Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Simple Blueprint for Stress Relief

It's been a while since I've talked about stress relief, but I have some new ideas that I think might help you if you're struggling at this point in the school year. What I'm proposing for you to try out, be it this weekend or during a weekday a mental health day, is to take your mind out of time.

Sometimes we seek to escape stress by distracting ourselves, spending money on literal escapes, or self-medicating. None of these actions solve the problem; when it's over, the stress returns. What I want you to try will give you a chance to reflect and hopefully recenter yourself. Ready? Let's begin.
  1. Schedule nothing. As I've always advocated, a day of true discovery and recovery will never come if you're running errands or scheduling anything at all. You're going to have plenty of nothing to do on your day of rest. This is essential for the success of Step 2.
  2. Sleep in. Turn any alarm off--I would suggest covering up or unplugging any clocks in your bedroom. Ask anyone in your home who might normally wake you to leave you be ahead of time. Keep your curtains drawn. The night before, go to bed whenever it feels comfortable, not an artificially scheduled time based on your normal routine.
  3. Go watchless/clockless. Teachers might be the last group of professionals still relying on watches all the time--there's an increasing trend among the young generations to forgo watches in favor of the clocks on their cell phone. This is a simple gesture but has an amazing affect in and of itself. Try it for today, and I guarantee you'll be looking for more opportunities to disconnect. This plan is about not planning, and most of us are so completely tied down to what the time tells us to do. As soon as you stop thinking about what time it is, you're free to think about what you want to do right now.
  4. Go completely analog. The next logical step to not thinking about the time is to disconnect from the digital world that also keeps us in artificial cycles of thought. This means no cell phone, no Internet, no TV and so on today. Any one of these devices can immediately anchor you to your conventional routines and trigger stereotypes about what you're supposed to be doing at certain times of the day. You're actually supposed to be doing whatever you want to be doing, and completely disconnecting from everything else.
  5. Go outside, and go forth! At this point you should be starting to feel a disconnect from the limits we place on ourselves by way of time. Now you need to get out of the house and head somewhere that will help our mind disconnect from our normal places. Find the simplest way to get going, whatever that might be, and go. Your destination should be separate from and different than what you're used to. It's sort of a choose your own adventure, and what you choose to do with it is up to you. You might take this time to think, or to not think at all. It depends on what you need, and I think once you take the first four steps, you'll already know what that something (or nothing) might be.
The main idea here is to sever yourself from the things that tie you to your normal stresses: time and place. I think that whenever you manage to wander back home, there might be a few moments where you still don't care what time it is. And it will feel amazing.