A couple weeks ago Jamar and I got bikes to trek around the city. They’re part recreational, part means of transportation. After our first few days of biking around the city, we were both wiped. We biked from the west  side of Manhattan, across the top and down the East River.

We got home and did something that we never do. In the middle of the afternoon, we napped. A really deep nap, a good rest. And something even better happened: I didn’t check my work email or even think about work that much. I just didn’t have the time, energy or ability. Being focused on riding takes away any urge to check my phone.

I’ve always thought about de-stressing as crashing on the couch and watching Netflix marathons (preferably with wine). But after I woke up that afternoon, I felt unwound – my body and mind were stretched in ways which made me forget about  anything that was stressing me out before.

So maybe the key to de-stressing isn’t about the absence of activity but the replacement of one high-stress activity with another engaging and fully occupying activity. The only way to really unplug yourself from something is to plug into something else.

Find One Thing

To start de-stressing, choose one thing that you want to commit yourself to. Ideally it will stretch you physically, mentally, or creatively (or all!). It should push you to the point that there is some stress – the kind of stress or anxiety you feel when you’re doing something for the first time or meeting a new group of people but it shouldn’t stress you to the point where that stress overshadows the enjoyment. For example, stay away from tight deadlines or an overly competitive nature if that doesn’t work for you.

Make a Commitment

Whatever you’re considering, while it may seem exciting, it’s also outside of your comfort zone. It might force you to give up time on the weekend, interact with complete strangers or push yourself physically. This means that your comfort zone will fight back and come up with reasons why you shouldn’t do this. The best way to fight this resistance is t0 make a commitment. This could mean signing up for a class, making an investment in equipment, booking a ticket somewhere.

Take decisive action that commits you to this new activity.

Consider Creating a Group Activity

One thing I enjoyed about our recent bike adventures is that Jamar and I were doing it together. It was something new to connect over and share in. That’s also what I enjoy most in my Toastmasters clubs: connecting with new people, developing friendships and making new ones.

Consider embarking on your new adventure with someone or even amongst a group (it could be people you’ve never met!). This helps you to get out of your head and make more vibrant memories.

Prepare to Switch Off

Some of the stress that de-stressing causes is anticipating the backlog of activity that will pile up when you’re away or, even worse, missing out on something important. If your career or responsibilities are that difficult to pull away from, do it in small doses and manage the expectations of those around you.

Let’s say you’re going on a yoga retreat for the weekend and want to stay away from work emails, let your team or work colleagues know that you’ll be out of office and disconnected from email. Give them enough notice that any urgent issues can be dealt with before you leave. Also let them know who to contact while you’re away.

Taking time to manage the expectations of those around you gives you the relief that you can walk away with a clear mind.

~

We live stressful lives and what makes it worse is that we don’t get to turn them off. That’s why I decided to stop fighting with turning off my life. Instead, I steer it in a different direction, at times, to get out of one frame of mind and into another.