Thursday, March 24, 2011
Giving the Emotions a Rest
Times of raw emotion:
A relative’s death and funeral.
An concentrated, extended period at work.
A family upset.
A church upset.
Illness, whether yours, a family member’s or a friend’s.
Achievement of a long-sought goal.
For me, an intense period of writing. There have been speeches I’ve written that have left me emotionally wiped out.
One of the most intensely emotional weeks of my life was the six days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005: ensuring my mother and aunt were okay; trying to contact my brother and sister-in-law; trying to locate family members scattered from Texas to Florida and as far north as Ohio; trying to get my mother and aunt out of the city; watching on television as the city appeared to descend into chaos.
Four days after the storm, a neighbor sneaking back into the neighborhood agreed to take my mother and aunt to my nephew’s house in Lafayette, La. When my wife called me at work to say they had arrived and were safe, I broke down. Right in the office. I’d been living for days on the very edge of emotion, and I simply lost it. I discovered what the term “sobbing” means.
Most events and situations evoking strong emotion aren’t like that. They’re shorter or longer, and not usually played out against a background of saturating media coverage. The emotional trauma accompanying the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has likely exceeded that for Katrina.
After the raw emotion, what do you do to rest and recover?
Here are some things I have done:
Read. I read a lot. And preferably a book. A real book, something I can hold in my hand and make notes in if I want to.
Bike. It’s been a long winter, not particularly conducive to bike riding. I’m not a fanatic (my wife might beg to differ) but I bike about 2,000 miles a year. It can be physically exhausting but emotionally renewing.
Work in the yard. Especially in the garden.
Do something repetitive and mindless. Like putting in a brick cobblestone border. Or digging. Or trimming back the fountain grass.
Do something cultural or botanical. The St. Louis Art Museum. The Missouri Botanical Garden. The Missouri History Museum. Hiking Shaw’s Nature Reserve 40 miles west of where I live. Attending concerts at the St. Louis Symphony and Sheldon Theatre.
Sit in the basement and look through art books. Sometimes I’ll combine reading and art and sit where we keep at exhibit catalogs I’ve bought or art-related books. It’s calming.
Read the Psalms. Few knew emotion like David knew emotion.
The key seems to be doing something different, something out of the ordinary rut I usually get myself into. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive; small and quiet works best, in fact.
Emotional rest is a necessary thing, and an important thing, every bit as important as physical rest.
This post is submitted as part of Bonnie Gray’s blog jam on emotional rest at Faith Barista. To see more posts, please visit the site.
Photograph: Clouds Are Coming by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.