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Coping with the Post-Burning Man Blues

Photo by: Art Gimbel
by Rusty Blazenhoff | @Blazenhoff Tue September 02, 2014 | 12:00 AM

OK, so you're back from TTITD.

Feeling out of touch and melancholy when you return to your "normal" life after a vacation is called "reverse culture shock" and, to be blunt, it can suck. Let's face it, Burning Man is no ordinary vacation. The downsides of returning are going to be more extreme than, say, a trip to Yosemite.

If you're smart, you've already taken a long, hot shower to shed that playa funk off your body; ordered some take-out; slipped on some clean jammies; and caught some Zs on a real bed. If you're really smart, you got a jumpstart on your real world re-entry by doing all of these things at a hotel in Reno (consider this a pro-tip for next year).

But what about your emotional state? How are you going to start feeling better mentally?

If you're feeling emotionally hungover from Burning Man, there's good news. There are ways to manage your PPD (Post-Playa Depression) to feel less MOOP-y:

Take care of yourself. 

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That uplifting, soul-cleansing wallop of a week comes with a steep price on your psyche. Radical self-care is in order. You've just been frolicking in a seriously harsh environment; you have full permission to take care of numero uno.

If you can afford to take some (more) time off, go ahead and give yourself a buffer before heading back to your day job. This is the perfect time to sleep in, cuddle up, hydrate like crazy, eat your veggies, and (if you've got the energy) exercise. It should be no surprise that by nourishing your body, you are nourishing your mind.

By the way, this is not the time to further deplete your body's resources by continuing the party. Put down the booze and suck down some 5-htp and B vitamins.

Don't listen to the haters but, also, don't be a dick. 

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Whether it's your first burn or your fifteenth, it can be a real drag to step back into the daily grind. You might be feeling extra sensitive, emotionally raw, and out of sorts. You might take things too personally.

It's normal, but be aware that not everyone is going to be excited to hear about your awesome experience.

Plain and simple: if you haven't gone to Burning Man, you haven't gone to Burning Man. Your coworkers aren't going to want to hear you babble on and on about how your "mind has been blown." It's unlikely your boss will want free hugs. Even your mom's eyes might glaze over in a fit of information overload as you describe every excruciating detail of your transformative adventure. If you sense you're boring someone, you probably are. Get over it.

Don't fret. It won't be hard to find other Burners to share your experiences with, as A LOT of people have gone to Burning Man at this point. Find your urban tribe and commiserate with people who understand.

Go with your Burner friends to one of the many Decompression parties. This is the obvious outlet, of course, but they exist for a reason. People need to decompress.

Other ideas: Plan your own reunion. Friend your new playa friends on Facebook. Join a regional list. Connect with your people. Write about your experience.

But definitely, in the wise words of Ice Cube, "Check yo'self before you wreck yo'self."

Save the major life decisions for later. Seriously.

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Think the first few weeks after you return from the playa is a good time to quit your job, sell all your belongings, become a Buddhist monk, run away with the circus, split with your sweetie, and/or all of the above?

Think again, little Burner, think again. 

It's OK to feel out of sorts. The cosmic box of infinite possibilities has been blown wide open and it's hard to go back to your now-nearly-foreign everyday systems after being liberated.

Heck, it's even OK to cry. Just don't burn any bridges while you're fresh off the super-happy-fun-time experience. You'll have plenty of time to make big changes in the future, when you're adjusted back into your reality.

Remember: This too shall pass.

Become a participant in your own life and bring home the experience year round. 

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Go see art. Better yet, create art. Snuggle a friend's new baby. Take a friend to dinner. Travel to someplace new. Get out of your comfort zone. Volunteer. Involve yourself in activities that bring meaning to you. Pay it forward. Touch, feel, rinse, repeat.

Make more time for tech-free moments. If you did it right out there, you embraced the opportunity to truly unplug and play. There's no reason why you can't do that at home too.

Make things. Make things happen. Enjoy seeing your everyday culture from a fresh perspective. This new lens you've been gifted will help you spot life's beautifully serendipitous moments. Your renewed sense of wonder will help you shed the mundane and embrace the awesome.

Revel in being able to step out of the status quo, even temporarily. It's not often we can break out of our bubble and spend time pondering the bigger picture. Spend the time. Life is about being good to each other, being happy, and being "all in" for the short time we have on this planet. We only get one spin 'round, you might as well make it a doozy. Go big.

Eamon Armstrong, Fest300's Social Media Manager and a seasoned Burner, shares these wise words on how to integrate the lessons of Burning Man in the default world:

"Be gentle with yourself and others because re-entry can suck. One minute you're sure that you will never be afraid of anything ever again and the next minute you're overwhelmed by the same challenges you were working on before you left. Burning Man can absolutely be transformational but in my experience, it's about applying lessons to the default world rather than experiencing an immediate euphoric, or cathartic change. So there's a let down, not just because you've left that magical world but because you didn't bring enough magic back with you. But you find over the weeks that when you express yourself more, say yes more, and give more freely, that you look back and see that you were, in fact, transformed."

Definitely say YES more.

Tap into the magic. 

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Go grab a pen and a piece of paper. Yes, a real pen and a real piece of paper. Jot down all the experiences you had out at the desert that made you FEEL something. Don't think about it too hard. Just do it. What made you laugh, cry, sad, or surprised? Got it? Good. Put that note in a safe spot.

Refer to it from time to time. When you do, go ahead and pinch yourself as well, because it really did happen. No one can take that away from you.

Congratulations! The magic that is Burning Man is yours to keep.

Accept the gifts you have been given out there, put them to good use, and in time you will feel more even-keeled in your everyday life.

(Also: It's never too early to start planning your next Burn.)

P.S. If you're really feeling depressed and following these tips aren't enough to get you out of your funk, please seek professional help. OK?

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