Lately, I’ve noticed that my schedule has been getting more and more congested. While I could manage to write blog posts every week in the past, nowadays it feels like I’m straining my brain in order to produce words.
And I can’t really blame it on myself, can I? People get busy; some of you might be having exams at school. Some others might just land on their dream jobs and are currently working their best in the new environment. Some might have even reached parenthood.
Whatever stage of life you’re in, there’s bound to be something that is draining your energy.
I am no exception.
Lately, I’ve been involved in two increasingly demanding projects that I have to babysit every single day. I even had to come to the office during weekends to ensure the deadlines are met. This is certainly not an ideal situation for me to channel my creative writing passion.
And I admit it: I have been less productive these past few weeks. With the increase of workload in my day job, naturally, it would make my other side hustles suffer.
By not being able to rest properly, I’ve noticed that even if I have the time during weekends for myself, I’d rather spend it sleeping or watching Netflix on the couch, rather than being productive. It’s just how our brains work; the more we strain it during weekdays, the more it decompresses during weekends.
This might not be an issue if you don’t actually have anything to do during said weekends. In which case, I’d recommend you to really spend your time resting and “resetting” your system for the next week. But if you’re like me, and you still have other responsibilities to do during the weekend, sleeping for two days straight on Saturdays and Sundays will not get any tasks done.
Remember when I said the more we strain our brain, the more it tries to decompress? I find that by incorporating this “decompression” during weekdays—as opposed to stacking everything on the weekend, when we feel most exhausted—I tend to have better chances of feeling less lethargic and, in turn, have better chances of being productive during my off days.
Here are several things that I do in order to decompress my mind every now and then.
In the Office
Since I am an office worker myself, I tend to spend most of my time in the office. Naturally, this is the most ideal place to try and “decompress”, especially in-between stressful moments. You know, between meetings, presentations, and finishing tasks in general.
Of course, if you’re not an office worker, you can always incorporate the same things to your most time-consuming activities. If you’re a student, you can try to decompress during school, for example. If you’re raising a newborn baby, this could also mean that you need to decompress at home during the day.
1. Take short breaks
I cannot stress this enough. No matter how busy you are during the day, it is important to take a short break every now and then. This could be as simple as stretching your body right on your desk, or even going to the restroom and wash your face.
The general rule is for you to move your body. A relaxed stroll to refill your water bottle or even a quick trip to the pantry could give your brain some time to recharge. This is especially useful to avoid burnout.
2. Brew a cup of tea
I love tea. There’s just something about the process of brewing—and drinking—tea that helps me to relax. This especially true if I’m brewing a high-quality bag of tea leaves. A cup of peppermint tea, for example, does wonder to alleviate headaches in the late afternoon, when I am usually most prone to being distracted.
If you’re working in an office, you could always ask for your colleagues if they would like a cup of tea in the afternoon. Chances are, they would also be on the verge of burning out, and could really use a short tea time to decompress.
3. Write things down on a journal
It is no secret that I write my thoughts on my journal. Be it my writing logs, daily activities, or even to-do lists—I have a dedicated notebook for each of them. So it may not come as a surprise when I include this on the list.
Of course, I know that writing things down on a journal might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I encourage you guys to at least try and write things down whenever you’re stuck or feeling restless. More often than not, we can teach our brain to “let go” of the smaller problems and mishaps so we can focus more on bigger, more important things.
If you’re interested, my advice is to try and keep a daily activity journal by your desk. Take some time in the afternoon (I find 4PM to work best for me) to jot down key events that happened during the day, as well as stuff that you need to do the following day. It doesn’t have to be super organized, but you have to be able to read what’s written on it, so take your time.
If you’re like me, you’ll be spending roughly 4 hours a day commuting to and from work. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving your own car or taking public transportation; I think the commuting time is also an ideal time to decompress. In the morning, for example, decompressing my mind would let me feel fresher and more awake. This way, I can ensure that I am 100% ready to tackle the day when I arrive in the office.
