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.


Anonymous said...

Glynn -- You have described raw emotion so vividly. I have had moments like those when I was rock solid in the middle of a crisis, and then just broke down and cried and cried. Your ideas are good ones.

By the way, I visited the St Louis art museum and botanical gardens a few years ago, and they both are amazing. It might be worth a trip to St Louis just to visit them again! (And say "hello" to you, of course!)

Lisa notes... said...

You offer such GREAT pieces of advice, Glynn, on how to get emotional rest. I need to remember these for the next time I'm emotionally stressed (and that could be anytime! ha).

Unknown said...

Great encouragement Bro'...stepping into beauty that our Father has created helps me during those "aftermaths".

katdish said...

Excellent ways to recover emotionally. People often ask me why I enjoy painting a room. I enjoy it because it doesn't require much thought. It allows my mind to unwind. Some of my best conversations with God have been while painting. Great thoughts here, Glynn.

Nancy Denofio said...

We all need rest time in this hectic society in which we live. It could be rest from work, family, friends, too many parties and too much talk - drum up the business sort of thing. I find your ideas, and lists of things to do a great way to get away from it all. Sincerely, Nancy

Louise Gallagher said...

Great post Glynn. Your description of raw emotion and its breakdown are very apt.

And your ideas on restoring emotional well-being fabulous!

I paint -- nothing like a blank canvas, a palette of raw colour and a paintbrush to renew my well-being.

L.L. Barkat said...

A turning. Yes. That's exactly perfect. Sometimes, just for a while, we need to look away. And then look to. To something that revives.

Kelli said...

I remember my husband and I were in New Orleans a couple of weeks before Katrina hit. I can't imagine how you felt trying to locate and re-locate family members. But what an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Great encouragement today. I like your list of how you experience emotional rest. Glad to be your new follower!:)

Cassandra Frear said...

Great post. I have an intense need for emotional rest on a regular basis. Could this be part of being a creative type? Certainly, I'm a classic melancholy. Life is very challenging for me.

I like all your ideas. For me, beauty is key, along with the discipline of choosing my thoughts carefully.

HisFireFly said...

I often steer epople towards the Book of Psalms - David would rant and wail and yet find peace with His God, our God.

I love your list of things that work for you, and may borrow a few to try for myself.. looking through art books always takes me away.

Breathe deep, my friend, and thanks for sharing.

Billy Coffey said...

Loved this post Glynn, and such wonderful suggestions. There's something to being outside and in the dirt that has a healing effect. And the Psalms have gotten me through many a hard time.

Christine said...

Wise words Glynn. I like the way your phrased it as "emotional rest." We don't often think of it in those terms, but it helps to acknowledge that we get worn out emotionally too.

Maureen said...

Walking, looking at art, going for a drive in the Virginia countryside, reading poetry, and, sometimes just sitting in a quiet, darkened space with a candle burning.

Excellent post.

Marcus Goodyear said...

A good reminder, Glynn. For me, the problem is my darned protestant work ethic. I have trouble still giving myself permission to do things like you described here.

But I need to because I'm a better person when I unplug, slow down, ride my bike (a favorite of mine too), kayak a bit, etc.

Anonymous said...

read, take a drive, take pictures, make lists, make art, bake, move furniture, window shop, people watch, look at posts...


Katie said...

Your description of raw emotion is exactly how I have felt so often throughout my life. I love all the different ways you find rest... my favorite is reading the Psalms also.

Linda said...

After one of the most emotionally draining periods of my life, I just "camped out" in the Psalms. I found they somehow ministered to everything I was feeling no matter what it was that particular day.

Sheila Siler said...

I sit outside and stare into the backyard trees with no thoughts at all. I give myself permission to not think, not be mentally productive, to simply "be". I also read a book of no consequence, an easy read that simply lets me escape for a few minutes. For scripture I read something like James or I Peter - they give me something to think on.

Michelle DeRusha said...

I love this, Glynn. And I thank you for it, because I am often in need of emotional rest...and I don't often get it. For me, a walk outside does wonders -- I almost never fail to find God in a tangible way outdoors. Reading and a hot bath are good, too. And simply sitting in a quiet house, gazing out the window -- that is lovely.

S. Etole said...

going for a drive when possible ... being outside ...

Sheryl said...

I learned about sobbing when I was finally safe in the midst of a civil war. It's the culmination of all the emotion of a long, stressful event. I've found it's often a precursor to rest, too.

Unknown said...

Yes. Doing something different does help. I'm adding that to my arsenal. Thank You, Glynn :D

H. Gillham said...

Wise man, you are.

You corralled a great list.

Corralled? Eh? Is that right?

Looks weird.


ETA: I got my first word on word verification here today: Table. LOL