When you work hard and play hard, like we do on this blog, you have to think about your recovery and me-time as well.
I realized that going full speed all the time, to reach certain goals is definitely helpful and fun, but can have its toll mentally and physically.
I had a weird reaction like this last year when I was in Berlin for 3 days, flew back, the next day I flew to Barcelona, stayed for one night, came back and had one day before a 5 day trip to Chicago.
What sounds like a dream to a (frequent flyer) traveler, slowed me down from my routine and my habits immensely. I was unproductive and uncreative for a few days if not weeks, trying to recover from it. I had to learn how to relax.
Dealing with it mentally
When I was on the plane to Chicago, about 2 or 3 hours in, I wanted to get up and drink some water. As I’ve already described here, drinking water is one of the best ways to beat jet lag.
Weirdly, my legs felt really weak and everything was spinning. I thought I maybe ate too little, because I was fasting, so I went back to the seat to relax.
While sitting I felt a bit nauseous and wasn’t really sure what was happening. I started sweating and felt like passing out.
I was thinking weird thoughts, like what happens if I now have a heart attack. What if we’re in the middle of the ocean (we were)? Will I be sick in Chicago? Can I survive until Chicago?
You see, a lot of weird and unusual thoughts!
I later learnt that I had something like a small panic attack, simply because I didn’t give my body (and mind!) enough rest in between those traveling trips.
I had so much on my mind during those days: I was meeting interesting people in Berlin. I had to give a presentation in Barcelona about a product we had released and I was going to go on a food tour in Chicago with my friend.
Later I realized, that I didn’t calm my mind enough those days and it was just too much.
Your mind as computer RAM
While it’s technically not entirely accurate to compare your mind to a computer RAM, it’s somewhat more understandable this way.
Think about your mind and memory as small memory parts on computer RAM: You have short term stuff coming in, saving it for a few hours and losing it again (e.g. which restaurant you have to go to tonight).
Then you have some parts where you need to know something but have to keep it in for a medium amount of time (e.g. which hotel you’ll stay in Chicago in the next 5 days) and then you have stuff that you think about for a long time (e.g. should I switch jobs? What will I do next month, etc.), that then gets transfered into long-term memory.
Now what happens on your computer when you have too many applications open, trying to do everything at once? Or asked differently, more modern, what happens if your iPhone runs a lot of different apps at once.
Exactly the machine slows down or your battery goes down.
The mind works in the same way.
Obviously you have much greater capacity than just thinking about three facts for the next 5 days, but not giving your mind good rest in between those heavy RAM sessions, can jam up your machine, meaning your body.
I feel like that is exactly what happened to me on the plane. The body found a way where I wasn’t stressed and in fight or flight mode (Get it? Flight mode.) and started unwinding.
While coming down from the high of these last few travel days the body realized that it was just too much to in take and started panicking and couldn’t properly relax.
(Please be aware that I’m not a doctor, but I’ve known my body for some 20+ years, so that’s the plausible explanation for me and might not work for you in its entirety.)
That’s what I felt when my legs felt so weak while drinking water. And that’s also the moment where my mind started racing like crazy. I wanted to relax and unwind, but couldn’t really.
You begin to think weird thoughts and can’t be productive or creative during that time or for quite some time after.
What to do about it, or how to properly relax
Now that we’ve identified the problem, it’s time to find a good solution for it.
Think about the times where you felt super relaxed, no commitments, no scheduled meetings etc.
Try to reproduce that feeling.
It doesn’t have to be sunday for you to relax and just breathe.
It can be by taking a bath or doing some foam rolling (oddly relaxing for me!).
Some also say that daily meditation is the best way to do that.
Journaling can also work really well. Writing down your thoughts and doubts, helps clear the mind of these negative thoughts and lets you focus on the positive.
Whatever it is, it’s extremely important that you do it. If you can’t do it regularly, try to make time for these things in stressful times. That’s exactly when your body and your mind will need it.
When you go for a long run or workout really hard at the gym, what do you do the next day?
Exactly, you rest. Even though you should move every day, it doesn’t mean that you have to go all-out every day. It’s important for your body to relax as well.
That’s why the typical Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is so popular, it gives your muscles exactly the amount of rest it needs to grow stronger.
Your mind needs rest days as well, empty the RAM from time to time and you’ll be perfectly relaxed when the stress hits you!
If it’s not today’s society that expects us to go strong all the time, it is ourself and our own expectations, to always give it our all, no matter what we do.
But you have to give your body and your mind a rest from time to time. It acts like a rechargable battery, but if you don’t take that time to recharge, you’ll get tired and won’t perform at your best. Productivity and creativity will take a huge toll and you won’t be able to follow your routines.
Try to implement a few of the above tips and let me know how it goes!