How are you? 🍂
Around the end of December and the beginning of January each year, I like to review the past year and plan the new one.
Then, every year, as the fall equinox arrives, I take the time to reread that plan and the promises I made to myself nine months earlier.
2020 was an intense year, and my most significant decision for 2021 was to listen to my body when it told me to slow down.
The equinox arrived September 22nd, and with three months left until the end of the year, rereading my notes was a good reminder to keep slowing down.
The closest I ever got to burnout is a feeling that I’d collapse if I didn’t change my way of life immediately.
The exact words in a journal entry I wrote were: “This week, I feel drained as I realize that I can’t do it all. And this time, my intuition is telling me to stop, or I might hurt myself.”
I did stop. And I resolved that I never wanted to come close to that bodily response again.
Here’s how I moderate stress:
- Sleep at least 8 hours a night – I don’t function on less.
- Cap work at 40 hours a week, no excuses – If I can’t do my work in 40 hours, it means I’m not doing the right things.
- No social media – It helps me not want to be great at everything, like cooking, photography, blogging, surfing, interior design, flower arranging, the 42 different fucking braid styles, etc. Plus, it eliminates the most evil of all: social comparison.
- Live outside of big cities – It allows for more calm, more walks in nature, and lessens FOMO, hustle culture, and needless shopping sprees.
- One or more of the following for five minutes each daily: sunbath, meditation, yoga session, breathing exercise, gratefulness practice, morning journaling.
- Call my friends – Hearing their voices and stories reminds me that work and achievement are not the most essential in life.
- Go for a walk in nature (beach walks work best) or, when possible, go surfing, kiteboarding, or snowboarding.
- Reread my writings, look over my past year reviews, scroll through photo albums – They all remind me of the many things I’ve already seen and done.
- Leave my phone home at times – I started by leaving it home when going for a coffee and kept extending it until I didn’t feel like needing to have it with me at all. For one, it helps me not want to photo-document everything and share it with friends and family (after all, I do believe WhatsApp is just another form of social media).
- Go for long lunches and dinners – It’s one of the few activities during which I could care less about my to-do lists.
- I have a stress point in my left shoulder, which at one time was inflamed for weeks in a row. Now, it almost doesn’t flare up anymore, but when it does, I know I need to do more of all the above.
Unfortunately, knowing we need to slow down isn’t always as effective as our bodies forcing us to a full stop. Luckily, it was enough to course-correct in my case, and I hope it might be in yours too.
The Busy Trap
🐀 The Busy Trap – Tim Kreider
I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.
Since reading “The Busy Trap” years ago, I’ve done my best never to use the catch-all I’m busy. Kreider’s article made me realize that I’m the one responsible for my self-inflicted ever-long todo-list and that every task I add to it is by privileged choice. Realizing this helped me set better priorities and make more time for idleness, family, and friends. I often reread it.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
🤯 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
What’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is the single source that’s helped me understand what work should look like. After reading it, I decided I’d ask potential future employers if they read it. Then, I found my current company, and I didn’t have to ask. It was clear from their communications that they were living by the principles of this book.
🧨 Burnout – Emily Nagoski
The good news is that stress is not the problem. The problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the physiological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.
I picked up Burnout right after I thought I had gotten a glimpse of what burnout would be like. Nagoski helped me understand I needed to do some form of stress release daily. The result is the list above.
G and I, like all couples, I suppose, often get asked how we met. But what they mean is that they’d like to know when we fell in love. In part I of The Story of Us, I share both. Here’s how it starts:
G and I met in Amsterdam. I was out with a friend when we stumbled into an Irish pub called Dan Murphy’s. It wasn’t a place where we’d usually go, but we were well into a couple of drinks and resolved to wait there until the club around the corner would open.
Wrapped in wooly sweaters,