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Experiment: Will listening to my intuition instead of my brain relieve overwhelm?

February 24, 2022

8:54AM

Hey there, it’s 8:54am as I type this first sentence, that’s important because today is an experiment. Let me catch you up on where I am this morning:

  • I woke up feeling lots of PRESSURE and URGENCY (overwhelm)
  • To be clear, I don’t have any real deadlines or external stimuli to validate this pressure and urgency, the only impending thing is friends are coming to stay on Tuesday (five days from now), and generally speaking I need to work on getting my next Skillshare class published
  • I drove my fiance to work, and the entire commute was spent chewing my lip and cycling through thoughts. A preview:
    • I need to get my podcast going like now, apparently Emily McDowell also just started one and everyone likes her more so I need to get MOVING
    • But I can’t do that until I spend more time writing and I don’t have time for writing, maybe I should re-read that ADHD book first to make sure I know what I’m even talking about
    • I need to hire people to help me with all of this but I need to pay down more debt first, I need to finish that financing and accounting course asap, how will there EVER be money left over to pay off the house and get to decorate it? How do so many lifestyle and home blogs exist, how do they pay for it all???? How do they have such great taste???
    • I still need to ship all those christmas gifts, they’re so late and it’s going to be annoying and cost a lot, but I’m sick of it hanging over my head
    • I still need to shower
    • shit I have so much to do and none of it is even the meaty stuff that I’m supposed to be doing. I will be playing boring catch up forever and there will never be time for joy, creativity, learning, any of it. There’s no time.
    • It literally just goes on and on and on like this

This state of overwhelm is crazy and chaotic, and no one can even see it.

My fiance sat right next to me while I felt lit on fire, and all he could see was someone driving the car.

I got back home and tried journaling digitally to check in with my thoughts. I first did a big dramatic brain dump (similar to what you saw above, I just let it all out), and then I started asking myself questions, like:

  • what am I worried about right now?
    • My answer: I’m going to be too late getting this all off the ground
  • what’s happening in my brain right now?
    • My answer: I started to make a list of things and it exploded, like okay..[writes out ‘list of things that I want to be working on’]
  • what do I want to create most today? A podcast? A webinar? A website? A brand?
    • I’d like to spend more time on branding, but I’m scared I should just be GOING, executing, launching
  • What does my intuition think, should I just be GOING or should I spend some time branding because it sounds like a good spot to be?
    • My answer: Step away? Clean the house? That’s what’s coming up but is that my brain? Ugh. The doorway that FEELS open to me right now is to walk away, clean, take stuff to the storage unit (the original ‘plan’ for the day) but wow my brain hates that and really feels like I’m making a bad choice, but even still, that somehow feels like the correct move for me to make?

So this is where the experiment begins: in the past I’ve always followed/listened to my raging yelling brain – the part of me saying “NO DUMMY YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO CLEAN THE HOUSE YOU NEED TO LAUNCH FIVE THINGS TODAY”, but today I’m taking the other path. I’m going to listen to that little voice, which might be my intuition, showing me an open doorway via stepping away and cleaning the house. According to my human design (I’m a projector), my intuition is meant to be trusted in the moment, even if it makes no sense to my brain.

Thoughts check: I’m behind, I’m going to be too late, I need to get moving, I need to act fast
Feelings check: helpless, urgent, frustrated

THE HYPOTHESIS

If I follow my intuition (which says to step away and spend time cleaning the house and running errands) instead of my brain (which is screaming at me that someone else is going to steal ‘my spot’ if I don’t move RIGHT NOW) I will feel more aligned and empowered, and better able to realize my potential for today, than if I listened to my brain.

10:20 AM

Thoughts check: maybe it’s okay to step away today and clean the house
Feelings check: curiosity, relief

Okay, I think I’ve typed enough here to get going. I also just finished peer coaching as part of my ADHD coach training program which really helped enforce this experiment. All morning the thought “I’m going to be too late” has been spurring this urgent chaos, but thanks to journaling and peer coaching I can already see how my intuition telling me to step away is giving me back my authority – it’s saying “oh yeah? you think someone is about to steal your spot? well guess what, you can still step away all day, that’s how much space and time you have to build all of this.”

