Tech Life Find your mental footing


In my teens, I got migraines. Maybe it was growing pains, but all I knew is that randomly and without warning, I’d get a splitting, seeing spots, curled up in a dark room headache. Painkillers didn’t help. Meditation merely distracted, diet was out of the question — hello, teenager — and I got regular exercise as part of the cross-country team.

After a particularly bad July, the girlfriend at the time suggested, “My Mom does biofeedback, you should give it a whirl,” to which I responded, “Does she sell mood rings, too? How about pet rocks? Hulu hoops?”

She ignored me. “It’s not like that. She can show how your body reacts to different stimuli.”

“Do I have to sing Kumbaya?”


I Think I’m Breathing

The process of being wired up for biofeedback is intimidating. A variety of sensors measure brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. Once wired, you can literally see the collection of systems that is your body working in concert.

It gets interesting when you start ignoring the feedback. “Rands, we’re going to try different relaxation techniques and see what works. How do you relax?”

TV? She turned the TV on for ten minutes. “Yeah, that doesn’t relax you. Your brain is working.”

Closing my eyes and breathing deeply? Five minutes later, “Again, it looks like you’re thinking too much about not thinking. You’re not relaxing.”

What about reading? She pulled a book off her shelf and I started reading. Within a few minutes, all of the feedback pointed out that my body was diving into a deep relaxation.

“Rands, reading chills you out.”

Weeks later, when the next migraine began to creep up the back of my head, I grabbed Ender’s Game and read. In 30 minutes, the tiny tendrils of pain began to vanish. In an hour, the migraine was gone. Reading was never a cure-all for every migraine, but reading gave me shot at by-passing a crippling day of pain.

Chilling Out is Essential

If my prior report that a third of high school graduates never read another book didn’t freak you out, here’s a different pitch on why we want people to pick up a book: reading chills you out.

I’ve no idea whether my biochemistry is indicative of the rest of the planet or not, but I know if the world is freaking me out, reading calms me down. The act of pulling words off a page and constructing a thought forces me to clear my head, discard stress, and find my mental footing. In a world where whomever is screaming the loudest sound bite is considered to be providing information, I think the act of chilling out is essential.

And you can help with the chill. I offer you the second Rands in Repose benefit t-shirt.

Rands Benefit Shirt

This year’s logo is designed by Victoria Wang, who designed the shirts for the now scuttled C4 conference. The shirt itself is a product of the Continental Clothing Company and is constructed of insanely soft 70% bamboo. If you haven’t given a bamboo shirt a try, you haven’t really chilled out. Once again, the folks at have made finding, printing, and selling shirts a simple process.

As with the previous shirt, 100% of the proceeds from each shirt go to First Book, a nonprofit organization with the mission to give children from low-income families not just the opportunity to read and to own their first new books, but a chance to learn how to chill.

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24 Responses

  1. I had a wee bit of depression last year, and one of the many good things to come out of it was that it got me back into reading books.

    Partially it was the advice in the books (7 Habits, GTD, The Road Less Travelled, How to Ride a Giraffe, and lots of others) that helped me feel less anxious and more in control, but I’m sure the slower pace of reading something written to last a couple of hundred pages — rather than three screenfuls — helped too.

  2. Oh: “lots of others” also included ‘Managing Humans’.

  3. Great shirt, great cause. Ordered and tweeted.

  4. Reading Jerkcity chills me out.

  5. virginia 14 years ago

    Love the shirt. Do you have women’s sizes? more fitted less boxy 🙂

  6. Cool shirt. Ordered 🙂

  7. Awesome! I love the fact that besides getting a cool T-shirt, I can support a great cause.

    Ordered and tweeted, too 😀

  8. Really, really great design and colors on the shirt.

    I get frequent migraines and this has given me something to think about and work on, thank you for that!

  9. Amazing shirt. Ordered.

    I feel like that shirt, in one image, sums up my brain, and what I do.

  10. I assume you already know about “Freeing” books into the wild for others to find and read. Great project – I depended on traded books during a six months cycling trip (you can only carry so many books on a bike!) – bookcrossing offers a way to “give back”.

  11. Rob Allen 14 years ago

    Love the design. I’d like it for a laptop design actually.

  12. André 14 years ago

    i do believe too that reading can help you find a way in life. soon i will walk this way with a cool new shirt. thx

  13. Just one colour? These days I only buy black.

  14. rands 14 years ago

    Yeah, we’re sold out of all Men’s sizes, but another printing was ordered yesterday, so there should be a pile of new shirts shortly.

    Thanks for your patience and support.

  15. Men’s sizes sold out already? What the deuce?

  16. Phil McTimoney 14 years ago


    Firstly, good cause and I’m happy I was able to contribute.

    However, I just received my shirt and it’s pretty much useless to me. I ordered a medium and it’s wayyyy to small for me.

    Apart from being too small, it also seems to be that style that’s meant for muscle men – it’s very thing and cut ‘athletic’. Probably not a good choice for your average I.T. dude, and I think we know what I’m talking about 🙂

    So…order big…or just skip the t-shirt and make a donation.

  17. Rride 14 years ago

    One of the best ways of relaxation I’ve ever used is meditation using some chill out or relaxation music. The main things are to meditate under a quiet music and to listen to as many musical instruments simalteneously as possible. This kind of meditation switches your brain to an alpha mode of operation(I don’t know exactly what it is) and they say it recovers your neural system!

  18. David M. 14 years ago

    Just to echo Phil’s comment above, these shirts run VERY small. Got mine today—the men’s large fits more like a very tight medium compared to every other shirt I own. Awesome design and a great cause, just a shame I can’t wear the shirt.

  19. So I’m late to the boat, but will there be a re-re-printing of the men’s shirts?

    The design’s pretty fantastic.

  20. I own this. It’s great.

  21. I really love the design, but I am apparently one year too late.

    Any chance of another reprint of the men’s shirt?

  22. Kevan 13 years ago

    This shirt is awesome. I’d really like one. Will there be more men’s sizes available soon?

  23. Please consider me part of the chorus that love the design, but unfortunately showed up a year late. 🙂

  24. caleb 3 years ago

    Hey there. The “my prior report” link just 404’s ( Looks like it’s now Thanks for having such a long presence on the interwebs (seriously).