I used to see the feeling of being exhausted, of impulsiveness, of always having the need to be doing further, as an inherent part of my personality. It was something I almost thought he should be proud of. It was as if the pace was so fast that he couldn’t slow down the snowball.
However, over time, I began to see signs that I could no longer keep up with this pace. Feelings of depression, low self-esteem, and hopelessness were so ingrained that I had no idea that they were, in many ways, related to this trait that I thought was good for me.
Over the course of the past two years, having to do less due to the pandemic has forced me to slow down. Now that I’ve adjusted to that pace, both through personal changes and with the help of therapy, the goal for me is not to speed up, not to get stuck in that cycle again. First of all, I’ve learned that I can’t help other people if I can’t take care of myself and put my values first.
Barriers to slow down
It can feel unnatural. I think one of the big barriers is that slowing down doesn’t always feel right. Slow is really hard to do in practice if you are someone who is conditioned otherwise.
It can feel overwhelming. I don’t want to discount that slowing down is traumatizing for some people. If a slower pace is something you avoid because it brings up feelings or memories that are hard to sit with, consider consulting with a trusted therapist.
It may not always be possible. A slower pace will probably not be possible in all times for any of us. Life is not linear, and sometimes there will be circumstances that require excessive amounts of our energy and time. Practice a slower pace when is possible is still worth the effort, which I’ll address below.
Surprising benefits of slowing down
1. I do more things now.
Now that I’ve gotten used to a slower pace, I have more space and energy to tackle the most important things and leave the rest behind. I also have the belief that I will actually know how to accomplish what needs to be done, instead of obsessing over a specific task or process.
2. I can differentiate between what is really a critical priority and what is not.
Looking back, when I was constantly moving so fast, I was at the whim of my impulses, often tackling what seemed appealing at the time instead of focusing on top-priority tasks. When I slow down instead of rushing, it’s much easier to respect the difference.
3. I have more confidence in myself.
The more I allow myself to pause before acting, the more I think my self-confidence increases. It feels like I’m consciously choosing me instead of the people-pleasing side of myself or seeking external validation instead of connecting with myself and my needs. It’s much easier for me to say what I need and much easier to say “no.”
4. There is less chaos around me.
There’s a saying, “Slow down to go faster,” that never fully resonated until recently, when the option not to do something loomed as much on my mind as the option to do something. I have learned that all doing it tends to create more mess and requires more time for cleaning, both physical and emotional. Slowing down means acting with more intention and less impulse, and leaving less clutter in my wake.
5. I feel better.
This benefit is the simplest of all, but possibly the most significant. While some people are used to this slower, more intentional way of living, it never felt natural to me until recently. It feels like putting on a new pair of glasses. it’s sustainable Doing less and slowing down has made me feel better, plain and simple.
It feels like putting on a new pair of glasses. it’s sustainable Doing less and slowing down has made me feel better, plain and simple.
Tangible ways you can slow down your life
1. Intentionally take time to pause.
Start by asking yourself what is in fact you need to do You don’t have to do *everything.* You don’t have to feel exhausted all the time. You don’t have to live a life where everything feels the same level of urgency. Anytime you feel like you have to do something immediately, is often a red flag. There are very few things in life that require a rush.
In my own life, the more I stop and ask myself what I need to do before I act, the better the end result I see. I like to think of it as finding my rest. These intentional pauses before acting help me reserve my energy reserves for later so that I can do the things I want to do later in the day or week without feeling drained or overwhelmed in a frenzy cycle.
2. Connect with your needs.
This way of living doesn’t have to be complicated (and, in fact, it shouldn’t be). A simple way to practice slowing down is to ask yourself what little thing you need in that moment and act on it when possible, whether it’s a deep breath, a glass of water, a change of scenery, a shower, or a walk. Whatever it is, these quick resets often give your brain the space to move with more intention and focus throughout the day.
3. Set blocks of time for yourself.
When possible, scheduling blocks of time when I’m not available to others, whether it’s for a walk or doing concentrated work, is very helpful. If you like to please people, this may sound very difficult. But choosing yourself and your timing is a wonderful thing, and in my experience, ultimately leads to better results than trying to be the “hero” who is constantly on the go.
4. Do more monotasks.
Once I started noticing how often I was drawn to multitasking, I realized that it was not only unproductive, but also overwhelmed and exhausting. It’s a learned behavior that will probably take a lifetime to unlearn, and that’s okay. When we choose one thing, we ask ourselves what is important, instead of distributing energy among several things that do not have the same value.
5. Remember the “no” option.
When you get a request to put more things on your plate, whether it’s a new project or an invite to an event, and you’re not sure if you want to go ahead, ask yourself, “What would I gain if I said ‘no’?” Turn “no” into a positive. If you feel like the gain from not doing that is something you need or are attracted to, give it a try. The more often you do it, the easier it will become and the more you will feel the positive effects of a slower pace of life.
Kate is currently learning to play the ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, children, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.