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Healing Space | The importance of decoupling

Winding down is a process that allows us to put the difficult parts of life into perspective.

December 25, 2021 / 07:15 PM IST
When you don't debrief an incident, day, week, month or year, it means you haven’t allocated it a space within your mental framework. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

When you don't debrief an incident, day, week, month or year, it means you haven’t allocated it a space within your mental framework. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

Note to readers: Healing Space is a weekly series that helps you dive into your mental health and take charge of your wellbeing through practical DIY self-care methods.

So, you have been watching Decoupled to destress, but the protagonist, author Arya Iyer, says something that really irritates you or your partner and reminds you both of a fight you had the other day. It’s a show that seems to be performing that function very well: triggering the most annoying conversations or encounters we have had. This regurgitated memory may lead to unexpected tears or irritation that lingers for the rest of the evening. There’s no point bringing it up because it is long over, but still, it manages to ruin your evening. This happens because we routinely avoid winding down as a practice. As a result, past hurts linger just beneath the surface.

Healing Space logo for Gayatri Jayaram column on mental healthBy the laws of nature, winter is a time of withdrawal, reprise, rest. Even the trees know, even if our bosses forget, that it’s not a time for doing. The winding down, reviewing the year and its milestones is a crucial part of our mental process. However, we don’t always do this.

After an argument or conflict, we typically try to just forget it, move on to something else. If we have had a difficult day, we look for some release. We choose to throw ourselves into self-numbing actions – binge eating, watching or drinking, gaming, and then, sleeping. At the end of the year, we get into partying or vacationing that involves hectic hopping from one place to another. It’s a problem even with people who meditate or exercise or practice yoga, i.e. take up healthy practices. You start the process of entering into working with the mind and body, you warm up, you hit the heavy activity phase, but you don’t close it down, you abruptly end it and get up when your timer rings. It’s like opening a window for fresh air and forgetting to shut it, letting in rodents that gnaw at everything else inside. Decoupled serves this function. You’re opening the window to let in some fresh air but oh dear is it stirring up encounters you thought you had safely stored away. By the time you complete an episode, you’re not refreshed, you’re annoyed at specific people or the world in general.

You’ll know this is happening in your daily life if you’re waking from sleep feeling exhausted, or returning to work feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation. Your habits may make you feel good when you’re done; i.e., you may enjoy the meal you binge-ate, the drink, the series you spent a few hours on, but really, they may be impacting you in ways you haven’t noticed yet. For instance, disruptive sleep cycles, weight gain, illness internalised into the body such as back aches and headaches, muscle soreness or just unexplained irritation and anger.

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Why does this happen? Because you haven’t debriefed the incident, day, week, month or year. You haven’t allocated it a space within your mental framework. It’s like a gift of a weird vase someone gives you that doesn’t fit anywhere into your house. It’s sticking out like a sore thumb. Shavasana in yoga is as an essential part of the yoga process; it is an earthing, coming back to physical and mental equilibrium. The process of working brings up feelings, emotions and thoughts at a heightened pace. This also happens with meditation or weight training. In the first, we take on a lot of new sensory input. In the latter, a lot that is buried in muscle and mental memory is allowed to emerge. All sensations, feelings and thoughts that come up have to be discharged or they will linger in the subconscious. ‘Let it be’ is how it continues to disturb us like a stone in the shoe.

There are many ways to discharge incidents and experiences that are effective. One is physical activity that allows the thoughts to run. You could go for a walk, a swim, a run. These visibly raise the heart rate and so you are forced to consciously bring yourself back to equilibrium. In an argument, your heart rate is also rising but you haven’t consciously equalised it afterwards. Practising winding down consciously aligns us with the varied experiences of our life.

Healing Space 34 How-to-wind-down (Illustration by Upnesh Rawal)
Gayatri Jayaraman Gayatri is a mind body spirit therapist and author of 'Sit Your Self Down', a novice’s journey to the heart of Vipassana, and 'Anitya', a guide to coping with change. [ @G_y_tri]
first published: Dec 25, 2021 07:08 pm
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