Uppers & Downers

Posted on Mar 30, 2018 in Self-Help

Do you ever have the irrational urge to run away?

When we are uncomfortable – we seek to escape our present reality. Maybe there is boredom or sadness, maybe there is loneliness or fear, and then there is an impulse to “run away” to alcohol, to cigarettes, to weed, to food etc.


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There may also be an impulse to “run toward”. This is an idea that can present as harmless, however some versions of “running toward” are really just a disguised form of running away. For instance, we may avoid facing discomfort by overworking or by going to the aid of another. On the surface these are virtuous acts, digging deeper however, we can see that these may actually be ways in which we distract ourselves.


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Generally running away has a negative connotation. We judge one who runs away as avoiding responsibility, quitting on a team, letting others down, not working until completion or squandering their potential.

However, before settling on such an evaluation, what if we first examine the desire behind this urge? What would it be like to trust in the wisdom of ourselves? Maybe, the impulse is not entirely about running away. Maybe it’s just about running – A cue to be taken both literally and metaphorically. Perhaps stagnation, tightness or dullness dominates current life and so there is a need for some movement!

Maybe it’s not a call to run, per se – Perhaps, for you it’s a call to dance or paint, do yoga or swim, strum the banjo or belt out a verse. The question is, WHAT IS YOUR PLAY?

When you feel that itch, that itch to escapeuse this as a prompt to take a PLAY BREAK. We can get so in our heads and serious can’t we? We trap ourselves in a cell of routine, and suppress our unconscious yearnings to venture beyond these walls. This is what we want to get “away” from.



Think of the desire to run, not as an evil arm of addiction tapping your shoulder – endeavoring to seduce you with cigarettes or spirits or snacks. Think of the desire rather, as a friendly knock on your door. It’s your buddy wanting to know if you’re home and can come out to play!

Understandably having a Play Break can’t always mean hopping on your bike and cruising around the park. We have responsibilities: places to be and people to care for. It doesn’t mean though that we can’t sprinkle in small does of fun throughout the day. Texting with a friend counts; reading internet comics counts; sharing jokes with an elevator companion counts; favorite tunes on, earbuds in, and joyously walking to work counts!

And then in your free time, TAKE YOUR PLAY SERIOUSLY.

Play has a unique way of nourishing the mind, body & spirit that will only serve to enhance all other aspects of your life.

What would your life be like if you were more free, relaxed, alive, authentic, positive and open?


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Play is really about no destination travel.
It is about relaxing enough to become a conduit for creativity.
It is about dropping any unnecessary inhabitations in order to drop into the joyous flow of life.

At it’s core, play is the opposite of running away – it is the ultimate participation. It is to be more fully engaged with your authentic, goofy, vibrant, free self.

If this is what play facilitates, we’d be
missing out on reaching our full potential if we didn’t make it more of a priority.


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Next time you mentally reach for cigarettes, beer, food, drugs etc. in an effort to escape, consider that perhaps you aren’t being called to RUN AWAY, but rather, to PLAY!

Can you come up with three ideas of how you might access play at a moment’s notice? Keep these in your back pocket 🙂




4. Turning on a comedy podcast.

5. Carrying around a yo yo, hackie sac or frisbee.

6. Calling that one friend that arouses your goofy side.

7. Keeping a basketball in your trunk in case you drive by a court.

8. Doodling or writing in your notebook.

9. Carrying with you your favorite instrument.

10. Putting on a fun outfit.

11. Taking photos.


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Perhaps what resonates more deeply is the sentiment, “I want to hide.”

“I want to burrow down, layer up, cocoon in, and turn the world off.”

Whether it’s work stress or relationship troubles or simply the stimulation of our modern lives, this desire is a relatable one.

We become overwhelmed, consciously or subconsciously, and so, seek refuge. We numb out with drugs, alcohol and food; we hide behind gossip and the dramatization of our own lives; we find all sorts of creative ways to place barriers between us and our stimuli. 

If the “I want to hide,” desire ever arises in you, know that this is normal and it’s okay. This too is a whisper of inner wisdom. This is your cue to rest.

We are juggling constantly – and not the fun kind. Our 9-5, our marriage, our workout routine, taking our dog to the vet… This life is a full-time job, not to mention, one that we are just having to learn along the way!

