I made a few specific changes to my routine last week (read about them in Assessing, Addressing, and Ascending) in order to improve my mental health and overall productivity. While I noticed some progress almost immediately, I also noticed a negative side-effect that I didn’t expect. In scheduling my days, I didn’t really set aside any time to relax. Instead I found myself rushing from one activity to the next, almost as if I was trying to make up for lost time. While my productivity increased significantly, so did my adrenaline. I was practically running to get from one thing to the next in time, and the rapid pace I found myself moving at ended up producing unnecessary feelings of anxiety that could have otherwise been avoided.
So, while the changes to my exercise, diet, and schedule were all good (and I absolutely need to continue with them), I have decided that this week I also need to figure out a way to slow down my pace a little. And my guess is that I’m not the only one who finds herself running around in hyper-speed from time to time. So here’s a list of five ideas that I’m hoping will help all of us approach life at a slower pace this week. Feel free to give a few of them a try!
1. Schedule some breathers.
Build some natural “break” time into your day, and then use these breaks wisely. If you’re finding that your fast pace is having an negative impact on your anxiety, don’t try to cram 5 errands that will have you running all over town into your one hour lunch break. By the time you make it back to your desk, your adrenaline will be pumping, you’ll be out of breath, and you will feel totally frazzled. Instead, try setting aside a little bit of time in between each activity to just sit, relax and breathe. Or go for a short walk outside. Even if it’s only 5 minutes! The few moments you allow yourself to unwind and regroup before switching gears will help you slow down your pace and keep your mind and body balanced.
I spend about an hour every morning in what I call “quiet time.” For me, this involves time for prayer, personal reflection, Bible reading, and journaling. It is a wonderful way to start my day. However, I am realizing that it may be more beneficial for me to disperse some “mini quiet times” throughout my day in order to slow myself down and keep myself grounded. This week, I am going try 30 minutes of quiet time in the morning, 15 minutes at the start of my lunch hour, and then 15 minutes at the end of my work day (either right before I leave work or immediately when I get home from work).
2. Run for exercise, but not for productivity.
If you’re anything like me, you start to pick up the pace when you find that you are falling behind or if you simply want to get a task done more quickly. Sometimes I find myself literally running out the door to get to work in time in the morning, or running through the hallways at work to fix a problem somewhere in a timely fashion. Don’t get me wrong, running is great for your mental health… when the purpose of it is exercise! But if you find yourself running through the day to increase your productivity, chances are you’re not doing yourself any favors. You’re boosting your adrenaline and giving your brain the impression that you’re in trouble. It’s a recipe for anxiety!
This week, I am going to be more intentional about the speed I move at. This might mean waking up just a few minutes earlier so that I am not rushing out the door in the morning. It will mean paying attention to my body and catching myself when I feel my heart rate starting to rise throughout the day. Really, this one is a no brainer: I just need to slow down. Literally!
3. Stop eating on the go.
This is another mistake I often make—I don’t actually take a break for my meals. I frequently eat while I’m working, or riding in the car, or while I’m getting ready to leave the house. To me, this just seems more productive! The more things I can be doing at once, the less time it takes up over all! Right? This may or may not be true, but either way, I am realizing that not everything in life is about productivity.
If you’re someone who habitually eats on the go like me, maybe it’s time to consider a change in routine. Slow down your day by actually just sitting down to eat a meal once in a while. And stop mentally multi-tasking while you eat! Just sit there and focus on eating your food. Give your mind a break, and enjoy the gift of nourishment that you are giving your body!
4. Put your phone away and close your eyes.
Technology has taken the pace of our lives to entirely new heights in the last decade or two. Everything has to be instant now. If you’re like me, waiting more than two minutes for a response to a text message can feel like utter agony. So many of us are glued to our phones all day every day, waiting (in a hurry) for one thing or another. Waiting for that email to come through, waiting for that update to finish, waiting for that post to get liked, waiting for that video to buffer. Or, if we are actually waiting for something to happen in real life, we automatically open up our phones to scroll through our newsfeeds or check the latest offers on that awesome coupon app we just downloaded.
I think we would do ourselves a huge favor if sometimes, while we were waiting, we would just put down our phones and close our eyes for a moment or two. Not everything in life has to be instantaneous. In fact, having to wait once in a while gives us the perfect opportunity for a little mental “breather”. In those moments, consider putting your phone away, closing your eyes, and just breathing. Be in the moment. Be thankful for the moment. You’ll probably be glad you did!
5. Be late. You’ll survive.
At the end of the day, sometimes you are just going to be late. I definitely find myself running behind most mornings—which is probably a sign that I am not appropriately managing my time and need to assess that—but typically speaking, rushing around to get out the door more quickly doesn’t realistically save me enough time to keep me from being late. Instead, it just boosts my adrenaline and heightens my anxiety about the fact that I am running late.
If you need to make adjustments to the way that you are managing your time, definitely do that. But then realize that there are going to be times when things come up that will just make you late. You can’t always control it, and you certainly aren’t improving your day by letting it boost your anxiety through the roof. Accept the fact that you are running behind, apologize for your tardiness, and then move on with your day in peace.
What have I missed? What do you do to pace yourself for inner peace? How do you mentally and physically slow down in order to bring balance to your life in the middle of a fast-paced world?