The Art of Rebuilding and How to Start Over

parisian balcony

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

~ J.K. Rowling

Rebuilding your life and starting over is not always easy. Where do you start? How do you motivate yourself to start? How do you stop beating yourself up? And where on earth is the step-by-step guide to get you from rock bottom to thriving again?

Guess what?

There isn’t one. 

In all my searching of the interwebs, in all the moments of frustration, agony, and depression, all I found was one so-called “simple” answer: 


Right. Tell that to my crushed self and overthinking brain.

When you’ve lost faith in yourself and feel like you’re drowning in hopelessness, the last thing you feel like doing is taking action. When you’re lost in the land of overthinking, taking action feels like moving a mountain. The comfort and security of staying curled up under the covers in bed seems far more soothing and motivating than jumping out of bed and doing something.

The thought of taking action can be paralyzing. 

The daily struggle becomes what to take action on or what dream or goal to move towards.

Or, if you’re like me, you focus on where you want to be (the end result) instead of taking a small step each day to get you closer to where you want to be. Then you mire yourself in thinking again; how do I get to where I want to be? Why am I not there yet? You think and think and think and stop doing. Slowly, you begin to lose hope because you’ve thought so much about it, you’ve talked yourself out of it.

But there is a way to pick yourself back up. There is a way to take the failure, doubt, and feelings of hopelessness and turn them into fuel to move towards your best life.

how to start over


This rebuilding journey I’m on right now, it’s not my first party. I’ve done the rock-bottom-rebuilding dance once before. Although I do believe this time, I’m much closer to rock bottom than the last time. You see, when you lose a relationship, then lose a job, it’s like little pieces of your identity being chipped away until you realize — where am I?

In 2009, I had my best year ever. I was healthy. I was pushing past my comfort zone by doing things that scared the heck out of me, travelling solo, ending a marriage that was going nowhere, and elevating my thinking to a higher and more spiritual level.

In 2010, it all crumbled. I had one of the worst years of my life up to that point. It was an emotionally charged year. I changed jobs. Sold my home and moved back in with my family. Got into and out of a highly toxic relationship with a manipulative sociopath. My ex rushed the divorce and married his pregnant girlfriend within days of the divorce.

After 2010, I began to rebuild from the two-year emotional roller coaster I’d been on. I threw myself into building my career, fixing my finances, and started blogging. 

But…there was more to come.

The second dance came in November 2015 when I was let go from my job. A career I had spent 16 years building was gone one Monday morning. I did my best to stay positive and immediately followed my intuition and embraced it for what it was: a long overdue change and kick in the pants from the Universe. I said “no” to corporate and “yes” to what I’ve always wanted to do: be a full-time writer. 

Like a ballroom waltz, this dance lasted longer than it should have. 

The change I desperately wanted would have to be postponed. I spent most of 2016 battling with not only myself but with my ex-employer over severance. 

When things finally resolved in June, I took four weeks between September and October to rest and get back in touch with me. A 4-week road trip of California was the best thing I could have done.

But the Universe wasn’t done with me yet…

In early 2017, my maternal grandmother passed. My dad took it hard; as any child losing a parent would. I spent a lot of time helping and putting everyone else first. It caused me to spiral downwards into a deep depression. Instead of taking action, I chose alcohol as my medication of choice. 

I tried time and time again to pick myself up. To start over. To rid me of the bad habits and limiting thoughts I had fallen back into. It was hard. I struggled every day to get out of my comfort zone. I became frustrated at my lack of motivation to change faster. I wanted to heal but struggled with facing my own emotions.

I finally told myself I couldn’t spend another year like this. This was rock bottom. 

Deeper in debt, finding it harder to get by on a minimum wage job, loathing living with family for so long, and struggling to build my writing business, I reached my breaking point. 

Up was the only place left to go.

And in 2018, I committed to rebuilding my life. To simplify it even more. To remove the destructive bad habits I had relied on and used to hide from the world.