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Atop the stresses that come with managing our relationships and our schedules, lay the stresses of our external environment. Now-a-days we not only have to defend against horrific weather patterns like a -10 degree winter day, but we have toxins in our food & skin-care products; we have air pollution, sound pollution, light pollution, and media pollution. The news blares, and the advertisements tease. We are being chilled, gassed, pulled, scared, judged, pushed and prodded on a daily basis. This is nothing short of an abusive relationship, and one we have to take time to recover from.


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In this internet era, we have more at our finger tips than ever before! There are endless ways technology is working to make our lives easier. There are also – endless emails to respond to; 52 unread blogs, “saved for later” in your Bookmarks folder; half a dozen social media platforms to engage with; discount codes to use for all your favorite online shops; a set of 12 enticing thumbnails on your YouTube home page… We have created a portal to a world of infinite content and communication, and in doing so, saddled ourselves with the impossible task of keeping up with it all.

We know we are exhausted, we feel it. And yet to grant ourselves the permission to rest, is still a challenge. The tantalizing nature of our technology has us stuck. The twenty-first century obligation to constantly be productive has us stuck.

When we peel ourselves away however, when we force ourselves through the discomfort of FOMO — the voice that says “I should be doing more with this time” — we give ourselves a gift. Irreplaceable and invaluable, rest is what allows us to integrate our experiences – to put their lessons to use, and to prepare for the ones to come. Rest is what allows us to assimilate our food – to put it’s nutrients to use, and to prepare for the ones to come. Rest is what allows us to grow ourselves.


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Ultimately this process gifts us the ability to become more in-tune with ourselves and simultaneously, more available for others.




Can you come up with three ideas of how you might find rest in a day?
Keep these in your back pocket.




4. Turning your phone off an hour before bed so you aren’t lured down a black hole of internet.

5. Setting on your favorite relaxing music channel when you come home from work.

6. Starting a slow & simple project like Paint by Numbers, puzzle making or knitting.

7. Running a bath.

8. Dimming the lights; using candles; downloading the Flux app (to turn down your device’s harsh blue light).

9. Giving your digestion a break by opting for a smoothie instead of bacon & eggs.

10. Self-massage. (Use rolling a tennis ball under one foot as some easy reflexology!)

11. Any form of grooming that feels relaxing – brushing your hair, doing a face mask, putting on make-up etc.

12. Stretching.

13. Journalling.

14. Three minutes (minimum) of meditation and/or deep breathing.

15. Immersing yourself in any form of comfort – a bed full of pillows, loving words from a partner, sweet memories, visualizations, positive self-talk, ASMR videos, hugs from friends, gentle tunes, aroma therapy through incense or essential oils, crystals, weighted blankets etc.
Scroll through some inspiring art, hold a teddy, nurse a hot water bottle, lie by a fireplace, go through old photos, pull angel cards, block any or all harsh light (with curtains, an eye mask, or a light dimmer), cuddle a pet, read a book or listen to an audio book, almost anything involving NATURE.


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Rest deficiency and play deficiency are epidemics. Evidence of this – the amount of alcohol, unhealthy food, cigarettes, coffee, pharmaceuticals, and street drugs that are consumed each and every day.

Within any one of these we are either searching for an upper or a downer.
We are looking for stimulation or comfort.

Why is this valuable to know?

It’s empowering. It’s empowering to know both the questions to ask and the answers to respond with when we are met with discomfort. When we feel the pull to run or to hide — when we feel uneasy and are reaching for something that does not support our health — we can ask ourselves:

“Am I looking for stimulation or comfort right now?”

Even if we don’t immediately use our Back Pocket Play & Rest Strategies, know that, to employ the simple act of self-inquiry is to move in the direction of self-care.

We forget that there are options other than our commonplace vices of drugs, food, and boos. We do know however that these produce more toxins and conjure more stress in the long run then they could ever remedy in the short. So, though they are easy and to some extent effective, they are not sustainable.



With the right perspective however, we can use our interactions with these substances as teachers. There is undoubtedly a physiological way our body responds to them that grants us with the stimulation or comfort we are seeking. Beer may make us feel more energized and jovial at a party or it may relax our muscles and pleasantly fog our brain after a long day. Though the physical element cannot be denied, it would be negligent not to acknowledge the mental component at play. Mentally, these substances help us give ourselves the permission to behave as we truly desire. A smoke break gives us an excuse to go for a walk outside and take pause from work, a toke on weed gives us the clearance to share that goofy thought, a big dinner gives us a reason to sit down and relax at the table, a shot justifies our crazy moves on the dance floor. We use these because we’ve lost touch with a particular truth and allowed it to slip so far that it now exists in the realm of secrecy. To recover this secret is to remember that within ourselves we forever have access this power of permission.

