Find Your Brain’s Dimmer Switch

This week was a particularly busy one for me. Normally my days are quiet, spent mostly doing work, going for walks, making food, and seeing my friends. This week felt more harried: parties to go to, extra work to finish, meetings, meetups, late nights. I’ll be the first to tell you that not getting enough sleep is no bueno for my mood or personality, and so the second half of the week especially felt chaotic in my head, even though it may not have seemed so to an outsider.

Find Your Brain's Dimmer Switch >> Life In Limbo

Yesterday right near the end of my work day I ran into my musician friend Gabe, who was on his way to play a set with his friend Angie at our local pub. Once I finished up my work I went, sat alone, had a drink, and quietly listened to the music. I slowly but surely turned my brain off, untethered myself from my phone (the reception in that place is terrible), eased back into my chair and into the weekend.

Even though I had been planning to go home and crash right after work, it turns out that listening to live music played by my friends was exactly what I needed. In fact, I think if I had gone straight home, I wouldn’t have dimmed that noise in my brain as much: I still would have been in Constant Checking Mode, still would have been ruminating about work projects, still would have felt rushed. Instead, I physically paused on my way home, which let my brain pause too.

Since starting to work as a full-time freelancer, the ideas of balance, rest, cycles of restoration, and quiet have become so much more salient to me. When you’re in charge of your schedule, it always becomes pretty apparent when you’re not making time for what matters, or if you’re letting yourself become overwhelmed. Finding ways to keep things quieter to begin with is really helpful, but finding ways to rest and restore when it’s a busier, more stressful week is important too.

For me, these things are simple and usually free or very cheap:

  • Watching a funny TV show (current faves: Rupaul’s Drag Race and Life in Pieces)
  • Reading a book that absorbs me (re-reading is also great for this)
  • Talking to a friend in person or on the phone
  • Going for a long walk outside with my phone in Do Not Disturb mode
  • Meditating: I meditate each morning, but some days I need to do another five minutes later on

What do you do to dim the noise in your brain after a busy day? (Seriously: please tell me, I need to know!)

Inspiration: November 24

Every week on Friday, I share a list of the most interesting and inspiring content I’ve read lately here on my blog. You can expect thoughts on productivity, happiness, balance, spirituality, politics, and more. Subscribe here to get updates. See archives here.

Inspiration November 24 >> Life In Limbo

Reading this article and reconnecting to the importance of solitude, stillness, silence, and nature was like giving my brain a warm bath. Thanks to my dear friend Parker for sharing this with me.

This series of self-portraits by an elderly Japanese woman made me giddy with joy. How fun is this? Always be learning.

The Apology Generator is so awful, but so funny in its satirical precision and accuracy. Makes it even easier for us to sniff out the lack of genuineness.

“True self-care is making the choice to build a life you don’t have to escape from.” This one is good, you guys.

This week in “how to stop my phone from controlling my entire life”, I learned how to put my screen in grayscale mode. This is remarkably effective in decreasing my desire to play with it, when I remember to turn the feature on.

I finally bought the Five Minute Journal app and I’m so happy with it. It’s fun the way social media is fun, but it’s a place to practice gratitude and peace every morning and evening, so it’s even better.

After listening to this interview with Ann Friedman on Hurry Slowly, I re-activated my (very) old Instapaper account and added the extension to my browser. It’s been a nice way to collect articles and read them later without needing to be on my computer with all its distractions.

This week we had the book launch party for With/out Pretend‘s new book, Happy If You Know It. It was a pretty incredible night, and inspiring for about a hundred reasons. Even if you weren’t at the party, you can still get a gorgeous copy of the book!

It has been a busy week, and I’m really happy it’s Friday. So much good stuff, so much excitement and inspiration and time spent with friends. I must have said about a hundred times: “I just love my life so much.”

This weekend it’s my mom’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA), so I’m going home for some much-needed family time in the country. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. xo.

You’re Doing Your Best

Just a short one today because it’s been one of those stressful, chaotic (in my brain) days. Some reasons why:

  • I was late to a meeting that I didn’t know was happening until 5 minutes before, so I was flustered and unprepared. (Everyone was super nice about it, and it wasn’t my fault, but still.)
  • I was troubleshooting an important tech problem most of the day, having unsuccessful conversations through a Q&A forum instead of being able to chat with a real person.
  • It was very cold outside, and while I didn’t complain about it, it made my walks shorter and less relaxing.
  • I have a big party tonight, which I’m so excited for.

In the very nick of time, I resolved the tech problem and got it sorted – mostly. Because of a glitch, the emails that were meant to get sent got sent twice. Ugh! All day, fighting to make sure it would be done perfectly and professionally, and it was not done 100% perfectly.

As I was struggling to let it go and be grateful that the issue was resolved at all, a post I wrote a long time ago (like: Korea days), popped into my head: affirmations for uncertain days. I searched for it, found it (the blessings of having a blog), and then laughed when I read the first line:

Affirmations >> Life In Limbo

You are doing your best. Even when you slip up or mess up or forget to do your best, that is still you doing your best.

So I say to myself and to you: you are doing your best. Even when you don’t do it perfectly, that is still you doing your best.

My Work Manifesto

When people find out I’m self-employed, they usually respond one of three ways:

  • “Don’t you get bored?”
  • “Don’t you get lonely?”
  • “I could never do that.”

These responses don’t really bother me, mostly because I’m usually too busy not being bored, not being lonely, and doing things I love, to notice. I know that my lifestyle is probably not right for everyone, but it’s just right for me.

My Work Manifesto >> Life In Limbo

The walls of my home office. Lettering by Laura Fraser!

While yes, of course, I have boring days, and lonely ones (doesn’t everyone?), for me the freedom of structuring my days and the giddy joy of getting to work on projects I find interesting makes it 100% worth it for me. Most of the time, I remember this and feel incredibly grateful for the quirky career I’m building for myself.

Sometimes though, I forget this and feel sluggish, or stir-crazy, or even – yes! – bored. The afternoons are usually the worst for this, especially if I haven’t been careful with shielding myself from notifications and getting focused work done.

Today I feel amazing (a book I’ve been helping to launch is officially published tomorrow!) so I thought I’d take advantage of my great mood and write my work manifesto, to read whenever I forget, that will help me embrace my work-life:

Don’t treat a gift like a burden

It’s a fun job and I enjoy it

If not this, then an exact replica

Go play hooky

Resist the expectation of an immediate response

The work always gets done

If overwhelmed, dim the noise

Don’t work with your email (or Slack or phone) open

Hold firm on your boundaries

Not for every day, but for some days

Throw your problems in a pile

I am not a robot

What helps you reframe your work? What mantras help you stay focused and grateful?