Action Reaction

Why is it that we never hear any advice on decompression? We talk about how to act, how to juggle, how to balance, how to beat procrastination, how to sell, how to fight, how to never give up, how to fail and how to lose.

We do we never talk about the space between action?

The assumption seems to be that if there is ever a space between actions, it’s a flaw, a fault. We parrot “taking time for ourselves” and “spending time with loved ones” but there’s always the strong flavour of doing to these things, as if they were just one more item on our todo lists.

I believe that change is often as good as a rest, but not always.

For me, a sure fire sign that I need to decompress is the nagging sense that I’ll lose track of things if I’m don’t keep everything moving at once. This is a sign that my short-term memory is starting to flag, which is another symptom of stress sickness.

The best decompression resource I found came (unsurprisingly) from Leo Babuta of Zen Habits. He was the only one with the focus I was looking for– of checking out and stepping away from stress and stress-patterns, and not just seeking to manage it better.

His tips:

  1. Deep Breathing
  2. Self-massage
  3. Talk a walk
  4. Exercise
  5. Get outdoors
  6. Sex
  7. Take the day off
  8. Meditate
  9. Read
  10. Love
  11. Disconnect
  12. Take a nap

I find it pretty comprehensive, with the possible addition of playing a game.

So, looking at that list, tell me honestly: What have you done lately, and don’t you think you should?

This is the only way to handle high-level stress and eustress. If you want to be epic, extraordinary, awesome, (insert your adjective of choice) you also must be mindful that after every epic hurdle is leapt, you take the time to decompress from the battle-fever.

Thanks to Q for the inspiration for this post.


12 thoughts on “Action Reaction”

  1. Brilliant!
    ~ every art teacher I ever had emphasized “the spaces between” as the prime movers of a composition.

    Good question, that: Why doesn’t the same concept get directed towards “life”?
    individually not the most important part, though, is it? That would be: “Just Do It”!

    Long, busy weekend – talk to you on Monday!

    1. I never thought of art composition, but you’re right “white space” is crucial.

      Just do it is important, but it applies equally to doing the work as resting. Quit whining you dont have time and just do it!

  2. As a person who is easily overstimulated, it’s absolutely vital for me to decompress between actions – or even just after a period of time enduring low-level activity within the outside world. It keeps my balance closer to core, without swinging so widely towards the ends of the spectrum of “DO EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW” and “oh man, do nothing ever for days.” So I totally dig this, and I’m glad you brought it up. It needs mentioned and taught more often, I think.

    1. Hmm. You’re so good at studying your personal needs. When I drove truck, lots of the other guys, my husband included, reported needing to decompress after getting home. For me, the best decompression is sleep. I think it might be because that’s the only way to turn my brain off. I can come in after 14 hours on my ass, pull off my clothes, wash my face and fall into bed.

      For me, the difficulty is harnessing myself to only one job. I literally canNOT do more than one thing at a time, but it’s really hard to convince my brain of that.

      Now that my husband isn’t home to send me to bed, i’m having to pay attention to my own rhythms, and practice self-care. Weird 🙂

      1. I’ve had to be good at self-care and self-observation; I’m innately solitary, so there ain’t no one but me to make sure I survive (and preferably thrive). It is possibly my most well-developed awareness/skill. 🙂

        I can zonk out with sleep, too, but usually in nap form. It feels almost like meditation, winding down until I’m at this dark, cozy, mentally-blank pre-sleep state; after that, the sleep almost isn’t necessary (in terms of decompression, anyways).

        Learning your own rhythms and getting used to self-care is a great thing, yo.

  3. Pingback: Things I Learned This Week

  4. I would add ‘create’ to that list, because sometimes what I really need is to let what’s inside me out. Words, drawing, on paper, in yarn, whatever.

    I walk outside every day along with deep breathing and progressive relaxation. Been doing the napping as part of a biphasic sleep trial, so I’m not sure that counts. And I definitely need more of the disconnect, read, and meditate.

    I really think that a big part of how I manage my pain has to do with how much I allow myself to use these things (along with eating primarily whole foods and getting enough sleep).

    Thank you so much for writing this, we need the reminder, for sure.

  5. Actually, I’m noticing “create” too. My brain is so freaking busy these days, and writing it out feels like a egregious waste of time. But it’s the best way to process. Otherwise it feels like a hive of bees have taken up residence in my head.

    Make sure you let us know how biphasic sleep works for you. I’ve heard such good things and I would love to try it… but my hubby is a light sleeper and I’d never be able to sneak out of bed.

  6. I’d add ‘Dance’ — maybe that’s a sub-category of ‘Move’?

    And my personal-favorite-decompression after a Day-of-Work is often ‘Drive’ – even if it’s just the commute!

    1. Really? Driving in commuter traffic is one of my least favorite ways of driving. I have a hard time convincing myself that all those ‘four-wheelers’ are going to act responsibly. 🙂

      1. I put myself ‘into the flow’, reinforce the “Cosmic Bubble” around my car, hum “No kooks, no cops, no crashes” to myself (or out loud!), and stay aware of ‘their’ probable next moves – in no particular order.

        I’ve always enjoyed driving, and it got easier after the trainer at my first messenger-job observed that I was “a little aggressive” – I realized that being 10 feet from the next guy wasn’t going to *really* get me there any faster than staying 2 or 3 car-lengths back would, and a ticket would really truly screw up the whole rest of my day! LOL

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