And also, can I just point out how much more sense it actually makes to focus on cleaning our house and running errands when we have guests arriving in five days? Here my brain is trying to get me to brand an entire platform in four hours…

12:00 PM

Thoughts check: *happily humming*
Feelings check: lighthearted, engaged

Okay well so far intuition has the point. Since my last check in:

  • I Felt an immediate shift in my overall emotional state even though not much had changed or even happened; I got a lot of relief by simply giving myself permission to have space to “step away”
  • I dawdled a little – I got into a great conversation in DMs on IG, spent some time finding what I wanted to listen to, re-read the first part of this post to make sure I didn’t sound like a lunatic (jury’s still out), etc. I caught myself though and remembered my intuition was asking me to step away, so I forced myself to close Instagram, put my playlist on shuffle, and stood up
  • I tidied the entire studio

The relief and tidy studio are wins in themselves, but here’s the real genius of my intuition:

  • While listening to music, I naturally started to dance and sing – I could feel so much emotional stuff just fall out of me – all of that angst and fear about being too late for my own ideas, it all got to have its moment
  • While tidying I came across a few reminders of things that I really want to do that I had overlooked thanks to my brain-fire (things like sending my grandma a card as she settles into her new living community, addressing our save-the-dates, hanging acrylic boards in the studio, etc)
  • It also hit me that due to ADHD’s relationship with object permanence AND time blindness (aka, if I don’t see it it doesn’t exist, and time isn’t real), the impending friend visit probably wouldn’t feel real to me until Monday, the day before they arrive, aka when it’s very urgent and rushed and last minute. My brain hated the idea of me cleaning the house today because to my brain their visit isn’t even real for four more days – of course it’s going to think it’s stupid to prioritize that task. But my intuition knows what my brain knows + so much more, and my mind is a little blown at how much sense it actually makes to be doing exactly what I’m doing today
  • Also – one of the things my brain was going to rush me to do was to focus on branding – well while cleaning I got an email from an incredible brand designer (!!). It’s like the universe rewarded my listening to my intuition by helping connect me with someone who can really help me out (I know that’s real woo-woo, but hello have you met me?)

Next up is the upstairs landing, where I’ve collected a bunch of boxes of Dylan M samples that need to be taken to storage.

2:11 PM

Thoughts check: I can’t believe I actually got that done
Feelings check: impressed, accomplished, clear, open

I just finished dropping stuff off at my storage unit. It’s hard to prove, but this day simply would not have gone this way if I hadn’t decided to trust my gut. I’m not saying it would’ve necessarily been wasted or downright terrible, but at best I would’ve forced myself to sit at my computer and “produce”, when that’s not what I need/want to be doing today. 

Do you know how long those boxes have been sitting at the top of the stairs? SINCE LAST MARCH. Since March of 2021 I’ve collected all that stuff while saying “this weekend I’ll just pop over to the storage unit and clear this area.” But we both know how this story goes: the weekend comes and I’m reminded of all the other things, and so I don’t go to the storage unit.

Until one day when my gut, against my brain’s best computing and raging, says “now is the time.” 

☑︎ Take boxes to storage unit

Now I’m going to pick Brooks up early (my storage unit is near his studio) and then I’ll check in to see what’s next; if more cleaning is the ticket, or if I’m ready for something else.

3:30 PM

Thoughts check: I’m not totally sure what I’m doing next, but I trust my ability to figure it out
Feelings check: peaceful

I think it’s important to note that I feel satisfied and accomplished right now. Maybe peer coaching, tidying the studio, taking things to the storage unit, and writing a card for my grandma aren’t enough for my brain, but for my heart/my being right now, it is enough.

I suppose I’m struggling a little because although my heart feels content, there’s still time in the day, still daylight…I still have energy! Sometimes starting is so painful and hard for me that once I start I’m like “should I keep going just for the simple fact that I’m moving already?” I don’t think there’s an always-right-answer to that question – I just want to share that even when I make progress, even when I climb to the other side of what could’ve been a really bad/hard day like I did today, it still isn’t perfect. Do I keep working because I have some gusto left? Do I stop because my heart is content?

Did you catch it like I did? Just now? The black and white thinking? My brain trying to pull me in with its riddle of “but do we go left or right? what is the answer?” In typing those words my intuition smiled and said “Actually brain, I don’t have to choose right now.”

So I’m going to click ‘update’ on this post, and then I’m going to stand up and let my body go where it’s going to go – I’ll find the next step, whatever it is. At least my heart is content.

