My husband and I scuba dive, which I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys water and watching things like Shark Week. There are a few rules to scuba diving, the most important one being breathe normally. At no point should you ever hold your breath while scuba diving. Most of the other rules apply to bottom time and how long your body will need to decompress to release the nitrogen that builds up in your system while you’re under water. For most dives, you have to stop on your ascent at around 20 feet deep and hang out for about three minutes. It’s the only time you’ll find a whole bunch of divers sitting still holding onto an anchor line; otherwise we’re on the bottom looking for fish, coral and assorted underwater oddities.
Decompression stops are generally the “boring” part of a dive because the only activities are watching the three-minute count down tick by or watching the antics of your fellow divers trying to figure out whose watch or computer is beeping the frantic doomsday warning. It’s easy to forget that decompression stops are vital to your health. If you have patiently read through the dive jargon to this point, here’s my point: we need decompression stops in our daily lives, too. No matter what you are immersed in, you have something that builds stress in your system just like nitrogen builds up in divers, and you have to get rid of it. You can’t stay under forever or you will die; divers know that it’s a pretty horrific possibility and a great motivation to sit still for three minutes.
I am obviously dealing with grief, but in an average week, I can accumulate a huge amount of stress at work and trying to accomplish all the things I put on my to-do list. It is a proven fact that I will go completely nuts (usually something along the lines of an old-fashioned hissy fit) if I don’t release that pressure effectively. My family can testify that I am queen of the throw down tantrum – I mastered it before I turned two. I have learned the hard way that I need to stop and decompress, and I have learned several ways to make a good decompression stop.
The most important one for me is to attend church. At least once a week, I know I will be able to spend time with lovely people, and I will be reminded that my focus has gone wonky through the week. (This one’s for my GVBC friends.) Someone or something will remind me that it’s not about me and that I should be about God. If you are a Christian and you don’t attend church, what are you waiting for? If you’re not a Christian, decide what your life’s focus is and get to it. Better yet, go to church with a friend that you love and admire for their sincerity of faith and find out what it’s all about.
I also have a few ways to decompress on a daily basis. Most of those involve humor. I love a good laugh, and those can be hard to come by when everything around you frustrates you. I have no less than three goofy blogs in my RSS feed that are guaranteed to make me laugh at least once a day. Engrish.com remains my favorite, but my dad turned me on to ThereIFixedIt.com, which runs a pretty close second. Invisible Cats is hit or miss for me in the humor department, but it’s existence proves that there is an inordinately large cat presence on the interwebs. Of course, for animal humor, I rarely have to look further than my own yard. There’s a pretty good bit of offensive language, but DamnYouAutoCorrect.com will make me laugh until I cry since I only look at it about once a month.
As an artsy-fartsy personality, I also write or crochet or craft to decompress, although the punching bag is probably the best physical activity for decompression stops. I haven’t been able to whack it in a while, but it has returned to a usable place in my basement and is just waiting for me to feel well enough to put on my boxing gloves. (Yes, I have boxing gloves, and they are pink, and they are fabulous!) It feels really great to hit something as hard as you can, especially if you yell or grunt at the same time and have a tendency to repress your emotions. If you haven’t tried boxing, you are welcome to try out my punching bag. An added bonus is that this activity also involves comedy once I realize how ridiculous I look and sound as I take out my frustrations on an inanimate object while wearing pink boxing gloves, but it really is a great physical release.
Although I just listed a lot of activities that aid in decompression, one factor I can’t stress enough is to share with your friends. All the time that I held back or even hid what I really felt was miserable and oppressive. Sharing your struggle to survive your particular circumstances will make the burden lighter and lighter. I don’t mean that you have to spill your guts all the time to everyone, but at least develop a bank of friends that you can call when a hissy fit looms on the horizon. My best friend shared “Newsies” and cookie dough with me and turned a crappy week into a much better weekend. Seeing my friends at church reminded me how blessed I am to be loved. Now here’s something to get you started on your own decompression stop: