Six years ago, I experienced my first big background noise. I never thought this could be such a perturbing feeling and become a total disruptor of my creative thinking.
Hi, I’m Luis, I’m a graphic designer and I expect a lot from myself. I’ve never liked the word process paired with creative, and I usually drift through the struggle of coming up with something original, different or unique. Understanding, exploring, observing, and questioning is key on my thinking exercise. Time also goes into creating the right environment to foster ideas, harmonious workspace arrangements, music as an atmospheric element and finding isolated moments of inspiration. But none of this matters if a major force is blocking your thoughts, taking the center stage and not letting your ideas flow.
Worries, preoccupations, conflicts, fears, etc., they reside at the back of our mind, as 24/7 clarity obstacles. They come and go, in all different scales and intensities. It is up to us to turn an insignificant issue into a gigantic mind interference, I call those background noises.
My first background noise was big, big enough for me to be aware of. My breath will hold longer than normal, like if someone decided for me when to exhale. Progressively I felt something was not right. Before, I could perfectly deal with all those little things, pushing them out of the way. But this time I couldn’t make it go away, it was interfering with my thought 'process', blurring my ideas, playing with my concentration. It was poking every time I needed to focus at work. The feeling was heavy and permanent, it was awful. I started thinking about finding ways of learning how to live with it, but it was until I started suffering from insomnia when I realized that this was going beyond me. I couldn’t ignore its intensity, nor pretend I didn’t care. The lack of sleep was making me feel tired and adding fire to the fire. The scary part was when I didn’t know how to deal with it, but most importantly how I was going to get rid of it.
“Personal problems should not cross that office door,” an ex-boss said to me once. I was a junior designer at that time, sucking any piece of advice from my senior peers. With hindsight, those words feel worth the two years I spent at that agency. Right after that, he said, “Imagine everyone having to deal with everyone else’s problems, on top of the daily work, plus their own problems too. There is no fucking way of coping with that”.
I had to start somewhere, so I tried. Until then I didn’t have to use his advice, but this time was necessary. Immediately I minimized the amount of exposure to the noise, giving me enough clear space to start feeling I was back on track, the distractions were gone my thinking was lucid again. But every day after work, the noise was there, waiting for me, ready to fill the void. Now I had an outdoor fight I had to deal with. I started to verbalize what I was experiencing, adding adjectives and nouns started to give perspective. Hopefully, I was able to scale the background noise down, it took me a while, but I finally made it fade away. ‘That noise’ is still there, but I can’t hear it now.
Years later that great advice was not working anymore, this time the rules of the game were different, inverse rules. This new noise was sitting there at the studio, from 9 to 5 on a regular basis. I wasn’t bringing my problems to the office, the problem was already there. I had to find a different strategy to this new situation. I learned how easy is to bring home your work problems and how difficult is to protect your family from them. I decided to find a solution and this time should start from the outside. I reversed the thinking. It was then when I first heard about Shinrin-yoku or Forest bathing and its healing benefits. I found calm, improved my mood and I was increasing my energy levels. Those nature walks gave me enough strength to confront the daily problem. Soon, I was able to focus on what really mattered, blocking all distractions and do what I love the most.
Outside from the inside, inside from the outside, two fantastic ways to mitigate these noises have given me the key to unlock my inner peace.
Hi from the forest. Luis