How Podcasts Keep Me Sane: 5 Surprising Ways

I couldn't help but take this shot of the blooms intersecting the path.

be_a_bigger_vesselIf you and I were lounging at a coffee shop, I’d be curious to hear what you’re up to, but I’d also want to know how you’re really feeling. Not one for small talk, I’d probably tell you my real deal as well. And if we’d been meeting regularly, you’d already know all about my tendency to seek out new ways to improve my state of being.

Personal development fascinates me, but in the past five years or so, it’s also become a necessity. I’m a lucky one who experiences mild depression and anxiety, which of course you’d already know. As with the countless others blessed with this condition, I’m usually on the lookout for ways to keep it at bay.

One of my favorite ways to stay sane is photography walks. The act of putting one foot in front of the other is meditative on its own. What turns the experience into pure luxury, though, is taking photos along the way.

Slow Down Your Insomniac Monkey Brain

Thanks to my techie man, I recently made an unexpected discovery. Podcasts helped lessen my insomnia. This was no small feat, as I’d wrestled with it off and on for years. Insomnia breeds relentless thoughts. If you’ve ever experienced monkey brain in the middle of the night, you’ll appreciate the power of anything that can calm it down.

As it happens, distraction has been surprisingly effective for me. Turning off my screwball worries thoughts and replacing them with others’ ideas, is usually enough to put me to sleep. I began by listening to meditation episodes. Over time, I progressed to other non-stressful topics like wellness. Generally, in the half hour or so it takes to get me from awake to asleep, I learn something new while I’m at it.

I came across these beauties on a walk in my neighborhood. I couldn’t tell you how long I spent crafting this shot, but that’s precisely why I find the process so healing.

If you’re curious about how this works: I play my podcasts through Stitcher, which knits content together like a custom radio station. It also helps me organize my podcasts into categories. At night, I listen with my ipod, complete with headphones so I won’t wake my sweetie. I download episodes into the Listen Later feature, which allows me to put the device in airplane mode and avoid having a wi-fi signal near my head.

Listen to Positive Voices During Walks, Commutes, or Workouts

Over time I incorporated podcasts into other parts of my life: workouts, walks, and commutes. This isn’t to say I’m consuming podcast content all the time. But I have found it helpful to have my podcasts ready when I need them. When I find myself obsessively repeating a conversation in my head–say, on the drive home from work–instead I hit play on an interview with a writer or entrepreneur. It’s amazing how quickly my attitude improves when I focus on positivity and knowledge.  Hearing the voices of can-do types reminds me of what I, too, can do.

I couldn't help but take this shot of the blooms intersecting the path.
I couldn’t help but go for this shot of blooms intersecting the path.

Learn Some Healthy Moves

Wellness is a popular podcast category, and I’ll tell you, I eat it right up. One show that’s become a comfort to me is The Healthy Moving Podcast with Jennifer Hoffman. In fewer than 15 minutes, each episode brings an appealing combination of physiology, stories, relatability, and how-to’s. In her encouraging tone, Hoffman has provided me with strategies for easing worry with movement, setting up a dynamic workstation, and navigating uncomfortable transitions.

My hope for this one was to set a mood. I wanted it to capture the hazy quiet of this particular morning.
My hope for this one was to set a mood. I wanted it to capture the hazy quiet of this particular morning.

Her episode that’s stood out to me the most, though, is Be a Bigger Vessel. I heard it this past spring, yet it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s centered around a breathing exercise that expands the thoracic muscles. As Hoffman points out, too much of the fitness industry is focused on making us smaller, especially–and now for a quick editorial from me–if we happen to be a woman. Instead, Hoffman encourages us to think about the benefits of becoming bigger.

Expand Your Mindset

Expanding our breath feels good. But so does expanding our mindset. If we can find a way to see ourselves as bigger, we become capable of holding more. The key, though, is that we must choose what to put in our newly enlarged vessel. I like the part when Hoffman asks us listeners to think about what we’d like to make more room for in our lives. She then provides her own answer, which is so good I couldn’t come up with a better one if I tried: more margin.

Encountering a gaggle of these dudes is a common occurrence on my walks. Sure, Canada Geese want nothing to do with me, but I find them amusing and I just plain like the guys.

Let Yourself Be

As someone who spends waaaay too much time running from place to place, the idea of creating more margin sounds divine. More unplanned time to sit and simply be. More space around my brain to cultivate new ideas. More time to recover from whatever the last task was, which–let’s be honest–probably wore me out. More time to walk and, yes, take photos with care. For me, this will require a new discipline of saying no a little more often. Wait, a lot more often. But I’m committed to making it happen. I believe the extra margin will be worth it.


What About You?

As always . . . now I’d like to hear from you. Do you listen to podcasts? What are your faves? More importantly, what would you like to make more margin for in your life, and how will you go about doing it?

How I Beat My Nerves At Summer Camp for Adults ( . . . or Did I?)

Yes, I did make it to camp, and here's proof. All photos in this post not credited were taken by me.

