Slowing down

We are far too busy in our lives, every day. We cram as much as we can into our agenda – and we even do this during our holidays. I am guilty of doing this myself sometimes in the past – driven by the fear of missing out, of not getting to do something or to see a special place, setting up a tight agenda, stressing myself out in the process and then being totally exhausted because I wanted too much. 

Instead of enjoying my time off and allowing myself to float in time, exploring places without a fixed agenda, just letting things evolve on their own and see what comes my way. On my last holiday I realized quickly that I needed to stop myself, and instead spend the next day doing nothing, not planning anything, but enjoying the moment.

Which is difficult for me. It reminds me of a joke a former colleague made years ago about “the 3 German P’s: planning, process, preparation”. Yep – that’s me, I know this very well.

It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol. (Brené Brown)

It is no wonder we get stressed out and feel overwhelmed by this way of life. A typical example: we are attending a conference call, but we are thinking about the next one already, sometimes trying to prepare during the current call instead of being present and listening properly. And we excuse it with “yeah, I don’t really want to be in this call but I am expected to attend, although not contributing so I make better use of my time by doing something else.” Sounds familiar?

Well, isn’t it better to decline such a call in the first place? And set boundaries: if I do not have to contribute anything or the call does not contribute to my role then I skip it. I only have one life and need to be more strict with my time.

My body teaching me a lesson

Slowing down during my day is important. Focusing really on the present moment. Taking a break and doing nothing for 10 minutes, being really present. Far too much passes us by because we are on autopilot mode and our attention is divided. And the speed at which we are trying to function is too fast and not healthy at all.

Our body and mind needs slowing down. Otherwise, our body will force us to stop by becoming ill. The last months of continuous stress recently took their toll that way, when I got sick with covid and a nasty bacterial follow-on infection on top, forcing me to take a 3 weeks’ time out. I was exhausted and spent my time mostly sleeping. Something in fact I had been longing to do in the months that preceded it, often thinking “I just want to sleep for a week, because I do not get enough rest”. 

Currently, I am still not well, not feeling 100% because it takes an awful long time to heal. I cannot speak properly. Whenever I do, it irritates my bronchial tubes and restricts my breathing. It feels like having no strength when speaking, it’s super exhausting. 

My doctor expressed sympathy for my understandable desire to return to normal, but advised me that I simply have to give my body the time it needs to heal. I cannot speed it up and simply need to accept that – as difficult and frustrating as it is. The more I struggle against it, the more it will slow me down – I already feel it.

When we are not fit, not healthy, we are not at our best. We cannot really show up for ourselves and others, we are not present. We overwhelm ourselves, act too fast, talk too fast, overlook things, we run too fast and hurt ourselves in the process. No surprise.

We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

There is a negative connotation in the West with doing nothing, being “lazy”. That’s why so many people actually struggle to meditate and focus on their breathing – they struggle to be alone with themselves and their thoughts. Not for once filling every minute of their time with activity or entertainment like they are used to all the time, but just being in the present moment. It seems like the hardest thing to do.

We seem to think that we always need to be productive, or consume. As if we needed permission to do nothing, to justify what we do with our time.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking along these lines, like “do I make the best use of my time?” As if I had to answer such a question at the end of each day and could get scolded for not getting it right. The notion of wasting time is indeed a big trigger for me. 

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast; you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. (Eddie Cantor)

Are we afraid of being alone with ourselves? 

Do we feel the need to cover up this empty, quiet space with activity, because we cannot bear to be confronted with silence? 

The silence inevitably brings up some essential questions, and we prefer to run away from the soul-searching, in fact, to run away from ourselves. 

But we cannot escape ourselves.

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. (Sydney J. Harris)

To understand that being present, thus allowing and enduring the silence can help to keep us sane, more balanced and in control, is vital. Listening to ourselves, checking in how we feel and becoming aware of our needs. Being mindful of our daily actions and thoughts, instead of mindlessly running about.

Mindfulness is not a one time thing, it is a constant practice, a constant journey.

You are enough. You are doing enough. Tomorrow is another day.  

Don’t suppress feelings of exhaustion, aggression, feeling unwell, as these are usually an indicator that something is off and you need to take a break. 

This is the advice I always would give to a friend, so right now I need to take my own advice for a change, and embrace the situation and its uncertainty, the clear discomfort. 

And slow down.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. (Anne Lamott)

The angel of time makes us aware that our time is limited, therefore we shall live it consciously and mindfully. (Anselm Gruen)

Feel free to check out my new quotes section which I have added under the resources tab – here you find more inspirational quotes.

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