After all that I’ve experienced in the last eight years, if I had to say there was an art to rebuilding, it would be this:

  • Master simplifying life back down to the essentials
  • Learn from mistakes instead of turning them into giant failure fests
  • Accept that emotion is part of the process and “feel to heal”
  • Understand that rebuilding anything involves elevating your thinking to a higher level and seeing things from a different perspective than the one you’ve been stuck in
  • Thrive on gratitude — it will get you through the tough times
  • Nothing happens overnight. Trust in the Universe and the process.

 “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.”

~ W. Clement Stone


Can I say little by little? Day by day? And one small moment of happiness after the other? It may seem hard to do right now, but do your best to get excited again at the chance to embrace change and do things differently this time. It’s your life, no one else’s. Make the most of it and create the life you want.

If you’re feeling like you need to start over, or rebuild all or part of your life, here are a few tips that have helped me on this journey to rebuilding in 2018:

1. Remove the weeds so the flowers can grow.

Without taking time to see the negative thoughts or limiting beliefs that got us where we are, we can’t begin to find the weeds to dig them out.

Each month: work on one bad habit or self-limiting belief you need to get rid of.

Each week: plant one new positive seed. Start with self-love. Tell yourself in the mirror, “I love you.” Do it every morning for a week.

Each day: find one thing to be grateful for. Even if it’s as basic as being grateful for having a roof over your head and not being homeless. Starting with being grateful for the essentials will help you to reconnect with all the abundance you do have in your life.

Consider reading Louise Hay’s Heal Your Life. It’s been a huge help in uncovering the thoughts and patterns I need to change.

2. Take better care of yourself.

When you’re busy and overwhelmed, life can run away from you, and it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Part of my downward spiral was forgetting to treat myself kindly. I neglected my body, mind, and soul and things got out of control. The last thing you feel like doing when you’re unmotivated is exercise. Trust me, I get it. You’d much rather sit on the couch bingeing Netflix than get up and run 5K. Do it anyway. Even if you’re only able to go for a 10-minute walk, do it. Exercise. Gratitude practices. Journaling. Detoxing and cleansing your body. They all help and work.

Need help on where to start taking the best care of yourself? I’ve been using Wendy Rowe’s Eat Beautiful to get myself healthy again.

3. Love and acceptance.

Who is the one person we always forget to love and take the best care of? OURSELVES. Between career, family, and living, we can feel like there’s no time for US. I began the long hard road of learning to love and accept myself again. This time around has been different from the last. This time around, I realized I’d connected too much of who I was to my career. My career had become my identity. So even though at first glance I was happy to be away from it and for the new opportunity, it crushed me when I no longer had a purpose. Having a greater purpose outside of who you are and your job is the best thing you can do for yourself.

4. Be present. Trust the process. Trust the Universe.

When we’re down, we spend a lot of time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. Life always has ebbs and flows, it treats you well one day, and the next, a curveball hits you in the jaw. I’ve learned the importance of staying present, putting my trust in the flow of the Universe and always remembering that this too shall pass. By being present each day, you focus on what you can do NOW at this moment to move life forward. Mistakes of the past begin to melt away, and you stop worrying about the future that hasn’t even happened yet.

5. Do one thing each day that gets you out of your comfort zone and moves you closer to the life you do want.

I know, scary. When you’ve spent a lot of time hiding from the world, it can be a struggle to push yourself out of the comfortable cocoon you’ve built. You don’t need to go bungee jumping; simply texting a friend to go out for a coffee date is enough. For me, I started with small stuff and eventually got to the super scary stuff. I started by speaking at small work meetings and progressed to larger audiences through my blog. I pushed myself to do one extra project at work each month. With blogging, my stretch now is to be more vulnerable and share the scary life stuff that as an INFJ, I find oversharing and deeply personal to my reserved nature.

