A demanding day for me involves a lot of people or a lot of careful social navigation for one or two people, so what I do to wind down is what a friend calls “unpeopling.” I go away. Soft lights, soft blankets, water or hot tea depending on the ambient temperature, and quiet. Sometimes that’s losing myself in a low-impact app game, sometimes it’s a guided meditation, audiobook chapters, or a gentle podcast like 99% Invisible. I need to be away from people for a while to let the day go. How long sort of depends on the amount of “peopling” I had to do before I got home.
My commute was an excellent way to shake off stress, but I’m currently carpooling. While lovely and much better for the climate than extra single-occupant vehicles on the road, it comes with baked-in social navigation and it takes me a bit longer now to successfully let the workday go.
If I’m jittery but not socially exhausted, my go-to is to roast some vegetables. There’s something centering in the scraping and processing of carrots, potatoes, and onions with a good knife; plying spices and tossing them in olive oil with my hands. A sharp knife and an unwieldy parsnip requires focus, which can bring me down off the edge of panic. Plus, it’s an act of service. I’m making food for my family that we can eat now or later, and no matter what I do with it, it will taste good and make the kitchen warm and fragrant.
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