5:30 PM

Thoughts check: what are we going to eat for dinner?
Feelings check: present

Here’s a list of what I’ve done since then:

  • checked my instagram and looked for new blog comments (there weren’t any so I re-read the older ones, thanks friends)
  • wrote a letter to my pen pal and friend from high school who I haven’t written back in literal years (she’s birthed two children since I’ve last written. I’m floored I actually did it, but it makes sense because I came across her letter while tidying earlier (thanks intuition) and was reminded of how badly I wanted to write her back
  • read about the attacks on Ukraine and found a place to donate a few relief dollars
  • went over the guest list for our wedding again and felt stressed out about it, but made some good decisions
  • started to dust the guest room and strip the bed but got distracted – at least the bedding is off
  • googled about hand canceling mail because I’ve been a wax-seal fiend and want to use them for our wedding invites
  • stared at my sketchbook and felt sad I didn’t want to touch it
  • took the sewing projects for my next skillshare class out of the closet as a way to refresh and enliven the project again

Although the day is not technically over and the ever fun project of deciding what’s for dinner is upon us, I feel I’ve gathered enough to conclude today’s experiment.

THE CONCLUSION

In this incredibly non-scientific and subjective experiment, I feel confident concluding my hypothesis was fucking TRUEEEEEEE!!!!! Following my intuition instead of my brain (even with my brain actively raging at the start) resulted in me feeling more aligned and empowered, and much better able to realize my potential for this day.

I know there will be people reading this that sort of roll their eyes at how magically awesome the day seemed to go, but, I can’t emphasize enough that what happened this morning has happened a thousand mornings, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to reconnect with myself and ride the wave instead of letting it crash into me for a full day, then two days, then a full week, etc. Also, while it looks so tidy in writing, it didn’t feel easy to trust myself this morning. It felt shaky. My brain hated it. And yet – part of me knew.

This morning my brain said: FIRE FIRE DO EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW YOU MUST YOU MUST YOU’RE FAILING
This morning my intuition said: Step away, clean up a little, run your errands, it’s fine

My intuition was right.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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  1. Wendy says:

    This is super relatable. And so readable too. Thank you for sharing all of this. You are a gem.

  2. Tove says:

    Please continue. This is so interesting for a broken brain like mine. It’s bedtime over here, but I will come back to this post on the morning. Thank you so so much for sharing 🙏🏼

  3. Megan says:

    Oh goodness! Thank you for writing this out and bringing me along on the adventure. I see so much of myself in what you’ve written and that is comforting.

  4. Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I most definitely have had days like this and I really find comfort in how you have processed this day. The thoughts check and feelings check is gold.

  5. Caitlin says:

    This is the most relatable, awesome beautiful thing. This thought: “should I keep going just for the simple fact that I’m moving already?” is something I’ve thought SO MANY TIMES and wow… black and white. I loved going on this journey with you!

  6. Emily says:

    Dylan!!! I loved this soooo much. I’m trying to make a decision that feels really big right now and my intuition and brain are having such a fight about it. This was such a helpful thing to think about. Plus just so fun to read about a day in the life! Plus, weirdly, reading about your productive day made me feel a little more productive or maybe like I can still get a lot done today but also it’s good to rest too. So many thoughts…anyway you’re the best and I really enjoyed this experiment.

  7. Sydney says:

    I feel so seen, Dylan. Thank you for sharing a part of your story today.

  8. Katie says:

    I feel as if you are writing this just to me and my brain! We are so similar and I have learned so much. Thank you for sharing this!!

  9. Sam says:

    F*** I need you to write a book, you’re such a wonderful human being. Thank you for sharing this

  10. Ragini says:

    I’m thinking of doing such an experiment too! It’s worth giving it a shot. You always leave us amazed! (In a good way) 😀

  11. Emma says:

    This was so interesting to read and very relatable. I’ve only recently learned this lesson but I’ve never really broken it down like this. I might try journaling it like this myself next time 🙂

    • Dylan says:

      I always feel a little unsure when I’m journaling and in this chaotic state, and yet it STILL helps. Wishing you the courage to try!! <3

  12. Kate says:

    Love this Dylan, we should get this experiment peer reviewed! 😄 I find myself telling my brain out-loud to just ‘shut up and do the thing,’ like it’s a moaning teenager!
    Thanks for sharing x

  13. Tina Thaw says:

    This was so incredible to read throughout the day yesterday and the conclusion this morning. I am sensing that your “brain” WAS in control. However, this time it was guided by the love and compassion you have developed for yourself instead of deadlines, “should bes”, and the like. I realize you referred to it as intuition, but it was a conscious thought with pauses to reflect and document the day. Sometimes our “brains” get a bad rap and get blamed. However, you have been demonstrating how tuning into our higher selves can retrain our brains to respond differently, and with time this retraining becomes our newly developed intuition. You are doing so great filling your “toolbox”, and it is beautiful to witness. YAY, Dylan!