Slow the Heck Down!

For most of my life, I thought that you needed to constantly work long and hard in order to be successful and worthy of living a good life. I thought that taking breaks and slowing down were signs of weakness or laziness. As a result, I was constantly working towards some goal bigger than the last, rushing to check off as many to-dos as possible, and feeling guilty for taking time to slow down. And to be honest, I still do this. I think many of us do. We work tirelessly all week and convince ourselves that “I’ll slow down once I get to the weekend” or “I’ll slow down once this project is finished.” But do we actually? And If we do, are we actually able to enjoy that downtime, or are we preoccupied with the idea that there is something we could be working on? 

This thought process has led myself and many others to get incredibly burnt out, and when you’re burnt out, your work isn’t your best, you live in an anxious or stressed state for most of your days, and you have a harder time enjoying life. None of this is helpful in any way. So what is an alternative option? Slow down! Be mindful and take the time to both listen to and address what your mind and body need. Your mental health will improve, and you will find every day more enjoyable while being able to do better quality work. It can be difficult to grasp what it looks like to make slowing down and being mindful a part of your daily life, so here are some concrete steps to get you started. 

  1. Practice mindfulness through grounding techniques. One of the easiest ways to become more present is to connect with the breath and the body. You can do this through meditation (or simply taking a few minutes to focus on breathing slowly and deeply), yoga, exercise, or focusing on your senses (5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste). 

  2. Focus on gratitude. My favorite way to bring gratitude to the center of my life is journaling. Every morning I write a list of the things I feel genuinely grateful for. You could also practice gratitude meditation, or just take a few moments each day to think about what you are grateful to have in your life right now. If you feel content with the life you have now, it is easier to let go of tirelessly working towards something else. 

  3. Identify your values. Part of slowing down means decreasing the amount of work on your plate. Identifying your core values can help you better decide how to spend your time and determine what is worthy of being on your to-do list. This worksheet was incredibly helpful in helping me realize what is truly important to me. 

  4. Say no. Take a look at your to-do list or how you have spent your time the past week. Does it align with your core values? If not, maybe it's time to start questioning whether certain activities or tasks are as important as you thought they were. Although there are certainly some things that we need to do whether or not they directly correlate to our values (keeping your living space clean and sanitary for example), you can say no to more things than you might initially think. 

Don’t let life pass you by in a blur of work and stress. Slow down and enjoy it as best you can. And remember, taking care of yourself isn’t the reward for working hard, it’s what you need in order to do hard work!