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