6. Add a small dose of happiness to each day.

What brings light into your day? One thing I did to start finding myself again was to spend at least one morning a week in a coffee shop simply reading a book. That’s it. No pressure of blogging or getting my writing business up and running. I simply got myself out of the house and around people. I’d read or write for a few hours and then go home. It increased my happiness level so much.

Looking back at 2017, I see it for what it was. Part of the process. Part of life’s great mysteries. (Never to be repeated I hope). It was something I had to go through. A period of learning and healing.

It was a tough year. One I’d like to not repeat.

I learned that it’s not good to think too much. Or to worry excessively. Because the Universe always sends you more of what you focus on.

Six months into 2018, I’ve started to see the results of my “Dear 2018, Let’s Rebuild” philosophy. The much-needed healing has begun.

My challenge for you, if you’ve been feeling like you need to rebuild a part of your life or start over, is to take some time today to do ONE THING to move your life forward. Start creating better thoughts or push yourself to do one small thing you normally wouldn’t.

If you’re deeper in the weeds and really struggling, take the time to speak to a professional. I know it can be scary to seek out professional help, and you may feel you shouldn’t need it, but make that your scary stretch out of your comfort zone. Knowing when you need to ask for help is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself.

Comments +

  1. Kerstin says:

    Hi! I have a question for you that I hope you can answer with some words of wisdom! What advice can you give me when life feels like this: you are walking on a path and you see a large obstacle in your path, like a fallen tree and you know you have to climb over it. You recognize it’s there and you are building up the courage to get over it. And then before you reach the fallen tree, another tree comes crashing down right in front of you, and so now you have both obstacles in your path. This is how my life feels right now. I am having trouble figuring out how to process the way to work through this.

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Kerstin
      Oh boy have I been in that situation where one obstacle or challenge after the other gets put in your way. The funny thing is, sometimes it’s you that’s put in your own way. Your doubts and limiting beliefs are that tree that comes crashing down in front of you. You have to get out of your own way.

      I’ve been in your position many times. It’s hard.

      What I can say is this — Keep going. A lot of challenges and obstacles are placed in our way to test our commitment to our dream or a path we’ve chosen in life. And I firmly believe that everything that happens to us is for a reason and specific purpose.

      Challenges make you stronger. You’re better equipped to face a similar challenge if you’ve already been through it.

      Obstacles may seem senseless and unnecessary but they are the most influential moments for us. They give us the opportunity to take a step back, learn, tweak what we were doing and continue moving forward.

      Whenever I was faced with that many obstacles, I’d often ask myself: what am I being taught? What is it that I need to learn? Instead of getting down on myself or worrying, I’d look at it as an opportunity to change my thinking. See things from a different perspective.

      Sometimes the process is simply pausing, taking a step back, and asking what do I need to see differently in this situation?

      Hope that helps a bit! Lots of hugs and don’t give up! Keep going!

      • Kerstin says:

        First of all, thank you very much for your detailed answer. I can tell from what you’ve written that you really understand how I feel, and that is a big deal to me. I like what you’re saying about stepping back, stopping the worry/panic, and trying to see it from a different perspective. Thanks again for helping me and encouraging me!

  2. Liz P. says:

    I love this. I’ve followed you for quite some time, even before you had The Classy Simple Life. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head on how to slowly, inch by inch, make your way back to a place where you can function and eventually thrive. I’m so happy you were able to do that, and now you are flourishing again!

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks Liz! It’s true. Not everything in life is meant to be done at light speed. Slow and steady wins the race.

      Sending hugs and blessings your way! 🙂

  3. Pierina says:

    Some of the stuff you wrote was so me. Like the toxic relationship I just left, how I binge watched Netflix this weekend, out of not feeling motivated to do anything else. Sitting here over analyzing my every recent and future move. I found hope in the guidance you proved. Thank you for that. Hope all continues to be well for you.

    • Michelle says:

      I’m so glad it resonated with you Pierina! Congrats on embracing change and moving your life forward in a positive direction. All is well with me. Sending you more hope and hugs to continue on the new path you’ve set for yourself.

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