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Have Faith That Slowing Down Will Be Good for You

Smell the Roses

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” ~Henry David Thoreau

Four years ago, I couldn't relax to save my life. The ability to slow down completely eluded me. I could start a company, train a pit bull, or hike 12 miles, but I sucked at taking a day off.

Looking back, I now know that I was terrified. I was certain that if I slowed down I would never get going again. “My ‘to do' list will fall apart! My friends and clients will be angry with me! My life will come crashing down around me!” screamed my brain as I imagined every catastrophe possible.

These fears kept me running at 100% all the time—until I crashed. My life ran in “full-speed then crash” cycles. My brain and body would just shut down because I wasn't taking care of myself.

I had to learn to slow down. I began to occasionally take a little time off here and there, and to my surprise my “relaxing” time was miserable. During this new downtime, I would be flooded with powerful emotions that my busy schedule kept away.

The quiet time allowed the things I was running from to catch up with me. At the same time, the things I was running toward seemed like they slipped further from me. Slowing down was terrible!

Except that it was necessary. I built an on-off switch into my life that I could control, and bit by bit, I began to enjoy my life more. Emotions would come and I had time to listen.

Some days slowing down meant having 12 hours of work and activities instead of 14. Sometimes it meant numbing out with television when my brain and body needed to rest. I began to realize that no one was asking me to slow down drastically, just a little at a time.

I'll be honest. Slowing down was difficult. It felt like I was making myself painfully vulnerable when the opposite was true: slowing down allowed me to care for myself so I could become stronger and more resilient.

Faith was the element I needed to grow: faith that if I took time to slow down and care for myself I would be better equipped to reach the future I wanted. Faith in the process gave me the courage I needed to connect with myself.

I began to gain faith in myself and faith in the people around me. None of the catastrophes came true. Each time, I stretched myself a tiny bit more and gained a bit more flexibility, comfort, and gentleness.

I still have lots of room to grow. Instead of an on-off switch, my therapist and I joke that it's time to install a dimmer switch in my head. The days of 100% “Go! Go! Go!” are being replaced by 90% days and 80% days.

There's more peace and joy in my life now and less fear. Mindfulness and self-compassion are a regular part of my week. Slowing down is working for me.

Here are 9 questions to figure out if slowing down would be good for you:

1.  What is it costing me when I stay busy? Am I missing out on the things I value?

2.  Is my body sending me signals that I'm doing too much?

3.  Do I ever get up in the morning and dread the day to come? How often?

4.  How many activities in my week fill me up? How many drain me?

5.  Why do I stay busy? Are those reasons meaningful to me?

6.  What is the worst thing that could happen if I slowed down by 10%? Imagine the worst possible scenario. Now think about what is the worst thing that is likely to happen. What is it?

7.  What would I gain by slowing down 10%?

8.  Who do you compare yourself to? Are you making life choices based on what those people will think, or on what will actually make you happy?

9.  What would slowing down look like? Who could help me with this? What tasks can I delegate?

For the best effect, answer these questions in writing or out loud to a friend so that you practice slowing your thoughts down as well and achieve more clarity.

Life is short, but it is also long. Slowing down is possible. I have faith in you.

Photo by premus

About Juli Woodward

Juli Woodward is a health coach and nutritional chef.  Her website and blog can be found at www.MoreHappinessLessStress.com  …which pretty much sums up her mission in life.  She has been cooking since she was 2-years-old and began studying the link between food and mental wellness in 2001.  Her focus is helping women reduce stress and anxiety while adding joy to their lives.

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  • Dochy

    I can so totally relate to what you mean by “relaxing time being miserable”. I used to be like that a few years back, when I HAD to be crazy busy for whatever internal demons I was avoiding! But once I started making small changes to my life, which in effect, helped me face the demons, I could rest in peace, literally 🙂 Having been there in both sides, I know how important this realization is and also how difficult it must’ve been for you! Keep up the AWESOME work Juli! 🙂 Each restful day is surely bound to be even better than the previous one! 🙂

  • This is wonderful!

  • Akemi Gaines

    I LOVE the first quotation! And I agree, slowing down is difficult. It may be one of the most difficult things because our ego just loves being busy. The cost of this busy-ness? Enlightenment.

  • I agree that faith is important in the context of slowing down.
    However faith is difficult to understand for the overworked and burnt out entrepreneur who is no longer in touch with their feelings. So, let examine your question # 2. Is my body sending me signals that I’m doing too much?

    It is very difficult to understand, I would add this for clarification.

    Most people are not aware of the signals their bodies are sending them. Here are two examples: I was talking to Harry and he told me that he and his wife were
    fooling around and she discovered a lump on the back of his right shoulder.
    He said he was not aware of this until it was brought to his attention. Obviously, the
    lump did not grow overnight; it was a gradual process while his body was
    telling him to slow down.

    Secondly as an entrepreneur, your body may feel tired, so you book a holiday and go away for a week and come back needing a holiday to recuperate from your holiday. Because you had no faith or understanding that you could stop and take a break right NOW where you are.

    Peace,

    Cecil.

  • I’m really being reminded to SLOOOOOW down today – so I’ll take the advice!

  • Thank you all for your comments!

    Cecil, I absolutely relate to your example about needing a holiday after your holiday. I think a lot of people assume that they’ll relax when they take their next trip, not realizing that

    a) They can relax and slow down here and now
    and
    b) If you aren’t very good at slowing down, you probably won’t be good at it on a holiday either!

  • I’m glad you could relate. No one ever talks about how much relaxing
    can feel terrible, but I think a lot of people experience that at one
    time or another.

    There are definitely times when staying busy is a valid coping mechanism that helps us get through something rough. The trick is to be attuned to your needs to you can find harmony between pushing through hard things when it’s necessary and having slower, calmer times when you need them.

  • This is an awesome post!

    I loved the first question you put out there: “What is it costing me when I stay busy? Am I missing out on the things I value?”

    I have a strong tendency to “go!” “go!” “go!”. I know this is a weakness of mine. I get so zoned in on trying to achieve things, that I’ll forget the greater purpose behind my actions. Then I miss out on the beauty that surrounds me.

    I love this question because it forces me to acknowledge what I am missing by going too fast.

  • Joshua Tilghman

    It’s true. Staying so busy all the time is one of the easiest ways to outrun our problems. But at some point we slow down and they catch back up. It’s a vicious cycle, because we often take back off running as soon as we catch our breath again. And that isn’t conscious living. Looking back, it was just as bad as not living at all.

    Isn’t the point to life to become more conscious, to grow? We must slow down in order to reflect on the meaning of our lives.

  • Totally true, I used to feel bad for not wanting to work or exercise, I blamed myself, felt like I wasn’t capable of achieving my tons of goals, then all of the sudden a friend of mine died and it helped me to open my eyes. Now days I simply strive to do whatever I feel I wanna do at any time, no regrets, no complains no blaming anyone and always forgiving myself.