The story of today brings us to the U.K. Bianca, an Award-wining stockbroker turned Conscious Leadership Coach, shares with us the sleep disorder that nearly brought her to burn out and the measures that she put in place to step-by-step recover her productivity and start winning numerous industry awards. An inspiring example for those who might be struggling with sleep and feeling tired during the day.
Hi, I'm Bianca Riemer, 41 years old, born in Germany and I've been living in the UK for 21 years now, currently a Conscious Leadership Coach, after working at US investment bank Morgan Stanley for over a decade. I am very passionate helping people who feel like underdogs in their careers and turn adversity into advantage. I was the foreign girl who didn't speak English and who failed my final professional accountancy exam, but then went on to establishing myself as the go-to expert for German real estate at US investment bank Morgan Stanley, winning numerous industry awards.
What were you looking for in life?
I have always wanted to achieve financial independence. Women have always been suppressed in my family, and I experienced a lot of emotional abuse in my upbringing. When I was 15 or so, my father chased me out of the house with a rifle and I cycled 10 miles without lights in the blistering winter cold to my grandparents' house. I decided that I would never tolerate that kind of treatment from a man, and therefore it was extremely important to me to become financially independent, so that I could leave a man who mistreated me.
What was stopping you from achieving it?
From a very young age I was too fearful at night to fall asleep. My father would come home late at night and shout abuse at us children, telling us that we were worthless. My mother was also joking that if we were naughty, she'd take us to the witches' house who lived in the forest and who would cook us for dinner. I think this must have been the root cause for not being able to sleep at night: I was too scared that I would wake up abandoned by my parents.
I struggled with this sleep insomnia for years. It was so bad that I sometimes did not sleep an entire night before important exams, and I did bad-fail my final professional accounting exam, which could have gotten me fired from my job at PWC at the time.
Which was the trigger for the change?
The trigger for the change was falling off an exercise bike at a lunch time spinning class in my 2nd or 3rd year at Morgan Stanley, who had hired me as a stock market analyst after I passed all my professional accounting exams. I had been working extremely hard and not sleeping well, and I was so exhausted that I almost fell off that bike. I went to see doctors, who told me I was okay and "just a little stressed". I saw alternative practitioners who told me that I needed to leave my job. But it was my dream career and I didn't want to be the girl who gave up at the first hurdle. I wanted to be the girl who showed her dad and all those men at work that women could reach financial independence. I went and read all the books and tried all therapies to help me to finally sleep well, so that I could perform well at my job.
How was your journey? What did you put in action?
There were two main learnings. Firstly, the timing of my activities during the day make a huge difference to my sleep. For years, I spent 3 or more hours every evening at the local swimming pool, training for swimming competitions. I was never able to sleep afterwards and put that down to not being tired enough from the training. But what was actually happening was that my body was producing the stress hormone cortisol as a result of the training, which kept me from falling asleep. Once I moved my exercise to the first half of the day, I started sleeping much better.
Secondly, I learned to love and respect myself. Once I was able to do that, I was able to take regular breaks during the day, and I became much more productive as a result.
As a result of sleeping better and being more productive at work, I got promoted and won numerous industry awards including 3 Starmine Analyst Awards.
How do you think your life would be now if you had continued in the same direction?
My life would look totally different if I had continued overworking. I struggled to become pregnant for many years while I was overworking so much, and if I would have continued like that, I would probably never have had children. I think I also would never have succeeded in my career and might even have lost my partner, as I was constantly stressed and on the edge when I didn't sleep well.
How is your life today?
Today, I find it really easy to go to sleep at night, and I sleep between 8 and 9 hours per night, uninterrupted. I have decided to put myself at the top of my priority list, and I don't think that's selfish at all. I find that by looking after myself, I can be of so much better service to others, and that's what life is all about: connecting with others and making a positive contribution to the lives of others. I decided to leave the corporate world, and today, I have made it my mission to help other people who feel like something is holding themselves back, and the feeling of helping others is the best.
What would you say to someone reading your story?
Your past is by no means your future. You can re-learn any skill that you thought you might have lost, such as sleeping, for example, or learning a language, or learning to love yourself and others. It's all a matter of letting go what no longer serves you. In my case, I had to let go of the fear to fall asleep. It may not happen over night, but with constant will and effort, it is totally doable, and the result of constantly trying is nothing short of exceptional.
Which are your top 3 inspiring books?
Which are your top 3 inspiring movies, series or documentaries?
The True Cost. It shows the true cost of cheap fashion to world society and the environment and what we can do to counteract that.
The Greatest Showman. It highlights the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and gives a lovely reframe around what true success looks like.
Moana. A wonderful story of a young woman following her heart and showing leadership via empathy, inspiration and love
Which are your top 3 favourite songs?
This is me, by Kesha. It's a song about being your true and authentic self and to come out of hiding. We often hide for fear of being judged and this song reminds me that we are all unique and have unique gifts to share with the world.
The Greatest Show, by Zac Efron. This is my family's morning anthem. We play it at full force and everybody sings along. It's an inspiration for us all to enjoy every moment of our life. The kids love it.
Show yourself, by Idina Menzeland Evan Rachel Wood. This is a song from the film Frozen II. Elsa sings this song when she is looking for the mysterious force hiding in the river of wisdom, then discovering that this force is her. It gets me balling my eyes out every time. We tend to believe that the secret to life is outside of us. This song reminds us that it's all already inside of us, we just need to re-discover it.
Which is your most inspiring quote?
For it is in giving that we receive, by Francis of Assisi. I love this quote because it highlights how we are all interconnected, and how sharing our gifts with the world makes the world a much better place. I do a meditation called "Twin Hearts Meditation" every day and that quote is at the essence of it. It reminds me to start and end the day with gratitude and to step into the best version of myself so that I can make my own day better, and also that of others.
Tell us about your own favourite picture!
This picture was taken on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, during our around-the-world trip with our then 2 and 4 year old sons. My partner and I had never had a wedding and decided to spend the money we had saved from that on a RTW trip. Hawaii was just an amazing experience. The friendliness of the locals, their beautiful dance and the breathtaking scenery. It was so humbling to see how much people in Hawaii live in synch with nature and how much appreciation they have for the simple things is line. It inspired me to emanate that in my own life and to teach it to my children from a very young age.