There are some periods in our life that are unavoidably busy. We have an impending deadline or a flurry of events we've committed to one after another or it's school holiday time and we're trying to meet the needs of our children and work all at the same time. You've probably already noticed that things tend to come in waves.
But what happens when a wave subsides and we're left with not as much to do? Many people tell me that they feel restless or lazy as soon as they're not doing anything productive and this can be heightened off the back of a particularly busy period. You might notice this particularly when you go on holiday, and even though you may think to yourself "I'm just going to chill out and do nothing" you inevitably fill your days with activities because, well you're on holiday so you better make the most of it. We can fall into the habit of perpetual "doing" just because we feel more comfortable being busy. Yet the benefits of slowing down are undeniable.
When we take our foot off the accelerator and create some space in our lives, our body has a chance to catch up. It's not accustomed to running at a hundred miles an hour from the time we wake up in the morning to the moment we lay our heads down at night. Slowing down improves our digestion, reduces anxiety, nourishes our nervous system and can help to calm our thoughts. It can improve our sleep, energy levels and immune system as well as encourage optimum sex hormone balance. All this just from slowing down!
Slowing down might look like reading a book, going for a gentle walk in nature, taking yourself and/or the family down to the beach or the park. It might be taking 10 or 30 minutes to watch the sunset, doing a restorative yoga class instead of a more vigorous one or meditating. In an ideal world, it would be technology free to give your brain a break from devices as well – but that might be something to work towards if it feels too challenging. Perhaps slowing down for you is just making a commitment not to check work emails once you're outside the office. Keeping our work to our working hours as often as possible is a wonderful way to reduce stress and give our body a proper break.
As I've already said, there are going to be periods in your life that are busy beyond your control. The art of slowing down is learning to recognise when you're filling your time just because you've become accustomed to living at a particular pace and you don't know what you'd do with yourself if you slowed down.
If you know you need a bit more space in your life but don't know where to start, try scheduling in downtime to begin with. It may seem silly to put aside 30 minutes to read but if you honestly have such a full calendar, scheduling your downtime can deter you from filling that time with something else. Make a real effort to keep those appointments. After all, you keep your appointments with everyone else so why not keep those you make with yourself?
Remember also to ask for support. Many of us feel like we have to be everything to everyone and that we will let people down if we don't hold tight to all the strings. Most of us have people in our lives that would love to offer us more support. Reach out and ask the question. If you're the one in your immediate family that organises the shopping, is the primary caregiver for the kids, main cleaner and cook – could you ask your partner to take over something? Sometimes we think it's easier just to do everything ourselves but this can inevitably affect our health in the long run. Take care of you, you're so worth it.
Written by Dr Libby Weaver. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.