There is a basic dividing line in life that influences the development of your brain. Is your overall life outlook based on love or fear? For many of us that were raised in a less than nurturing environment, being afraid is the norm and dictates the way we respond to a threat—immediate quick reactions. Relaxing may just be “not being stressed.”
Life is stressful–for everyone. No matter how people appear on the surface, it takes only a few questions to understand how many burdens they are carrying. Even for those who have been highly successful in their careers or vocation usually find that their “success” doesn’t compensate for their stress.
You may be one of those people who were fortunate enough to feel loved and supported at most levels of your development, and your view of the world will be different. Your capacity to relax and enjoy life should be greater than someone who was raised in the midst of chaos. However, regardless of your upbringing, learning to truly relax is a learnable skill. The first step is to understand the powerful unconscious forces driving your behavior on a given day. The dividing line is based on becoming and remaining aware.
I spent a weekend with a group of close friends on an annual ski trip. Many in the group had faced significant challenges over the last year and others were simply tired. They were in work situations that were incredibly demanding and it wasn’t clear how to make any meaningful changes.
Relaxing in a lodge setting allowed us all to unwind quickly. It was truly rejuvenating. For me, the best recreation is spending quality time with friends and family and sharing enjoyable experiences. As I was looking at this word, “recreation,” I realized that what I had done for much of my life was “wreck creation.”
The essence of healthy relationships is awareness. The antithesis of awareness is anger. It is impossible to be truly relaxed if you are holding onto anger. Trying to relax while you are still angry is the essence of “wreck creation.” Using your adrenaline drive to be successful at work is also “wreck creation.”
Wreck creation on vacation
A few months ago, I was walking on a trail in Deer Valley, Utah. Around a bend, a couple was stopped, arguing over which direction was the right way to go. One was complaining about being tired and the other was saying, “You always do this.” They quieted as I went past, and then they started to fight again.
Last weekend, at the Alta Resort, a large, intense businessman-type appearing person was yelling at his daughter standing in the ticket line. She was on her cell phone, and as he stomped off, he muttered, “You never pay attention to me.”
I have seen similar scenarios play out on almost every vacation I have taken. Until I had some insight into all of this myself, I would become irrationally angry if my wife made me wait too long while she was shopping. There have been times where a five-minute delay would ruin the rest of our day together.
Wreck creation at work
A few years ago, I realized that I was so wound up at work, that I was spending a lot of my vacation time trying to recover. My relaxation skills were not that great, and I was not able to fully re-capture my energy and enthusiasm for my work and life. I made a distinct decision to “play” at work, and “play” at play. Since I spent most of my time at work, why not enjoy it more?
To me this meant listening more closely to my patients, enjoying my staff and colleagues, and viewing “problems” as challenges. It made a dramatic difference in my quality of life at work, home, and on vacation. I didn’t have to recover since I wasn’t being drained.
What kind environment are you creating at work?
Here are some questions to ask:
- Am I leading by inspiration or intimidation?
- Are my employees or fellow workers ever “good enough”?
- I am contributing to my work environment so that it feels safe and nurturing?
- Do I gossip about co-workers or clients?
- Do I endlessly complain about work issues or am I committed to finding solutions?
- Are people happy to see me when I walk into the room?
If you are intense at work, how can you really switch gears and relax on vacation or at home? Where are we all rushing off to? Why are we moving so fast? How much time are we spending truly caring for ourselves and for those close to us? It is important to engage in recreation to allow yourself to regenerate and connect to your creative capacity.
Recreation or “wreck creation”?
Recreation is learning to bathe your body in a chemical bath of “play” hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine. “Wreck creation” results from continually being assaulted by stress hormones. It is well-documented that you’ll have a higher likelihood of becoming mentally and/or physically ill. Behaving badly can cause almost anything in its path to be destroyed—relationships, careers, and other’s lives.
The essence of healthy relationships and recreation is awareness. The first step in engaging in truly rejuvenating experiences is becoming aware of when you are “wreck creating.” Remember—it’s okay if you fail (and frequently) along the way. Every step you take along your path is valuable and will gradually and steadily contribute to your capacity to become and remain aware.
Dr. DeMello’s definition of love is awareness.
- De Mello, Anthony. The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony De Mello. Doubleday, New York, 1995.