Sometimes it’s as if the world is stuck in fast-forward. We’re too busy, rushing, preoccupied, distracted, worn out, cramming more and more into shorter and shorter periods. In our society you can stop off for fast food before your speed date, and afterwards unwind doing speed yoga before going home to read your kids a one minute bedtime story! Sometimes, to quote Carrie Fisher, ‘Even instant gratification takes too long”.
We all would like to know how to slow down – but we want to know really quickly !
If you often feel too much like the Road Runner try a few of the ideas below . . . take your time, there’s no rush.
1 – Decide to Slow Down Today
Don’t leave it until you develop a stress related illness before you decide to slow down – insomnia, depression and a variety mental health issues, eating disorders, anxiety, susceptibility to colds and viruses, headaches, hypertension and heart disease are all strongly linked to stress. In Japan there is actually a word for death from overwork. Don’t wait until your relationship is at breaking point until you decide you need to spend more time with your partner and family.
2 – Ask Yourself Where You’re Going
Filling our days and weeks and years with constant activity might mean we never step back sufficiently and properly consider the direction of our lives. Don’t be one of these people who experiences sudden regret with the realisation they’ve chosen the wrong carrier, wrong home, wrong partner or even entirely the wrong life! Spend time remembering and rediscovering what makes you happy, and how you like to spend your time, and make an conscious effort to direct your future.
3 – See What’s Missing
Having looked at how we spend our days, what is it we’re not finding time for ? Family, friends, hobbies, exercise, sleep . . . perhaps you’re one of those lucky people whose life is pretty much perfect, but if not then try to work out what the missing ingredient is? It’s not all that easy though, to simply drop everything and ‘do what we love’, as many self-help manuals and life coaches would urge us. We still have to pay the bills and meet our responsibilities, but all of us can at least manage to squeeze a little more of what we love into our lives.
4 – Clear Out the Clutter
We can develop an automatic tendency to acquire junk and clutter in our lives: it’s there, it’s available, it’s seems like a good idea at the time, so we buy it. The same applies with our habits and relationships – we keep doing things out of routine, we maintain old commitments simply because we’ve never questioned them, we keep doing a certain thing a certain way because we’re too lazy to change. Question the value of how you spend your time.
5 – Limit the Noise
The most important place to slow down is inside our own minds. If we want more calm and focus, then it makes sense to limit our distractions. Reduce the number of valueless emails, messages and phone calls you get and limit TV viewing, time spent with social media and the internet. Obviously communication and knowing what’s going on in the world is important, but we now have never ending streams of information and we must learn to filter these effectively or we become overloaded. We all consume ever increasing amounts of information, fantastically more than our parents or grandparents did. We would do well to give ourselves some quiet time.
6 – Protect Your Time
‘Just say no’ – no doubt we’ve all heard this before, but it’s much harder to do than say. Block out time for yourself in your diary and resist the temptation to chip away at it. Cultivate the gently art of saying no to people’s requests a little more, being more selective about what you agree to.
7 – Be Realistic
If you find you’re always rushing to finish something because you’ve got to be getting on with the next thing, part of the problem is likely to be that you’ve underestimated how long each task will take you. We increasingly have a tendency to over-commit our time, driven by all sorts of pressures – perhaps if we simply doubled our estimate of how long completing certain things would take we’d feel under less stress, and might even find ourselves enjoying doing things a little more.
8 – Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your body – if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, then your body is sending a clear signal to you. Your involuntary parasympathetic nervous system is reacting to the mental stress you’re under by shifting your body into fight or flight mode. Heart rate and breathing increase, constriction of blood vessels, salivation, loss of peripheral vision, dilation of pupils and cessation of digestion. In more extreme cases nervous ticking, rapid breathing and shaking can occur, commonly referred to as panic attacks. Many of these symptoms are the result of the frustrated desire of our bodies to be doing something active in response to stress, and we can lessen these by simply standing up, stretching, deep breathing, going for a short walk or doing some exercise. Next time you feel under time pressure give it a go – you’ll feel better.
Photo by Wwarby via Flickr