The Art of Slowing Down

The Art of Slowing Down

As life would have it, I often find myself moving at 1,000 miles per hour. I get into a chaotic routine of going from one thing to the next. Each day becomes the same multitasking-mess, where my body is in one place, checking things off my to-do list, while my head is in another, making sure I’m on to something else. Sound familiar?

For me, it becomes a jumble of work, individual, family and social-related tasks, responsibilities and activities that feel as though they require a fast-paced lifestyle in order to complete them all. Eventually, I end up on autopilot, sometimes not even realizing what I am actually doing. At this point, I am just going through the motions.

I have found that many of the clients I work with, regardless of age, are engaging in life just the same. School-aged kids are running from one extracurricular activity to the next. Their days are packed with school, sports, tutors, social engagements, etc. Often all of these are crammed in just one day! Working adults are participating in a similar pattern to my own, and then parents are not only managing all of their own individual routines, but are also managing those of their children as well.

One might ask, “Well, what’s the problem with this? If it allows me to do everything I want and need to do, why would I do anything differently?”

First, it’s EXHAUSTING! This approach to life runs down our bodies and minds. It is unsustainable and will eventually lead to burnout. Once this occurs, we swing from getting what feels like a million things done at once, to the opposite, of feeling like we can’t accomplish anything at all.

Second, when constantly multitasking, we typically don’t realize that just because we are checking more things off our to-do list, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing our best. This can have an impact on things like school or work performance and even our relationships.

Lastly, we can lose sight of what is going on within ourselves and our emotions. We don’t notice that we are feeling sad or possibly even happy. We don’t notice that we’ve stopped enjoying that sport we used to love or spending time with friends.

When we don’t notice, we are unable to appropriately attend to these emotions and what we may need. And, it is the combination of these outcomes that can significantly impact our mental health.

So, what can we do?

Mindfulness, in its most simplistic sense, can help to reduce the intensity and duration of these negative outcomes to getting caught up in the magnitude of life. It is the practice of slowing down, tuning in, paying attention, and building awareness. There are many approaches and ways of engaging in mindfulness and it is important to find what works for you.

Below is a self-assessment guide that can be used to help you become more mindful. As mindfulness requires intention, for this self-checkin to be useful, it must be regularly incorporated into your routine whether that be monthly, weekly or daily.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What emotions am I feeling and how long have I been feeling them?
  2. Am I feeling any physical sensations in my body?
  3. When was the last time I did something enjoyable for myself?
  4. How do I currently feel about the important relationships in my life?
  5. Am I currently performing to the best of my ability?
  6. How is my current sleep?
  7. How is my current physical health?
  8. How is my current eating?

Incorporating these questions regularly into your life will help you recognize when adjustments need to be made or when support needs to be sought out.

Can you find a way to lessen the load you are carrying, prioritize tasks, and focus on one thing at a time? Can you build-in more time for yourself in your schedule? Or, are you at a place where seeking support would be beneficial? This could be reaching out to a friend or a family member, talking to your teachers or boss, or finding a professional who can appropriately assist.

Again, there are many mindfulness strategies that can be used to facilitate the slowing-down and tuning-in process, and these questions can be used as a simple framework to start.

Authored by: Jessica Oppenheimer, LCSW