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created in partnership with Murad

I Made A Major Career Change & My Skin Changed, Too 

The stresses of today's modern world — from career grinds to social media pressures — can end up affecting our skin more than we realize. In partnership with Murad, and inspired by Dr. Murad's four pillars of wellness, we tapped writer Olivia Muenter to share how overhauling her day-to-day life in favor of finding more balance ended up changing her skin in a way she never expected. Read her story below.
For most of my early 20s, including the majority of the four years that I lived in New York City, my skin was what I would describe as “nothing special.” Like most people, I was no stranger to the occasional pimple, but beyond that, I didn’t have much to complain about. My skin responded well to new products, and beyond the occasional facial (the perks of being a beauty editor), my skin-care regimen was pretty relaxed. I rarely stuck with a specific routine, instead using whatever I could find in my office’s beauty closet. But after three years of living in the city, something changed when it came to my skin. Actually, a lot of things changed about my life.
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After a few years of chasing promotions and working hard, I started to realize that I had no idea what my career goals actually were. I considered that maybe I had never really known at all. Despite neither of us loving the city, my long-time boyfriend and I moved into our first shared apartment together in Manhattan. We adopted a puppy who got sick with parvovirus within the first week of having her. And a month after that, just when I thought that things had calmed down, my childhood best friend passed away in a car accident. But as hard as that year was, I was surprised to find that the world kept spinning anyway, and I kept moving forward. What’s more, my skin had never looked (or felt) worse. 
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I had gone from dealing with the occasional hormonal breakout (one or two pimples a month) to waging a constant battle against painful cystic acne (a face full of clustered, inflamed acne). As soon as one pimple faded, another (or two or three) would pop up. And though I had access to every skin-care product and award-winning dermatologist in the world thanks to my job, I couldn’t find a solution that worked. 
In retrospect, it’s clear that my skin was a reflection of my mental state, but it didn’t seem that simple to me then. Nothing had changed about my routine, I’d tell myself, conveniently leaving out the anxiety I could feel pressing on my chest like a medicine ball. Despite not being able to see my mental health for what it was, there was one thing that had become suddenly clear to me: I didn’t want to be in New York City.
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Over the course of the next year, my boyfriend (he became my fiancé shortly after) and I made plans to change almost everything about our day-to-day lives. We chose a new place to live (Philadelphia) that allowed us to have more space and be closer to friends and family. I decided to start a freelance career. We signed a lease for an old row home without ever stepping foot in the place, or even the neighborhood. We took a lot of chances, and though I was never completely sure it would all work out, I knew we had made the right choices almost as soon as we drove our packed-to-the-brim U-Haul out of Manhattan.
By the time we had moved into our new home in Philadelphia, I already felt different — and so did my skin. I had stopped trying to fight my acne with dozens of the latest, fanciest products and instead kept things simple, committing to products I knew were effective and easy-to-use. Before, I had focused on the most expensive products I could find at work. Now, I focused on ingredients I knew would work — like salicylic acid — and streamlined my routine down to the products I actually enjoyed using, like a super-thick, nightly moisturizer. And I stopped doing skin-care steps I thought I "had" to do, like using a traditional acne cleanser.
I also started taking control of my career, building everything from my day-to-day schedule to my long-term business plan all on my own. Because of this, I felt no shame in carving out as much time for work as I did for the things that made me feel my best — exercising regularly, writing fiction, journaling, reading, being outside, cooking meals from scratch.
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I began making weekly trips to my local farmer’s market and experimenting with new, healthy recipes. I even started growing some of my own herbs and vegetables, too. I started tracking my water intake and adding reminders to my daily to-do list, right alongside my usual work tasks. I challenged myself to take new workout classes and eventually invested in a treadmill so I could prioritize at-home workouts, as well. For the first time, I felt like I was putting the same amount of work into taking care of myself  — my entire self — as I was into my day job.
Now, I still work hard, but things are different. I sleep in when I need to sleep in. I take breaks when I need to take breaks. I accept projects that inspire me along with those that paid the bills; what matters is that I am the one calling the shots. I feel more confident, in control, and happy than I ever have in my entire life. And surprise, surprise, my skin looks better than ever, too.  
It’s been more than two years since we’ve been in Philly. I still have breakouts every now and then, of course, but I feel more in touch with my skin in the same way that I feel more in touch with myself now. When my body or mind feels a little run down, my skin follows.
I consider it an immense privilege to be able to work for myself (one that I’m fully aware that not everyone has access to), but the real benefit isn’t in not having to report to a boss or worry about office gossip; it’s that I finally feel the freedom to see myself as someone beyond a title or a salary. When I allowed myself to nourish the parts of me that weren’t connected to either of those things, I was able to settle into who I was supposed to be.
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