One Step to Regain Sanity

I’ve been thinking a lot about regaining, then maintaining, my sanity lately.

I haven’t allowed myself the luxury of thinking about these things for quite a while.  I’ve done damage control, emergency stops, forcing sanity to set up camp in the hour I’ve alotted- here, there.  I’ve implemented periodic decompression to avoid explosion, and I haven’t always opened the valve in time.  

For me, it has become time to truly regain my sanity, to return home to myself and reconnect my feet with the ground, rather than floating somewhere in between at the mercy of my safety tether.  This is going to happen a few different ways, but one way that I’d like to highlight for now is building a life which minimizes stress by focusing on Relaxation, and relegating Decompression to a relatively small percentage of my needs, like it should be.  In other words, if I don’t let the pressure build, I don’t need to decompress much.

Decompression vs Relaxation

Decompression activities are pleasurable or at least mindless activities that give a dopamine shot and/or occupy the chattering part of my mind enough that I stop thinking about the hard day I just had, the project I’m stressed about, that awkward social interaction, the past, the future.  

Here is a list, not complete or exhaustive, of activities that I would place under the header of Decompression:

  • TV, movies, YouTube
  • Aimless internet surfing
  • Scrolling on social media
  • Snacking when not necessarily hungry, especially on food that isn’t healthy
  • Alcohol/substances
  • Cigarettes 
  • Sometimes sex

There’s nothing at all inherently wrong with decompression or any of these activites (sans maybe cigarette smoking, there is plenty wrong with cigarette smoking), but it’s something that I know for me should be relatively short lived if it’s habitual (a sip of whiskey after dinner, say, or 10 minutes of mindless phone time after a tough work shift), or else a more rare occasion (a weekly movie, Netflix marathon once a year.)  Excessive decompression activites risk overshadowing or derailing broader life goals, or at worst, becoming full-blown addictions.

Relaxation doesn’t necessarily mean a day at the spa, meditation, a long bath, or getting a massage, though I would include those things certainly.  But for me Relaxation also includes:

  • Reading, even studying
  • Exercise/walking
  • Drawing/painting
  • Writing
  • Really any kind of creating
  • Getting out in nature
  • Contemplating
  • Cooking
  • Sex
  • Spending time with family or friends
  • Talking on the phone, emailing, or otherwise communicating with a loved one
  • And yes, even working (if it’s soul-nourishing work being done mindfully, if I’m undistracted)  

Relaxation is anything that is exactly what I want to be doing; both short-term wanting and long-term. Decompression is only focused on the short-term.  Again, occasionally appropriate and occasionally needed, but it shouldn't be a go-to method employed to maintain insane momentum without losing it.