Over Thinking

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I did something very unusual for me yesterday. I drove a total of six hours to spend eight hours with a friend.

The original plan was to have the whole weekend off, to mosey down to the South Carolina coast, and to enjoy a full two days of sun, salt water, and the wonderful smell of the marsh grass and the river. As often happens, life got in the way. The boss changes the schedule, the weekend off turns into three nights of working in a row, and the only thing left is Sunday. Deep breath. Regroup.

What to do? Do you stay home and clean the apartment and do laundry? Do you shop for groceries? Do you just sleep late and then spend whatever is left of the day reading or lounging on the porch in the sun at home? All of those would be the default for me, as they are relatively frictionless, painless no-brainers. I would have been none the worse for wear, I would have been rested enough to face the work week starting today, and my laundry might even have been done.

I tend to over think things. I tend to weigh too many options. I tend to plan too much. I know, I know. I’m working on it. The problem with over thinking and over planning is that spontaneous experiences, good ones, tend to pass you by while you’re obsessing.

Sometimes it’s better just to get in the car and drive.

I joked with my friend yesterday that if I had done my usual thinking about whether or not to use Sunday for the short visit, it would have been six PM and the day would have effectively been over.

I didn’t. It wasn’t. I drove the three hours to the coast. The salt air was just as I’d left it last time. The pungent smell of the marsh greeted me as I crossed the bridges into the Lowcountry. The little town was just as inviting and quiet and full of other happiness seekers as it always is in August. The river still rolled by, the jet skis whined and yachts glided by silently and regally.

I sat on a wonderfully inviting back porch and watched egrets and herons swoop past. I peered through narrowed eyes, looking for the resident gator, but never found him. I strolled along the riverfront, soaking up the sun. We sat in a lovely back yard, green and lush, just off the Beaufort River, talking about everything and nothing. We watched the tide go out, leaving the pleasure craft purposefully stranded on a mid-stream sand bar, where their occupants would while the afternoon away with beer and music, waiting for the backwash of the sea that would liberate them and send them floating back to boat ramps and home.

We ate salad at one of my favorite places in town, catching the restaurant at that lovely time between Sunday brunch and evening dinner. Then, of course, the swings by the river called, to glide back and forth, listening to the pleasant squeak of pairs of groaning chains. Watching couples and singles pushing strollers, meeting a wonderful puppy named Ollie, and seeing the homeless man with the black clothes, wearing a bright red tie because it was Sunday.

Sometimes, my friends, I think too much.

I’ll bet you do too.

Sometimes, we just need to hop in the car, drive, get there, and be in the moment.

Sometimes, we need to know that the six hours to get there and back are certainly a small price to pay for the eight sun-splashed, porch-sitting, heron-watching, salad-eating, swing-squeaking hours that result.

Next time, when you want to over think, don’t.

Over experience for a change.

The picture above is the view from my backyard conversation place yesterday, just beside the Beaufort River, just around the bend from the sleepy town of Beaufort, SC.

(Re) Charge!

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Good morning, dear readers. I trust that if this morning for you, as it is for me, that you rested well last night and that you are now ready to face another day and the challenges it will bring.

A friend of mine commented on a blog post the other day. She in essence wondered out loud how mental health professionals were able to unwind, de-stress and otherwise cope with the rigors of our profession.

Of course, down time is a very personal thing. We all cope in different ways. I thought I would share some of mine with you. 

It is very important to balance activities, as anyone will tell you. Anything done to excess can be detrimental and not helpful. For that reason, I have several kinds of activities that I really enjoy.

I am a middle-aged male. It’s important for me to maintain my physical health, my strength, and my stamina. I live alone, so taking care of myself is going to be more and more important as time goes on and I age-gracefully I hope! I have twenty-four-hour access to a gym where I live, a wonderful thing with my odd work schedule. I try to get there at least three or four times per week for at least 1-1 1/2 hours per visit.

I walk on a treadmill, use the elliptical machine, and lift weights using a nice set of free weights provided by the gym. It’s amazing how much better one can feel with just a modicum of physical exercise. I parlay this training into competition when I can, though not as much in recent years. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, so hiking, road racing, and now competitive walking have always been fun for me. I am setting my sights on another half marathon in the near future. I recently walked up and down the grassy green slopes of a Civil War historic site and plan to get out to other battlefields soon to do the same.

The bottom line for physical fitness that I have learned as I watch my own patients over the years? Find something you enjoy, do it regularly and keep moving!

I enjoy the arts very much. For this reason, I just purchased a pair of season tickets for four different groups in my area and am looking forward to the upcoming performance seasons beginning in the fall. I will see a stunning performance of Les Mis by the Players group in the next town, I will attend a cultural series in the theater of the local college, just a short five minute drive from my door. I will travel up the road to the capital to see Broadway shows and symphony performances at a wonderful venue on the University of South Carolina campus in downtown Columbia. All of these performances are wonderful ways to get outside of one’s self and experience the wide range of talent right around the corner. They are ways to transport yourself, if for just a few hours, to other magical worlds of light, sound, music and theater. 

I love to read and wish I had much more time to do it. At any one time, I have from one to four books going and try to visit each a few times each week. Right now, I have Deliverance going on my iPhone as an audible book, am reading Confederates in the Attic (I was told by a new friend that my not having read this book was a true emergency and that I must remedy that right away!), and am dabbling in C. S. Lewis, re-reading Mere Christianity. Once again, just as in live arts performances, reading is an excellent way to get away from the stressful world that is and discover new worlds that might be.

I love to travel and get out of town whenever I get the chance. Since off time in my profession, especially in telepsychiatry, is at a premium, this often takes some planning. It is worth it. My recent trip to visit with family, do a picture-taking hike and just get out on the open road to drive a while was rejuvenating in the best way. 

Of course, I love to write. Thinking through a topic, getting the thoughts out of my head and onto a page so that others may read them and respond to them fills a very big need for me on an almost daily basis. There is something about the process of creativity that both completes us and lets us contribute to the ongoing body of knowledge that is growing every day. I love being a part of that, and it is one of the best ways I have found to begin my day in a very positive way. Since you come back here from time to time to see what I’ve written, I hope you agree that this is a good use of our time.

So, my friends, these are only a few things that I enjoy that help me de-stress, relax, regroup and recharge. When I do them and feel more centered and at ease with myself, I think I most likely do a much better job of trying to help others. At least I hope that’s the way it goes.

What do you do to recharge? What activities, pastimes, and hobbies keep you going? 

I’d love to hear from you.