I recently returned from a summer camp for adults–for entrepreneurs, to be exact. If you’re anything like me, you want to believe summer-camp nervousness is limited to the kiddos in our lives. Adults, on the other hand, are evolved enough not to experience such trifles. Sigh. I really want to tell you my newest camp adventure came without any nerves, that my grown-up poise shone through at every moment. Darn it all, though, I never have been good at telling lies.

Campers arriving--yes--in a real school bus and everything. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.
Entrepreneurial campers arriving, in a school bus and all. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

Here’s what actually happened. For weeks beforehand, palpable unease overtook my body. Two afternoons prior to camp, my hesitation grew so strong I contemplated skipping the whole thing and staying home. It wasn’t that I was concerned about meeting new people, though the weekend would be nearly 2,000 miles from home and I didn’t know a soul. No, what worried me was this: I’m not an entrepreneur.

This is Jane. We met while making bookmarks together at the crafts table. After camp, she and I became accontabilibuddies. Every two weeks, we call each other to discuss three-month goals we’ve set for ourselves professionally and personally. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

For 20 years I’ve worked as an educator, mostly in the nonprofit sector, at jobs that galvanize employees but tend to bleed them dry. As it happened I’d been dreaming about entrepreneurship for the better part of a year. Deeply in awe of people who build their own opportunities, I secretly wanted to join their ranks.

A highlight of the weekend was hearing from Jonathan Fields himself. This quote came from a talk about his 10 Commandments of Epic Business. I took notes like a madwoman! It relates to Essential #3, “Thou shalt train your mind in the alchemy of fear.”

Dreaming was one thing, however. Openly admitting it, surrounding myself with actual business owners, would be quite another. I was pretty sure my arrival at camp would be accompanied by sirens blaring, “Imposter alert! Watch out, all you REAL ENTREPRENEURS, there’s a phony in your midst!”

My entrepreneurial dreams started to sink in about a year ago. I didn’t know what I expected this to mean (spoiler alert, I still don’t), but I sensed some internal shifts. My creative side starting acting braver, weirdly, almost without my knowledge or permission. Something inside had grown tired of feeling invisible and decided it needed more light.

As a (lucky) member of the camp crew, my days were full of activity. I recharged with quick walks to the lake.  Unless otherwise credited, all photos in this post were taken by me.

Last fall, a girlfriend and I started a journaling project. For the next 52 weeks, we’d follow prompts in Cheryl Richardson’s Life Makeovers. The book promised “practical and inspiring ways to improve your life one week at a time,” and we figured our lives were good candidates for some renovation.

My response to our Week 2 prompt: Choose the quality you most want to cultivate, then write a positive statement that affirms it. Must use present tense.

And so, I began. I started calling myself an artistic, entrepreneurial spirit. At least in my journal, my head, and weekly talks with my girlfriend. A few months later I started this blog. This act alone emboldened my creative confidence, immediately and with force.

My first day as a Camp GLP crew member. Did I really look this angry, Gregory? Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography,
My first day as a Camp GLP crew member. Did I really look this angry, Gregory? Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

I enjoyed expressing my voice, unencumbered by the hierarchy that sometimes dogs my day-to-day. Unexpectedly, I found joy in community of bloggers I discovered. What a gutsy group they turned out to be!

Fast forward half a year. One summer night I found myself awake and grumpy in the middle of the night. To combat my negativity, I chose to fill my mind with something better. Browsing one of my favorite podcasts, Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, I spotted the promo for Camp GLP. I noticed the call for volunteers and filled out the application, right then and there.

Before I knew it, I found myself at camp in New York, surrounded by 370 kind, innovative souls known as fellow campers and crew. Over the next 4 days, I received the kick-start I’d been seeking.

I attended workshops on things like finishing projects and understanding revenue models. All of them energized me and sparked new ideas. Arts and crafts projects–LOVE THESE–were a key part of my camp experience. When I got the chance I enjoyed solo moments, on a patch of grass under a sunny sky.

Most importantly, though, I met people who inspired me. People who make podcasts and write ebooks and travel the world and create documentaries and make a living through art. They believe it all can be done, not only in ways that serve communities with compassion, but also that energize the creators themselves.

Now that I’m home, I’ve discovered a whole new set of nerves. These particular butterflies flit in a new pattern, carrying uncertainties on their tiny backs. “What does being an entrepreneur really mean,” they want to know. “What makes you think you’ve got the energy to start something new?” Oh, how I wish I could jump on their collective wings and take flight!

For now, though, I’m content with my role. My current job is to befriend them first, or at least get used to their presence. I want to let them take their time, while I take mine as well. As the journey unfolds, I’ll figure out where we’ll be traveling together months, a year, whenever from now.

I’ll leave you with this quote from a productivity workshop led by Charlie Gilkey. You, too, can benefit from his wisdom by checking out his podcast, The Creative Giant Show.

So, what about you? Are you feeling any butterflies? What kick-starts are you seeking? Feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s Handcrafted Quote

time_to_plantWhat “trees” are you planting these days? I’d love to hear about your hopes and projects.