. Alternatively, you can keep it in your diary or handbag so that you can easily access it and remind yourself to do something heiter.
7) Optional: keep the paper with all your heiter activities (from the first part of this exercise) somewhere close too. You never know when you have a bit of extra time that you could use for an additional dose of Heiterkeit.˝
Katharina Geissler-Evans is the founder of heiter magazine, a mindful life & style publication with a focus on mental health, happiness as well as finding beauty & joy in the everyday. If Katharina isn’t working on content creation for heiter, she can be found consulting with small fashion & lifestyle brands (so that they feel less overwhelmed with their marketing) and spending time with her family in their home in Graz, Austria. If her schedule allows, she also writes, mentors and holds guest talks on joyful living.