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Puttering therapy: A very human way to dissolve stress and worry

A friend of mine asked me recently if I had any good suggestions for how to clear bad coworker vibes.


He is in a position where he is exposed to a lot of stress from colleagues each day. It tires him out enough during work hours, but then the day’s events keep playing in his mind after closing.


He was having considerable trouble detaching from work events and restoring peace of mind.


I thought this might be a good question to share with the Bale.*


Most of us have unpleasant thoughts or worries that regularly hang on us - debris from the many stress storms we walk, drive, and tumble through over the course of a day. How can we easily brush that debris away and get back to a clear, peaceful mind again? A mind conducive to good relationships and health.


I wish I knew of an ancient meditation for you. Something passed down to me by sages. One secret mudra to rule them all!


But that’s not really our style. At Turtle Tree, we concern ourselves with the long-standing behaviors of garden-variety humans in their natural state, not so much with the abilities of masters.


For most of our history, regular humans walked, hunted, foraged, planted, harvested, cooked, socialized, ate, built, cleaned, fornicated, bore children, wrangled children, occasionally battled, and slept. We got up to things, much of them physical. That was our normal.


Normal wasn’t hours of intense, intellectual activity. And normal wasn’t then trying to reclaim the mind space by sitting upright, still, and focused on the breath.†

So my advice is this: When your mind is burdened with stress, worry, or bad juju from neighbors and colleagues, Get up to things.


Putter around with some household chore or hobby long enough for your mind and body to return to neutral.


The activity should involve (at least in some minor way) the physical body and (most importantly) have a difficulty level high enough that it occupies the mind.


Activities that involve organizing or sorting (like sorting laundry or tidying a closet) are great for this.


Art forms (playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, sculpting, calligraphy, dance) are a classic way to normalize.


Moderate-difficulty exercise can be good if you need more of it, in which case it comes with a slew of health benefits.


The activity shouldn’t be so difficult that it frustrates or tires you. But it needs to be difficult enough that it captures the mind and prevents it from monologuing.


A few more examples:


Gardening

Small home improvements

Cooking a new dish

Creative baking

Crocheting

Model building

Moderate-level house cleaning


If a task is too easy, you can always beef it up with some perfectionism. For instance, make your bed like they would do at the Four Seasons / Waldorf.


I hope this gives you something to stop thinking about.


Happy puttering,


Jonathan

 

* A bale is a group of Turtles, aka. our community ;)


† I like meditation for reasons medical, practical, spiritual, even (possibly) metaphysical 🤷‍♂️. I just don’t think static meditation is often the best way for us regular humans to start clearing away the demons at the end of the day.

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