This week’s media uproar over Hillary’s need to rest and heal within her monster campaigning schedule reminds me--once again--of our collective need to slow down. You know this, right? But slowing down can be hard when there are so many demands on your time. Just because you know something is true doesn’t mean you can convince your boss.
My dream is that we can one day change our culture to one where rest is honored as part of productivity. If enough of us decide to do it individually, we can prove that slowing down makes us more effective. If enough individuals prove this, we can change the culture. It won’t work in reverse.
The good news is that slowing down is easier than you think. When you are caught up in the stress response, your brain tells you there aren’t other options. You begin to confuse the symptoms of stress with your personality, which affects your sense of self. (I promise, you are a much nicer person than you are when dealing with the demands of an impending deadline.)
You can slow down in under a minute. Use the following 10 Super Easy Ways to Slow Down to learn how to rest while you’re in motion, and how to begin individually honoring what we all collectively need:
1. Applaud your rest role models. This week, I am applauding Hillary for making a tough decision to prioritize self-care above public opinion. It makes me so sad to see her decision to rest treated as a sign of weakness. This is a sad example of our collective tendency to vilify downtime. Personally, I want a leader who sleeps and takes time to heal when she is sick. We do crazy things when we don’t prioritize self-care, and I need my Commander-in-Chief to have all of her wits about her when she makes important decisions that affect our world.
2. Type for five minutes at a 50% slower pace. Feel the pause between the clicks of the keys, and the ponder how easily we are able to communicate. Language is amazing. Technology is mind-blowing. Each word you are typing means something. You mean something. Take a moment to remember that as your fingers dance over your keyboard.
3. Check out Mari Andrew’s wonderful and witty drawings. Giggle at how much you see of yourself in them. We are all beautiful and also kinda crazy, right? I bought this oh-so-true one at her pie-party-celebration last night, and can’t wait to hang it in my bathroom!
4. Take three deep breaths. Pull your inhalation into your back ribs and lower belly. Pause at the bottom of your exhalation and rest in that space between the in-breath and the out-breath. Let your body decide when it needs to breathe in again. If you still feel like you’re going too fast after three breaths, then take three more breaths. There is no limit to this practice, and you can do it no matter what else you are doing.
5. Think of what will matter in 100 years. My amazing coach, Rob, proposed this question to me yesterday. What will be important in 100 years, when you don’t exist anymore? For me, it’s the state of the earth and our shared capacity for humanity. This helps me focus on what is truly important to me -- recommitting to a zero-waste lifestyle and looking every person I meet in the eye. These are obviously big, challenging questions, but focusing on them feels more calming to me than wildly trying to tick off every item on my to-do list. You’re just one beautiful little bit of dust in this gigantic, endless universe. Use your time wisely.
6. Turn away from your computer screen. Get yourself to a window and notice the day that is happening. Look around at birds chirping. Notice the people milling about. Write short stories about them in your head. Honor your place in the human drama, and laugh at your tragic-yet-beautiful self. Now, go back to work. (Bonus points if you can actually go outside!)
7. Just listen. We live in a culture that often values speaking over listening. But talking all the time can add fuel to your stress-response! The good news is that simply listening can be ultra-relaxing. The next time you are overwhelmed, switch over to listening mode. Tell yourself that all you have to do is take in what someone else is saying. You don’t have to agree with someone to listen to them. Don’t plan what you are going to say next. Just breathe, nod and relax as you let someone else do the talking.
8. Put on this relaxing-yet-energizing instrumental album. I think it’s so brilliant. I have probably listened to it 100 times already. It always calms me down and helps me refocus while feeling overwhelmed (I often listen to it while I write).
9. Focus on food. Due to the ethereal, fast nature of stress, food in your belly can be very grounding. This is why we eat emotionally. However, if you eat while you are not hungry, this food will do weird things in your system. I’ve found that doing meal prep can ground me in similar ways (and it makes eating easier when I am hungry). This may be hard if you are in an office setting, but, as one of my awesome clients just pointed out to me, talking about food can also be quite grounding. When you notice yourself flooded by the stress response, read a cooking blog or ask your officemate what she had for dinner last night.
10. Trust yourself. You know what to do. Your first instinct was the right one. You are allowed to disappoint someone else if it means listening to your gut. Trusting yourself can become a practice. Do it every day, and it will get easier with time.