Reminding ourselves of the value of play and rest is one key to make connecting with this power more of a realistic possibility.

Our handy list of Back Pocket Play & Rest Strategies then introduces us to an array of available tools that we can use retrain our actions into ones more supportive of our wellness.


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A. In Action

*Hand reaches for a bag of Cheetos (at a time when physical hunger isn’t present).

Notice this impulse. Refrain from judgement. Proceed to inquiry.
“Am I seeking stimulation or comfort?”

Either answer is very much okay.
“Right now I am seeking stimulation.”

Remind yourself that it is human to feel bored and curious and therefore be seeking stimulation. All of these impulses are, at their core, your internal guidance at work. These are intelligent messages alerting you of an untapped potential, directing you toward a richer experience. Thank yourself for the message.
“Mhm. Thank you.” 

Look to your list of Back pocket Play Strategies and find one to suit the moment.


B. In Action

*Hand reaches for a bag of Cheetos (at a time when physical hunger isn’t present).

Notice this impulse. Refrain from judgement. Proceed to inquiry.
“Am I seeking stimulation or comfort?”

Either answer is very much okay.
“Right now I am seeking comfort.”

Remind yourself that it is human to feel vulnerable and tender and thus be seeking comfort. This is an innocent endeavor. Comfort allows us to feel safe, therefore it is vital to our ability to process our experiences and heal from trauma. Thank yourself for the effort to move towards personal care.
“Mhm. Thank you.”

Look to your list of Back Pocket Rest Strategies and find one to suit the moment.


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Changing a habit is a challenge, one that is seldom accomplished in a single day. Perhaps on the first several attempts you are only able to get through step #1: Inquiry. You establish “Yup, I want comfort” and then you reach for the Cheeto bag anyway. THIS IS OKAY.

It is still powerful that you were able to pause.
It is still powerful that you were able to recognize what was going on for yourself.
And in keeping your back pocket full, it is powerful to know you have options.

In this initial phase it may seem as though there are no results, trust though that brain retraining is underway and continue to develop your list of go-to tools. Keep in mind, the difference between them and unhealthy vices:

– Vices do help us manage, they help us “get through”, but they do not restore, in fact they deplete.

– Our back pocket strategies however, not only help us in the moment, but are restorative.

As we observe ourselves we will see what we time and time again are lacking (comfort/stimulation). If we use this inventory and note trends, we can apply our knowledge in preventative action. We can learn to support ourselves by scheduling in fun or restful activities to balance out the upcoming week. Or, we can book a vacation near a time when we anticipate life will become stressful. We can act before it’s too late and we are in the grips of anxiety, for in this state, we become less discerning with our choices and will likely seek out our easy and unhealthy vices. Use the aforementioned data to support your future-self. By acting in advance, outside of that grip-state, we are practicing making deliberate choices. This is an empowering place to be.

Here, we are working to develop habits that will in the future, operate with less effort, and that will continue their momentum in the direction of preventative action. We are also working on awareness. 

To be in observance and inquiry of one’s own life is a practice that will only serve. Notice whatever your patterns of escapism are and allow them to inspire investigation – Is there room for this existence to be more satisfying, nurturing and enlivening? How can I craft a more fulfilling life (one that I don’t want to continually withdraw from)?

The goal is to lessen the amount that we push ourselves to a state of “I WANT TO RUN AWAY!” Or “I WANT TO HIDE!”, by installing systems of natural uppers and downers to mitigate the dramas and stressors of life. The goal is to hold awareness long enough to get to know ourselves so that we may learn how to create lives we actually want to live. The goal is to maintain engagement in our existence so that we feel the fullness of our experience. 

To be engaged rather than withdrawn is to step out from the stale indoors to be kissed by the sun and caressed by the breeze. It is to pause an iTunes playlist and remove headphones to stand front row at a live musical performance. It is to set aside a box of bland crackers to take a bite of a fresh, juicy peach. To be engaged rather than withdrawn is to switch the channel from grainy black & white to view IMAX in HD color.


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