The same thing goes for commuting from work. Instead of cussing at the traffic jam, which is unavoidable if you’re living in Jakarta like me, I try to make the most of my time to just relax and unwind. Here are some effective ways I’ve found to not only decompress but also kill boredom when traversing Jakarta’s congested traffic.
1. Read books
While certainly not possible to do when you’re driving your own car, I find that this is the best way to spend my time whenever I’m taking the bus or train. Of course, carrying around a hardback with you during commute wouldn’t be advisable. But I could always carry a lightweight paperback with me around.
One of my favorite tech to bring during the commute is my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, which is an excellent e-reader that allows me to carry an entire library with me, without the added bulk and weight that come with physical copies. The e-ink display might not win any awards, but it’s certainly the closest (in terms of experience) to reading an actual paperback.
On a side note, there is nothing wrong with reading on your phone or listening to audiobooks. I’m pretty sure there is a setup that works for everyone, so please give this one a try! (I personally find it hard to focus on audiobooks, and I don’t feel comfortable handling my phone in public transports).
2. Listen to some music & gaze at the scenery
While definitely not the most original advice in the world, I still think that I have to point this out.
I love listening to music, especially during the commute when there’s nothing else to do. It helps me get into this trance-like moment. Gazing at the scenery at this point might sound so cliched, but I almost always do both of these at the same time. During which, as you might have surmised, numerous story ideas were born.
3. Sing along to your favorite songs on the radio
Now if you’re driving your own car, there’s not much you can do. You certainly can’t read a book while driving, unless you want to crash into something. And listening to music is fine and all, but gazing at the scenery would earn you a one-way ticket to the afterlife, I’m sure.
However, since you’re driving your own vehicle, you get one thing that public transport doesn’t have: privacy. So put on your favorite songs, or fire up the radio, and sing along to all the latest hits they’re playing (or timeless classics; nobody cares). Belt out your inhibition, and I promise you; it feels super liberating to let loose from time to time.
Finally, things wouldn’t be complete without decompressing at the number 1 place where you’re supposed to unwind: your home sweet home. Sure, it’s easy to just plop down on your bed after a long day, and sleep until the next morning (or afternoon!) But I find that by doing some of these things, I could better organize my thoughts and “empty out” all my worries and concerns.
If anything, I believe doing these things every single day helps me to achieve better quality sleep overall.
This may sound so trivial that you’re already doing this every single day. But there is a difference between showering just to cleanse yourself vs. showering to also clear your mind.
Next time you’re in the shower after a long day, try to think on that one thing that has been bothering you. It might be a presentation slide deck you have to prepare for a meeting with the client or something your colleague said about you. Whatever it is, I always find that thinking things over while showering helps me to arrive at a conclusion easier, which in turn helps me decompress.
2. Meditate / Pray
If showering is not enough to untie the knot in your head, the next thing you ought to try is to meditate or pray. This is different for each person, as I’m sure you have different beliefs and cultures. But essentially, I feel that meditation and prayers have this strange power to heal us—even if we’re not intentionally trying to heal ourselves.
The other day, when I had a particularly bad day at work, I took some time to meditate. As each negative thought crossed my mind, I learned that the problems I was facing were not as big as I thought them to be.
Meditation and prayers give us power. And power calms us.
3. Do Household Chores (Cook / Wash Clothes / etc)
I’d argue that doing menial household chores could also be considered some sort of cathartic meditation. You know, the repeated act of washing and folding your clothes, for example, occupies your body with enough task to keep them busy. During this time, our brain literally has nothing much to do than overseeing the small, repetitive tasks we’re doing, and it starts doing its magic.
You see—during the day, we rack our brains to get through the day. And it rarely gives the brain time to rest. Fatigued mind gives birth to all sorts of frustrations and stress, which are completely unnecessary. In fact, you can consider all my advice thus far as tips on how to let your brains take a break from time to time.
By focusing on very, very simple tasks, our brain doesn’t have to expend so much energy to function. It gives the brain time to rest; it gives the brain time to decompress.
So that is how I decompress during my busiest weeks. I know these tips are quite basic, but I thought it’d be better for me to share them anyway.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have your own ways to decompress during a very busy week. I’d love to know all about them, and possibly try them myself! Cheers!
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