Learning How to Relax Again

It’s been a busy few weeks for both me and Liz, with us doing a lot of running around and planning (as well as all the normal workday work stuff, that also seems more involved than usual).

My default mode is to plan and try to predict future choices and contingencies. And it doesn’t make for a very relaxing approach.

Liz noted that, even when I’m not actively working on something related to the house or to work, I’m on my phone – intently playing one or two games. As though I had to fill every moment with some kind of activity that involved decisions and reactions.

We’ve got a vacation coming up soon, and I’ve found myself frantically trying to plan and prepare. Those seem to be my default modes, as opposed to looking forward to events or experiences.

Lately, I’ve had to actively, with intention, pull myself back from knee-jerk reactions to analyze and plan and whatever else it is I always do. And check myself, to ask: “Is what I’m doing necessary? Do I need to really figure this out right now, right this very moment?”

It sounds silly, but I’m trying to learn how to relax again. I think Liz is as well, but I’m convinced I’ve got a longer hill to climb on that front.

As a developer, generally the task before you is taking a large amount of chaos and uncertainty… and then distilling that down to a stable, predictably recurring outcome. This work lends itself well to how, I feel, my brain is naturally wired.

This mindset, however, works less well in the real world – where I have control of fewer variables. And despite my best plans and intentions, the outcomes are never as stable as I may want them to be.

The trick then, is to be ok with those moments (which are more frequent than I care to admit). To favor process over outcome (and boy is that hard). “As long as I write my unit tests, that’s what’s important – who cares if they pass?”

I’m going to try to check my email less frequently. And to not look at Slack. And to be more in the moment, to try to view and experience the journey over the destination. My tendencies are otherwise, so it’s going to take a lot more concentration and effort on my part, to avoid my habits.

It’s going to take some work, before I get comfortable with relaxing again, it seems. But the good kind of work.

[photo via Sid Leigh]

Relaxing by Stabilizing a Country
Robert Sapolsky – Documentary on Stress

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Felix,
    Been a while. Stopped in for the first time in a long while. I’ve got some thoughts on your relaxation goals. One tip is to interrupt thoughts about the future with details about the present. What does your shirt feel like against your skin? How does the breath feel going in and out of your nose? Notice what it feels like when you blink. Take a breath in, close your eyes. What feels pleasurable?

    After a minute or two like this, resume whatever you were doing. But take a few opportunities throughout the day just to notice details about the present. A small thing, but helpful.


    Juliet Reply

    • Hey Juliet! Thanks for the note, and the tip to focus more on the moment. It’s been a hectic week since our return from Portland, but I feel like I’m a bit closer to what you’ve suggested here.

      After being away on vacation, I’m feeling a bit better about letting things wash over me, letting things slide past me – particularly at work. It’s not that I’m letting balls drop, but more about not feeling so frantic when new things emerge.

      I have been finding that I’m doing a less great job of this when planning for personal things: errands, work on the house, things of that nature. Thinking more about the next, and less on the now. Thanks for the good suggestion and reminder to stay a bit more in the moment.

      avoision Reply

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