The Bends (Decompression)

The past few weeks have just been nuts for me, dear readers. On top of it all, I got sick not once, but twice. I’ve already written about this experience in my post about community, but today I wanted to focus on the practical side of dealing with a seemingly never-ending illness, jam-packed days filled with meetings, hundreds of emails to wade through, and all of events that happen over the holidays, plus the holiday aftermath.

Normally I pride myself on being calm no matter what the circumstance, working through the pressure, deadlines, and workload. But sometimes our bodies just shut down, and we get sick.

You see friends, stress suppresses the immune system, and as a consequence it becomes easier for you to get sick. So while stress cannot “make” you sick, it definitely contributes to the environment.

You have to make time to care for yourself when in stressful situations.

Decompression

What that really means is that you have to teach yourself some decompression techniques. No, I’m not writing about decompression sickness (also known as the bends or divers’ disease) but that is another type of illness that requires treatment early on.

What I’m referring to creative cuties is decompression from stress. I may have written about this in a different capacity once before, focusing on things like self-care, taking breaks, reviewing previous successes, enlisting support and seeking inspiration, but today I want to focus on things you can do immediately to help with the decompression process.

Most of these actions are physical which is good when you’re sick or stressed. We hold a lot of tension in our bodies from stress.

Here are some of the best options:

  1. Deep breathing. Take a breath in, slowly exhale, and start over again. If you do this for about ten seconds each time and keep at it for ten minutes, you’ll feel it quick.
  2. Self-massage. Tense and then relax each muscle, from your toes to your head.
  3. Take a walk. A five minute walk in the midst of a stressful day does wonders.
  4. Exercise. This can be great for quiet thinking AND all of the chemicals your body releases while exercising are great stress relievers.
  5. Get outdoors. Just connecting with the outdoors can be helpful, but the fresh air helps too.
  6. Sex. An obvious choice. Just ask my girlfriend.
  7. Vacation day. Take the time to focus and recenter.
  8. Meditate. Be somewhere quiet, close your eyes, relax, and focus on your breathing. Your mind will be very active during this process, so embrace the thoughts and allow them to leave.
  9. Read. Whether you read fiction or something more practicaI like a biography. Taking some time with a good book is great exercise for your mind.
  10. Love. Get in some hugs and cuddles with your loved ones. It’s a win-win-win scenario and helps strengthen intimacy for all involved.
  11. Disconnect. Technology can be both a godsend and water torture. Do yourself a favour, and turn off the phones, computer, and ignore the outside world for as long as you can.
  12. Take a nap. A shot nap does wonders for refreshing the mind and the body. Thirty minutes should do the trick.

Now with that said, finding and using different ways to reduce tension is important but it should never add to your stress. You need to pick the techniques that best suit your lifestyle, but I have this theory that as you add different habits, you’ll be hungry for even more.

Another thing to consider folks.

On a really busy day it might feel like you are faced with an impossible task and that none of those techniques will do the trick. Just stick with it though. I can assure you that taking the time to unwind will be huge for your health and I have this theory that you’ll be more productive in the long run.

Tim!

‘Tis The Season (Edmonton Winter Activities)

“I feel like I’m going to puke,” that’s what I kept repeating to myself over and over the morning after. I had told myself countless times that I would never go through this again. I told myself that I was going to change my lifestyle and become a different person. A different person, with different hobbies, ones that were less narrow in scope and so self-destructive.

Winter usually does that to me.

The cold air, the slow movement, the limited visibility. It reminds me of that overwhelming feeling of nausea you get right before you decide to puke from the exploits of a night of drinking.

Sure you get to pull out your cool couture with the accompanying cold weather – military jackets, headbands, heavy boots, sweaters, and peat coats. But how long does that tide you over, before you realize you are in this for the long haul, that warmth and light aren’t coming back any time soon? How long before you realize it’s game over!

game-over-man-game-over

I can only blame myself. I don’t know enough about my hometown and as soon as the winter hits, I want to bundle up with a blanket and a dozen or two movies that I’ve just picked up after the Black Friday madness, and settle in for a long winter filled with craft beer and a carved beard. And not much else.

I’m not the only one who feels this way right? Edmonton sucks! Alberta is the worst! There is nothing to do here in the winter! Stupid trading post should’ve never took off and brought settlement along with it. People have a right to their warmth and freedom.

Wait, hold up a second!

I’m kidding, I hope you realize. Mostly kidding anyway.

Edmonton doesn’t suck at all. We truly are a festival city and there are a ton of things to do festival-wise or other in the winter. You just have to change your mindset, get out of your well-worn comfort zone, and expose yourself to new events and good people who host them.

And don’t worry, I’m gonna list a bunch of ideas off, in the hope that some will stick like wet snow, and you find something to do with your time this season, other than couch surfing.

It couldn’t be more timely, but here is the list of typical winter activities you can take up, and how!

 

  1. Get outside and explore our river valley and our parks. And either build a snowman and/or snow fort, have a snowball fight, go sledding, catch some snow flakes on your tongue, or collect some pine cones
  2. Visit a craft show for inspiration and then make some cool ornaments from stuff in nature and/or craft supplies. Or maybe buy some paper and make snowflakes and then leave them throughout the city. Post some photos and share them on instagram #yegwinterart might be a good tag
  3. Jump on zomato.com and try out a local eatery or bar/lounge which is new to YOU. It doesn’t have to be new to everyone, just to you.
  4. Pick up a copy of VueWeekly, Avenue, The Gateway, Edmonton Examiner, Journal, SUN or whatever and go and see something local made (a film, an art opening, a band, a lecture series). I’m not 100% how to get a copy of this online, but I’ll eventually link to some pictures from my hard copy for ease of use. Vueweekly publishes a Winter Guide every year and it covers November-February for a lot of cool events.
  5. Read some of the long lost books you’ve shelved. Grab your flannel PJs, a nice blanket, some slippers, and some hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps OR eggnog OR champagne OR hot buttered rum OR mulled wine OR spiced cider. Visit the Reuse Centre, Value Village, Wee Book Inn if you want inexpensive gently used books.
  6. Join a winter sport. Whether it’s ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice sculpture or hiking. What about something more exotic like winter camping, winter cycling and climbing? You could also join a gym or take up swimming too.
  7. Take a day trip and tour a winery, brewery or distillery to learn about the process and have a fun adventure with your loved one and/or friends. That way you are supporting local business and getting to know areas of the city or the countryside which you probably never knew existed.
  8. Go and experience a different side of life by volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating food/toys/clothing to a local charity. You can clean out your house and help someone else in need at the same time. You could even learn how to make food and preserve it, effectively providing home-made gifts to people who don’t have the means to do so.

 

The best thing about a list like this is that it is totally up to you to decide what to do with it. Take responsibility for your life and try something scary this winter season! Don’t spend another 4 months of your life complaining about how boring this time of year is.

And if you are feeling overwhelmed by the options I’ve presented, don’t fret, dear readers. You can pick a few choice examples and try them out. One. At. A. Time. Because we can only form new habits if we stick to them for 30 days or more. Just kidding, it’s more complex than that. But 30 days is a good start. This is a  topic which I want to cover more in the future, but here is an article to give you a taste for now. But that’s just a theory.

What do you think? Am I suffering from hypothermia? Leave some comments, and let me know how you get through the winter.

Tim!