Slowing down isn’t that easy.
Sometimes, I flail in a whirlwind of obligations. I prune my priorities and take breaks. Yet the familiar feeling of urgency creeps up.
This invisible force shoos me out of bed before I’ve yawned 2 times. It bosses me around to get things done. My nerves barely have time to relax during breaks.
Before I know it, the day comes to a close. Sigh…
Recently, I had a cold that stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t been sick for a year or two and resembled a sloth.
It made me ponder the need to rush that’s so inherent to our society. Why do we keep hustling when our bodies beg for rest?
Why do we feel worthless if we’re unproductive?
More is never enough
“Busyness is a byproduct of our culture. It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to over schedule, over inform, overprovide.” —Erin Loechner
In Chasing Slow, author Erin Loechner invites us to acknowledge the vanity of seeking more.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t aim to improve our lives. But it’s wise to be deliberate about how we spend our limited time and energy.
Because it’s tempting to believe, If I could just be/do/have xyz, I’d be happy. What’s more, this scarcity mindset shows up in surprising ways, like when we:
- rush through the day
- check work email in bed
- feel unworthy of downtime
- try to perfect ourselves
- compare ourselves to others
- don’t speak up
- avoid trying new things
We may feel validated when we amass stuff or people-please, but never for long. It’s a depressing vicious cycle.
Instead, accept that we’ll never be “good enough”. Consider how painful it is to measure your worth. Then, forfeit the game.
We can then anchor ourselves to a higher purpose. Seek to nourish more joy, peace and love in everything that we do.
And take one intentional breath after another.
Who’s underneath the obligations?
Funny, what illness can teach you…
I had been resisting a 102-degree fever, checking emails at my desk.
But the words on the screen made little sense. My fingers floated above the keyboard. All I could focus on was the raging pulse in my head.
As I forced myself to get to bed, I remembered this quote:
“We cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright, we become deserters. They march to battle. We float with the sticks on the stream, helter-skelter with the dead leaves on the lawn, irresponsible and disinterested and able, perhaps for the first time in years, to look round, to look up—to look, for example, at the sky.” —Virginia Woolf
Slowing down is hard because we must confront painful feelings. Like guilt, fear, shame and powerlessness—emotions that get masked by our usual frenetic pace.
My body lets me know whenever I work too much. Nowadays, I’m better at listening to its signs, like glazed-over eyes and tight shoulders. But it hasn’t been easy learning how to check in with myself.
When I’m sick, I clearly see how much I’ve identified with the outer world. We all juggle different roles like mother, partner and employee. But we’re much more than our social construct.
If we get too immersed in our obligations, we may forget to look up at the sky—and to honor our whole self.
Simplify as much as possible
Slowing down gives us space to breathe and assess what really matters.
Minimalism also advises us to refuse what’s unessential to embrace what’s essential.
When I get caught up in the energy of busyness, I try to remind myself that it’s a choice. No one forces me to keep 15 tabs open on my browser. To clean the whole house before guests visit. Or to devour a dozen self-help books.
So, I empathize with my inner child. I listen to its worries about missing out, disappointing others and being judged.
Though slowing down means going against the grain, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m a failure.
Our society glorifies busyness, but we don’t have to. Here are some tips to create more breathing room in your life:
- Notice when you tie busyness to feeling worthy
- Pinpoint what’s important and say “no” to the rest
- Focus on one task at a time
- Try a grounding technique every hour
- Turn off email notifications
- Schedule non-negotiable breaks
There is more to life than simply increasing its speed. ―Mahatma Gandhi
Slowing down is a practice
Once I recovered from my cold, I rolled up my sleeves to get back to work.
Though I took care to do only a few tasks, I could feel the sense of urgency tiptoeing around my desk. It hovered over my shoulders, grumbling about my sluggish pace.
Then, I took a deep breath.
My eyes wandered towards the window. Above the street lamps, fuchsia-orange clouds were dispersing by the minute.
About the author
Annie Moussu is a mindfulness-based life coach who helps women let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.