How to Properly Decompress From Festival Season

Article by: Jenna Sessions|@JtheSesh

Tue November 28, 2017 | 13:15 PM

Seasons change. Time marches on. And just like the changing of the leaves, we have to adjust our wardrobes, our thermostats and our mindsets. As the warmth of summer fades into the brisk of fall, there is a moment to take a deep breath, and ready ourselves for the next phase of life. And in the festival community, we don’t have to do this alone.

Especially for those who spent spring and summer days gallivanting through multiple festival experiences, the end of festival season can carry with it a certain melancholy. We begin to batten down the hatches for winter and realize that we have a long stretch ahead of us before we get to frolic again with our festival family. That can be a tough realization. But there is good news! We have chances to do so with grace and gratitude. We have a chance to support each other and slowly come to a stop.

Symbiosis Gathering 2016 Galen Oakes   61 Of 96

Photo by: Galen Oakes

Events to help ease this transition are called “Decompressions.” But what does that actually mean? One of the definitions of the word is “a gradual reduction of air pressure on a person who has been experiencing high pressure while diving, in order to prevent decompression sickness.” It’s not a stretch to apply this definition to our emotional well-being in addition to our physical. We dive deep into festival life. And if we take care of ourselves and each other, this time of year can be what makes just as transformative as our springs and summers are.

Lucidity 2016 Juliana Bernstein  0042

Festivals are magic. They are intense, can be full of joy, and offer us a special chance to be our best selves. Vendors come with their lovingly homegrown food or wares and work til the wee hours feeding our bodies with amazing culinary creations. People move through large crowds with care. I always notice that folks are quick to apologize for the accidental nudge while vying for space to groove. We bring incredible feats of imagination to life with art installations on which to be seen and climbed – it’s a chance to touch, and not just look. There is music, love, laughter and light. We bring what supplies we need and contribute what we can. It’s not perfect, but it’s an attempt at a better world – even if it’s just for a week or a weekend. Leaving the “default world” behind, we have the opportunity to dive wholeheartedly into a “festopia.” Perhaps without cell service, we tap into ourselves and each other just a little bit deeper. We invest in the present moment, and sink into our experiences with open arms. And it can be shocking to our systems to come back up for air. Like scuba divers, we need to be mindful of how we rise to the surface, and how we move from this dreamy world to the stark light of day. We need to decompress gently.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival 2016 Kristina Barevski   01

So how do we do it? The best way is: together. This is what Decompression events are for. Not necessarily to imitate or recreate the festival experience, but give us a chance to hug it out, and integrate our festival memories into our lives back home. Once we have had a chance to dust off our gear and put it back into storage, take long hot showers, and get back to work, we can take a few last moments before Autumn to reconnect. We can come together to retell stories, see those festie friends again, and bring the magic back, if only for a moment or two. We can take time to incorporate our lessons learned, friendships made and new music discovered into our lives. We can ease back into our daily grinds and errands with a bit more spring in our step, carrying our memories deep in our hearts. And we can come together and encourage one another to keep the torch of our shared experiences burning bright, until we meet again. Decompression is the pillow talk. It’s the last sip of semi-cold coffee. It’s the “see you later” in place of “goodbye.” It’s the exhale.

Oregon Country Fair 2015 Matte Hanna Hugs

Photo by: Matte Hanna

There is also a very real physical aspect of decompression. We ask a lot of our bodies during festival season. We stay up all night, dance 'til we drop, and do our best to hydrate. Our bodies are incredible organisms; they give everything they can and are there with us every step of the way. After all of that revelry, I relish a chance to simply rest, and to thank my body for hanging in there with me to see that sunrise set or high noon bike ride. We have a chance to stop and literally catch our breath. And as we take stock of bumps and bruises, we can nurture our own little selves with some TLC. Self care is crucial to self sustainability. And it’s a valuable opportunity to press pause, reflect, and reinvigorate.

Symbiosis 2015 Galen Oakes   1 Of 50

Photo by: Galen Oakes

Pressing pause isn’t always easy. In this fast-paced world of instant gratification and constant access, we can get food delivered 24 hours a day, can talk with a friend around the world from the palm of our hand, and can ask the internet almost anything. So it’s a bit shocking when we have to wait for anything! But nature will not be rushed. The flowers will not bloom faster because we want them to. The rain will not cease until the sky has emptied. And the seasons will always change. We dove deeply. And it’s time to bring our discoveries to light. It’s time to carefully rise to the next occasion. As we begin to move to the next step, let’s take advantage of the chance to look back on our warm days with love, take this moment to gently offer gratitude, and hug it out… until next time.