Slow down to speed up.
Actually, intentionally slowing down allows you to perform better. When we slow down our pumped up nervous system, we are allowing ourselves to settle back into focus, clarity, creativity, rational decision making and insight.
Have you ever made a decision in the midst of busy? Quickly written a jumbled email while juggling 3 other things? Reacted to a loved on in the middle of making dinner? Bumped into someone walking down the street while trying to text on your way to lunch? Yea, we're not awesome at multitasking. And we're not supposed to be.
Focus is an aloof friend these days. So many of us watch TV while texting while scrolling while catching up on emails on our laptop. So many of us drive and text, walk and text, eat and text. We catch up with a friend in person while also sharing updates to our social networks. We're doing so much all the time and we're not really doing any of it well.
When we pause and slow down, we're actually better at doing. Period. By getting out of our stress cycle, we can allow the front of our brains to drive us. The front part of our brain is so important for executive functioning - aka what makes humans, humans. That front part of our brain is the part that we need when faced with a tough decision, when trying to find a solution, when doing homework, writing an email, empathizing with a friend, being present with our family. We are at our best when we're operating from our insightful brain versus our emotional brain. And our emotional brain takes over when we're doing too many things at once, causing us stress.
So, how do we slow down amidst the busy? Here are 5 ways to slow down to speed up:
1. One screen at a time. If you're on your computer, be on your computer. If you're on your IPhone, just be on your phone. Watching TV after a long day? Cool, just be with your TV... not your TV and your Instagram account. This simple trick can allow your brain to focus on one thing and fully, deeply decompress or focus instead of staying on high alert with other screens dividing your attention, awareness and thinking skills.
2. Turn off data/wifi. How many times may you be reading a book, writing a paper, in a meeting and you're pinged away by an alert? New email, new text message, new notification about a celebrity entering rehab or the weather ...it's all there to divert our attention away from the task at hand. And our emotional, animal brains LOVE those little stimuli. Instant gratification and reward seeking behavior is reinforced by our brains being able to find something else new and interesting. But don't be a puppet to your shiny bright-object seeking part of your brain. When you need to focus, slow down by turning off notifications, wifi and data. Make yourself unavailable to technology's pull. And we promise, 30 minutes uninterrupted will do much more good than harm. Nothing is EVER that urgent. Remember the time before smart phones? Voicemails and landlines our friends...it did the trick.
3. Take breaks. Rushing around your house cleaning, cooking and working? Running around all day on your rear doing errands? Pinned down at your desk catching up on emails between meetings? Take a break. A break does not need to be a 20 minute walk or a long lunch over salmon and chardonnay (although that sounds really, really nice). 1 minute, 5 minutes... whatever you have can work. In that time look up, take some deep breaths, shake out your body, stretch in your seat, think of 3 things that make you happy, stand up, go outside, run the stairs, drink water, say "hello" to a colleague. Just stop, pause and do something good for you just for a moment. When you return to your task you will be refreshed and reenergized...without even needing another coffee.
4. Say no. Doing more does not make you a better person. Being busy is not a badge of honor. Think about why you say yes and why you take on more responsibilities. Are you searching for recognition, validation or reward? Are you comparing yourself to others? Comparing your kids to other kids? Are you filling a void because it's too hard to be quiet and with yourself? Practice saying no. Practice saying no to social obligations your gut knows you don't want to attend, to people asking more of you, to the pressure you put on yourself to be everything to all people. You are enough. You're doing enough. You're doing the best you can and that is enough right there. You, exhausted and resentful serves no one.
5. Be kind and gentle to yourself. At the end of the day, you cannot do it all. There is always a to-do list of errands, laundry, workouts, cooking, emails and bills to be paid. Trust that it will get done. Maybe not all to perfection or maybe not all on a Sunday, but it will get done. Pick what is most important and go from there. But give yourself grace. If you need to just sit, read a book and sip some tea on a Thursday night then do it. If it means a couple nights of take-out, okay. Give yourself permission to not do it all to perfection. Pizza once in a while is not going to ruin you or your kid's lives. The more you give yourself permission to not be perfect, the more empowered versus embattled you'll be. Constantly fighting with "not good enough" drives us to be more stressed and make impulsive decisions. Instead of skipping that workout for a glass of wine or picking up fast food "because I deserve a break", when you're gentle to yourself you choose more mindful, healthy rewards for your hard work. Go to a soothing yoga class, book yourself a massage or pedicure, go to bed early, order your groceries to be delivered. We promise that if you reward yourself with something healthy versus unhealthy, you'll feel better overall.
Give us some of your favorite ways to slow down below in the comments. Have a new season intention? Share it as well!
Kerry is the founder of reset brain + body, located in Plymouth, where traditional therapy is elevated through the integration of psychology, yoga and mindfulness. After nearly a decade in corporate human resources in Chicago, Kerry left the field to better help her busy and stressed peers handle life inside and outside of the workplace. Kerry can be found teaching meditation and yoga classes and seeing clients for psychotherapy and yoga therapy at reset brain + body. When she's not at reset brain + body, Kerry can be found spending time exploring her new hometown of Plymouth with her husband, baby boy and dog. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.