Recent research on the non-stationary nature of the dynamics of complex systems is reviewed through three specific models. The long time dynamics consists of a slow, decelerating but spasmodic release of generalized intrinsic strain. These events are denoted quakes. Between the quakes weak fluctuations occur but no essential change in properties are induced. The accumulated effect of the quakes, however, is to induce a direct change in the probability density functions characterizing the system. We discuss how the log-Poisson statistics of record dynamics may be an effective description of the long time evolution and describe how an analysis of the times at which the quakes occur enables one to check the applicability of record dynamics.