a balanced life: being intentional, seeking silence and reframing stress, with Jo McCarthy of Firain

Ever wonder how other women create a life that feels balanced, intentional and fulfilling?

A Balanced Life is my new blog series in which I interview mentors, makers, creatives and others who are intentionally seeking to live a more balanced life.

We talk about living life without the hustle, resisting norms around productivity + busyness, and about consciously making the choice to live life more attuned to your own rhythms, energy, needs.

Living a balanced life with Jo McCarthy:
being intentional, seeking silence and reframing feelings of stress

Jo McCarthy shares what living a balanced life means to her. She talks about being intentional, seeking silence and reframing feelings of stress.

This month’s interview is with Jo McCarthy of Firain. Jo lives in North Wales. She works with creative and lifestyle shops to sell online in a way that feels good and sustainable. Her business, Firain, started as an online lifestyle shop selling handmade items by small makers.

When she realised that her favourite part of running the shop was talking to the makers about their challenges with selling and marketing, she pivoted her business and has worked as a coach and mentor ever since. Jo can be found at her website Firain, on Instagram and on Pinterest.

Welcome Jo! Let’s find out what living a balanced life, being intentional, seeking silence and reframing feelings of stress means for you.

What does living a balanced life look like you to? What does a day look like for you?

From running my shop I learned so much about being imbalanced, particularly because of the family things that were going on at the same time. Running a shop and building a community of loyal customers means you have to be available, even when your energy reserves are low.  You have to react to the needs of your customers. In my new business, I feel that I can plan ahead and predict how my time is used, which feels like a more sustainable way for me to work.

Balance to me felt unexciting for a long time.

It’s almost easier to talk about how imbalance feels. Balance to me, for a long time, felt a little bit unexciting. It kind of felt like ‘where’s the fun in that?!?’. I used to say ‘yes’ to everything and be the one to organise lots of things. I realised that I often felt imbalanced in those moments. As a result, I felt depleted, like watching from a distance rather than being a participant. When I feel balanced I feel more like I’m there, like I’m being enriched rather than depleted. 

In contrast to many years of my life, my days are much more gentle. My husband Ben and I have a very slow breakfast and do some reading. I try to be at my desk at 8. I try to have a gentle introduction to the day and be conscious of what I’m doing. When I’m doing client calls, for instance, my phone is in the other room, I try to make sure that my desk is decluttered so that I can be less distracted and more in the moment. That makes me feel overall more in balance. I try to do one thing at once, and to do one thing well and not ten things half-heartedly. 

On my ideal perfect day I don’t mind having a lot of things on my list, but I do acknowledge that it’s sensible to have achievable things on my list. We eat well, and really prioritise that, as well as having a proper lunch hour. I do work in the evenings quite often, but if I can have a bath and really wind down, that helps my busy, noisy mind calm down. 

I’m practising being comfortable with silence, and silence is really helping me get some balance.

Lately I’ve also tried to have more silence in my days. I used to be always listening to something, like a podcast in the bath. I’m practising being comfortable with silence, and silence is really helping me get some balance. There’s wisdom I think in, whatever your circumstances look like, having those snippets of silence. In this sense I can really recommend the book Indistractable to practice being less distracted by my phone. 

What inspired you to live this way? Which choices and changes did you make, or have to make?

It was a gradual thing, and it’s a fairly recent thing. When we moved to North Wales I found myself surrounded by many people who are very connected to nature. There’s very few shops and very few distractions, which is very different from places I used to live in in the past, like central London and central New York. 

Around the time that we moved to North Wales, we had a series of family illnesses and deaths. I really felt like the wind was taken from my sails. But what also happened is that my compassion increased. And when you feel more compassionate towards other people you also start to extend it to yourself. Another thing that I realised around that time was that I’d never heal and work through those losses if I didn’t sit with the uncomfortable feelings. Part of being balanced, for me, is to let your body drop into some of these feelings, and not be on the go so much.

What three tips do you have for readers who also want to live a balanced life?

#1: to reflect on what balance really means to you. In some sense, life can never actually be in balance, particularly if you have responsibilities beyond yourself. Reflect on your foundations. Personally I feel like I’ve got really solid foundations, so things can chip the foundations but not wreck them completely. If you’re feeling frazzled, force yourself to take some reflection time.

I like to reframe what it means to feel stressed, and the language I use around it.

#2: reframe what it means to be stressed. Rather than saying ‘I’m so busy’, try to reframe it: ‘I’ve met some really interesting potential clients today’. Or, ‘I’ve got so much to squeeze in today’, becomes ‘My life is full of variety’. It sounds a bit obvious but I think it works. 

#3: talk to others about how you’re trying to achieve balance. For example, if my friends are talking about ‘have you seen this new article, have you seen that?’, I say to them, ‘well, actually, I’m really selective about what I’m reading now’. Not in a pretentious way, but as a way of protecting my mental space. Otherwise, I know, that being a bit of a sponge, overstimulation like that will make me feel frazzled. So I find it helpful to communicate with people in my life to tell them that I’m working on it, and XYZ will help me achieve that. 

Thank you Jo, for offering us a peek into your life, and sharing with us what it means to you to live a balanced life. I very much enjoyed reading about how you are intentional in your days, seek silence and reframe what it means to feel stressed. Find out more about Jo on her website, or connect with her on Instagram or Pinterest.

Want to find out more about setting boundaries, following your energy, living a balanced life and generally creating the work-life balance you long for?

Read my blog for ideas, sign up to my newsletter for exclusive strategies, or get in touch about 1:1 mentoring support.

I’ll be posting interviews for A Balanced Life every month or so. Do you have a suggestion for A Balanced Life? Would you like to be interviewed? Great! Send me a message. I’m always looking for inspiring people to feature.

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