13 ways to detox your brain

One of the biggest perks of freelancing is that I get compulsory free time in between projects.
One of the biggest downsides of freelancing is that I get compulsory free time in between projects.

I used to have my anxiety shoot through the roof at that time… “will I find something else?” “When?” “Who will I work with?” “will the project be interesting?” “How long does this money need to last?”…

Now I’ve learnt to use it to detox my brain instead.

On my last break, I took two trips

After my last project, I needed a rest. A big rest.

So… I packed a suitcase and ran off to Barcelona for a week, then, two days later, another suitcase and off to Greece for two weeks.

While this sounds tiring to some, it is relaxing for me.

You decide what will work

So all these things that I suggest you try? Only try them if you have a good feeling about them. What works for me may not work for you in the same way.

  1. Travel
  2. Travel to another city and walk around and look around.

    Eat, sleep, walk, and take some photos. Sit in the sun, look at buildings, try the local specialities.
    I finally – after about 18 years of wanting to – visited Barcelona and saw many of Gaudí’s beautiful buildings! It was magnificent.

    In the first few days I felt a bit numb. But as I decompressed from the last three months’ constraints, I started to breathe.

    I took photos of more things, from different angles. I delighted at the light, the pavements shiny from the rain, the fact that there is such a thing as a Jamoneria…

    It was slow, but running away, walking, looking, and eventually seeing, helped me feed my brain and rediscover delight and surprise.

  3. Draw
  4. For me drawing is like meditation.

    I might see or photograph a thing a thousand times and forget it.
    If I draw it once I will remember it in perfect detail for years to come.

    Drawing also means my brain has nothing to say (you draw better if you draw what you see rather than what you think you see), and my eyes and hands are engaged. In the end, I have a more or less appealing drawing in my sketchbook.

    And the act of making something out of nothing – like a drawing – is one of the greatest satisfactions in life.

  5. Brain chewing-gum
  6. Watch a tv series for fun. Because brain chewing gum is useful for creating some distance in your brain from that last project.

    Currently I’m watching Homeland, because I like spies.

  7. Brain gym (not gum, gym)
  8. Watch tv series in a foreign language that you aspire to learn.

    I’m learning Spanish, clumsily, through duolingo, tv and reading on the kindle.

    This is like heroin for some brains because it’s both brain chewing gum, giving you new things to look at, and brain gym, giving your grey cells new things to learn and play with.

    And if you’re feeling low on energy, you can watch it like any other tv. In fact reading subtitles and hearing a different language requires you to pay more attention, bringing more happy food to your brain. Well, my brain, anyway!

    My favourite Spanish-language TV series on Netflix is Velvet because it combines sewing, fashion, a peek into Spanish society in the 1950s, and lovable characters.

  9. Sea and sun
  10. Spend time in the sun by the sea and replenish your vitamin D.

    The rhythm of the waves and the breeze on your skin; the heat of the sun cooled off in the salty water; hair and skin slowly warming up and drying in the sun.

    This weekend I took us down to Bournemouth, and we swam in the English Channel! I never thought swimming in the UK on a beach where the water is blue(ish) and you walk on sand was possible. Turns out it is.

    And spending about 8 hours in the sun by the sea over two days has replenished a lot more of my soul’s batteries than I thought possible in such a short time.

    Go to the sea.

  11. Eat good food
  12. Set yourself up for some delicious dining experiences.

    We accidentally discovered what must be one of the best restaurants in the world, while we were in Barcelona.

    In fact, halfway through dinner, I felt like I’d been fed some kind of happy pill, because all those flavours, the colours, the textures and smells and taste…

    Like falling in love, but with the food. I had been transported to a daydream, a heaven, … and I nearly cried from the beauty of it.

    Although maybe that was the fresh wasabi, imported from Japan every week, and hand-grated at our table on sharkskin, to get that perfect creamy texture…

  13. More brain chewing gum!!
  14. Read a few novels. Crime mystery or thriller work well. Fantasy adventures too. Don’t feed heartstrings, feed the brain some puzzles and images.

    I’m currently eating up James Patterson’s Alex Cross series.

  15. Read & Learn
  16. Once the novels have shaken out the cobwebs, start a useful book.

    About something you want to learn more about, or something you’ve been meaning to spend time thinking about or working on.

    I’m doing both that, and reading in a language I don’t yet understand!! The Kindle’s spanish – french dictionary is very handy, and I’m slowly – very slowly – making my way through Carlos Luis Zafon’s la sombra del viento.

  17. Friends & family
  18. Spend some time with family, if you have any, or your closest friends.

    It’s good to feel safe and loved, and talk about random things. Not all families provide these feelings, but all friends should.

    So make time for them so they can have a chance to help you heal.

    This February, I travelled to Cyprus to see one of my best friends and join the float she organised for the world-famous Limassol Carnival!!

  19. Care for your body
  20. Eat healthy meals for a week, start a morning exercise routine, and go get a haircut / wax / pedicure / manicure… all the things that make your body feel cared for.

    I’m not yet a workaholic, but when I am working, I have little to no time left for myself. There is a flat, and I’m in a relationship, and both of those need time and care.

    So it can feel really good when you take out a day or a few hours, selfishly booked for one.

    In May, I went to refresh the awesome blue & teal in my hair! When I see the flashes of colour, it makes me so happy!

  21. Photograph happy & beautiful things
  22. Take photos every day and share them somewhere.

    With friends on whatsapp or facebook, or with anyone who can find them on instagram, flickr or snapchat.

    Photos are a good thing to look back on when you’re wondering what you did in since your project ended… and for a booster shot of detox memories when you’re drowning in the next project.

    I seem to be using them on this post a lot!

    I take a lot of pictures, and post the ones I find the most beautiful or happy on instagram. Then when I’m feeling a bit low, or wondering what I’ve been doing with my life, I can look at my instagram and be reminded.

  23. CV & Portfolio updates
  24. Update your CV with what you did on that last project.

    I always wait few days or weeks before trying to describe what I did.

    But you definitely need to do this sooner rather than later, so you’ll have something to send out to people who might want to hire you, so that the downtime in between projects doesn’t last more than it has to.

    Add the info to Linked in as well. And update your availability. That’s where I usually start. I don’t have to adjust my margins and cut sections of old jobs to make it fit on two pages. Linked in is EASY!

  25. Write a blog post about something you discovered, thought about or learnt recently
  26. Oh, wait, was that a bit meta? :)

    My truly favourite thing? If I wanted to add a 13a or 14, is to go to the beach, find a lounger, and stare at the horizon.

Clearly I’m not a sporty person, or I’d have included skiing or tennis or something more physical here. I love the beach and swimming, and reading books. That’s rather obvious!

So if you want tips on where to swim (mainly in Greece) or what to read, I’m happy to share what I’ve found. And because book recommendations are easier…

Don’t know what to read next?

I have a list that I call “Books worth reading”, and it’s where I keep books I have recommended dozens of times to people of all backgrounds, because they are educational, funny, and usually life-changing.