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Change Makers: navigating mental health with Shorombo Mooij

Using his own life experiences to help others get the most out of their lives, Shorombo shows people that they can do everything they want to do.

We’re introducing our new series, Change Makers. Telling the stories of our impactful, forward-thinking, and frankly just awesome community members, we hope to inspire you to stay curious, pursue your dreams and fight for the causes close to your heart – while offering just a glimpse into the type of awesome people you can meet in our community.

For the first edition of the Change Makers series, we want to introduce you to Shorombo Mooij, a life coach who is using his own experiences to help others get the most out of their life — what that means, we’ll get back to in a minute.

We first met Shorombo at our flagship hotel in Amsterdam in 2019 where he was expanding his business from being a personal trainer to taking an entirely holistic approach to wellness. Combining physical health and personal development, Shorombo wanted to build a program that helps young people from the inside out, with a keen understanding from experience that wellness has to be multifaceted.

These are all lessons he had to learn the hard way — from depression in his twenties to burnout as a professional adult in his thirties. But, Shorombo eventually came to see that everything he’d been through was, in part, training for something greater.

“My story started in my early twenties when I was in Mexico. I went there for an exchange program, and then later to work. But at some point, I really started spiralling into a depression. I felt like I had fallen into the bottom of a pit,” Shorombo admitted. “I was living on the sixth floor of a building, and one day I found myself up on the balcony and wondering if I should throw myself over. But I couldn’t do it — it made me really scared, and it also made me realize there’s this survival mechanism inside me that will keep me alive. I had this feeling after I would make it through.”

After finishing his exchange program, Shorombo returned to the Netherlands, eventually realizing he needed professional help. He sought out a therapist, but talk therapy didn’t work, and he didn’t like the numbness that anti-depressants brought on. So when his therapist told him the medicine might be something he had to live with, he decided it was time to turn to a orthomolecular therapist for a more holistic approach to his health.

“She told me, ‘I’m going to give you the tools that will allow you to find yourself again, because you’re lost, so you need to define yourself.’ And this was the first time I was introduced to this idea of lifestyle medicine and personal development — and I found out first-hand how combined, they are such a powerful force,” Shorombo told us.

But a few years later in his thirties, Shorombo felt himself suffering again, this time from burnout. “I was in really bad shape. At one point I didn't sleep for three days, and I basically suffered a massive panic attack at work and couldn’t breathe,” Shorombo remembered. That’s when he went back to orthomolecular therapy, and this time it inspired him to change his entire life.

“I lost 25 kilos. I stopped smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. I did the personal development. Then, I quit my career in finance to become a life coach,” he told us. “I realized just how much hands-on experience I had with the problems young people face — depression, feeling lost, burning out — and I knew through those experiences I could make people feel safe with me and help them improve their life.”

Today, Shorombo is the happiest and most fulfilled he’s ever been, running his business as a holistic life coach Max Your Life and helping people all over the world.

Where we pick up our conversation with Shorombo, he tells us why he thinks his story resonates with so many people.

“Because I think people don’t feel understood, and that hurts. I think that’s the most important thing. I also think that it’s my own story of hope — that if I can do it, you can do it. I think the reason we get sick is because we're not living our lives in line with who we really are, and that creates friction.

So my life story, and what I do, is a lot about hope. But it's also about a different perspective on things like depression, burnout and even ADHD.”

What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about mental health?

“I think the biggest misconception is that people always seem to think that they're the only one feeling a certain way. They feel alone and like everyone else is coping better or succeeding. And intellectually, we know it's not the case, but we still feel this way.

Another major misconception is that we still don’t link mental health to lifestyle. What you eat, how you sleep, all those things have a big impact on your mental health. And when someone is depressed or when somebody is burnt out, you need to look at those things first, to make sure they have their lives in order. Talking with someone and verbalizing how you feel is also very important, but there’s this misconception that’s what it’s all about. It’s really just a piece of the puzzle.”

This ties into your entire holistic approach that you teach people as well — where in fact, your program is way more than just dishing out advice. Can you tell us about the process that you go through with your clients?

“Obviously people come to me for different reasons, so let’s take the example of burnout. The first thing we do is get a holistic view of their life. What is really going on? We have an intake where I can get to know you over the course of a week, and we do a test to see how your nervous system is reacting so I can figure out where you are.

A lot of times I recommend that they call in sick to work, and people are afraid to do that. But I tell people that if they don’t make a change now, they’re going to suffer, and that we can actually turn this around quickly and make it a catalyst for growth. So if they can call in sick, we start by taking down their stress levels — making sure they go outside, stay off the phone and email. But we also build a routine around sleep and eating right and maybe even some light exercises. I believe you have to physically recharge before you start talking about the burnout. From there we work on your personal development, helping you figure out what you want with your life, dealing with emotions, and more.”

What does it mean to help people ‘get the most of their lives’? How do you help people identify that, and then actually achieve it?

“I give them the tools. That's it — I don't tell them what they need to do because they need to find out for themselves. But there are stages to become aware — to stop pushing feelings away. We typically don’t want to feel them, so we drink or take drugs or do whatever to not feel those things. So I help people learn that their feelings are their allies, that they’re important.

But then I ask people a question they might not have ever been asked — what do you really want to do? What are you about? I set people up to create a vision of their life, and that includes everything from what they want in terms of finances to a relationship. Then with that clear picture, it’s a lot easier for you to focus. You are now able to see those opportunities that will lead you to your goal, and the choices you need to get there.”

Obviously we’re all on our own journeys. But, what advice do you find yourself giving again and again to the people in your program? What’s one of the biggest lessons?

“That’s easy — so the one thing I keep telling everybody is, ‘you can do everything you want to do.’ Many of the young people I meet suffer from some kind of low self-esteem. They don’t think they can do what they want to do, and they don’t believe in themselves. So I need to create hope for people and open their mindset so they realize what’s possible. Because if you don't believe in yourself in your dreams, you won't act on it.”

It must feel great when you see it actually clicks for people, too.

“It’s awesome. When I see that expression come onto people’s faces, when they finally believe that they can do it, my work is done. Because now they can start to see their life in a very different way. I’ve just planted like a seed in their mind that it is possible.”

So tell us about your relationship with The Social Hub. How did it start?

“I came to The Social Hub for the community. I knew I needed to be somewhere with inspiring people, like entrepreneurs. I also needed a social environment — so started looking for coworking spaces. I went to a few different places, but The Social Hub was by far the place that actively did something about creating community.

But what also drew me in was that I genuinely liked the brand and what The social Hub stands for. The things that are on the building, like ‘rebels’ and ‘change makers,’ that spoke to me. I thought, ‘that is me.’ I also just loved the combination of young people and entrepreneurs because it gives off such energy and acts as inspiration.”

If there’s one thing you want someone to take away from this interview, what would it be?

“Everything is possible and you can learn everything. That has basically always been my guiding principle. I want people to believe in their own adaptability and ability to grow and learn, and most importantly, to believe that they can do it.”

The first of many

We’re so proud to have kicked off this series with someone as inspiring as Shorombo — a person who can teach us so much about following our intuitions, the importance of mental health and the power of continuous life learning.

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