A few simple techniques will help you to integrate the skills of slowing down into your life, setting the foundation for a healthier and happier 2017, says Occupational Therapist Angela Lockwood.
Exercise more, eat better, do more for the community, spend more time with your family, connect more with your friends, develop more skills for your work… AARGH, it’s all just too much!
Do you ever feel like if you add just one more thing to your full schedule that you will tip over the edge? If so, you’re not alone. Next time you ask someone how they are doing, listen to what they say – it will typically be one of the following; ‘fine’, ‘busy’, ‘life is crazy right now’ or the answer is delivered as an exhaustive breath, a drop of the shoulders an exaggerated roll of the eyes. If someone replies ‘I feel fantastic and life is going great guns’ we assume they are being sarcastic (and most likely they are)! These responses are not typical of one sector of the population: parents, executives and even our kids are feeling the effects of living life in the fast lane, and it needs to stop.
On the whole, the speed at which we are living our lives, the ever expanding list of priorities and the expectations we have on ourselves and others has tipped into a critical situation – and our health is paying the price. Rising rates of poor physical and mental health indicate that despite best efforts to be healthier, the way that many people are going about it is not working.
When we feel pulled in every direction, stepping off the treadmill to focus on our health and wellbeing can seem like an impossible dream, an indulgence even. To achieve more we do not have to keep pushing ourselves to do more; in fact we are capable of achieving more through doing less. ‘But how?’, I hear you ask. Great question!
How to flick the switch
Making change is hard if we look at the enormity of the situation. Trying to tackle our lives as a whole will seem overwhelming, so we either don’t start or we get exhausted trying. When we notice the warning signs of overwhelm, fatigue or sickness starting to creep in, it’s imperative we shift our priorities and focus on our health, our wellbeing and our schedules – and it isn’t as hard as you may think.
1. Just breathe
The simplest and most important action you can take to flick the switch is to… just breathe. It’s that easy. Behaviourally, when we are feeling under pressure we hold our breath, clench our jaw, round our shoulders, breathe high from our chest and deprive ourselves of oxygen – the very thing that sustains us! Paying attention to your breath reconnects you to your energy source while giving you the time to stop and notice what is happening within you. When you take the time to breathe (about four seconds for one breath) it lays the base for renewed energy, plus it costs nothing and you can do it anywhere!
2. Give yourself a break
When we feel overwhelmed we will do one of two things; we will keep pushing through, hoping that it will all go away, or we will look for solutions that usually add to our schedule, further escalating our overwhelm. After taking a breath rather than racing on, take a moment to just stop. Shut the door for 10 minutes, turn your phone on silent, let the kids eat cereal for dinner. Life will continue to pressure you if you let it. Turn the pressure off, give yourself a break and your body will thank you for it.
3. Slow down more often
Breath done, break done. Now it’s time to do both more often. When we can focus on our breathing and take breaks when we need to, we shift from these happening as a reactive measure into them being a part of our day, helping us to cope with and manage the effects of living a full and fast life.
Slow living is not about escaping from the realities of life and going to live in the mountains. Being able to integrate the skills of slow living into our modern-day fast-paced world allows us to take control of our lives no matter how fast or full it is, and all it takes to start is one single breath.