One of the biggest shifts I have made in the past twelve months has been the recognition that time is the most valuable commodity we have… I now live my life by it daily. It has had a subtle yet drastic effect on my health.
For anyone who feels anxious often, gets overwhelmed easily, and feels victimised by how busy they are, this is for you! May this assist you to any degree in slowing down (mentally) enough to recognise the spaces and opportunities we get each and every day to enjoy.
Mid last year, on a day when I was feeling racy and overwhelmed, a friend opened my eyes to just how much time I actually have in my life… It was a passing comment that stopped me in my tracks. On any other day I may not have given it a second thought, but for what ever reason, it had a life changing impact on me… for that I am eternally grateful for.
My personal trigger and “aha” moment came a while after this particular conversation, when I started noticing my automatic response to feeling that I was constantly running out of time, largely the time I would get for myself (leisure/pleasure), but broadly, time in general.
I used to quite literally get anxiety about how quickly I could get home after finishing work at 6:30pm so I could get dinner finished and have enough time before bed to relax before getting up for work at sunrise the next morning… I know a lot of people who share this feeling!
In fact my approach to most of my days looked and felt that way… I was constantly anticipating how long in between clients, appointments and other commitments I had and what lay ahead of me. I would rush and worry often about the consequences of forgetting to get things done. To say I was easily overwhelmed was an understatement.
I felt perpetually pushed by my own inner task master cracking the whip! Her belief was that if I allowed myself to relax, something bad would happen!
I think anyone who suffers from anxiety may relate to this feeling…?
I began to quiet down enough to notice that I live with two different versions of myself, one version who is a total go-getter and wants to live life at one million miles per hour (she was largely running my life back then), and this other very slow version who gets totally overwhelmed by the go-getter in me… this version quite literally needs loads of time and space to digest life, change, and to feel safe in the world.
Being able to pick up on this inner conflict allowed me to make a change, so I put myself on “staycation” for the rest of the year to give some space for the slow version of me to grow.
Being on staycation meant that when I worked, I worked. When I rested, I was resting. I was no longer allowed to think about one whilst I was doing the other… I also no longer spoke about how “busy” I was (which was actually just my reaction to the pace I lived my life at mentally).
It has been a slow process (funnily enough?!) and it has taken time for me to unwind and feel safe that the wheels won’t fall off if I allow myself to rest.. and that productivity is not my highest goal in life!
I no longer fill the gaps in my life with worry or anticipation of what comes next. Instead, I have learned how rich in time I am, and with that, how lucky I am… Becoming aware of this has helped me learn to slow down and enjoy life, moments, and people more.
I am a better listener, a better health coach, a more present friend, and am much more gentle with myself for it.
I feel taking responsibility for how we spend our time is incredibly important. It frees us of the victim/martyr in us that feels entitled to recognition for all the hard work we do, how much we can juggle, or what ever story that may be running… and is attached to our sense of self worth.
My nervous system feels completely different for it.
~ Some helpful tools I used to help me to make the shift! ~
* I listent to Podcasts, they slow me down big time. Largely mindfulness based ones.
Tara Brach, The Robcast, and Krista Tippet’s On Being are my top three!!
* If I am feeling worked up, I put on Hamish & Andy, as I find humour always slices through stress and unhooks from anxiety really well.
* I listent to classical music. I have a Spotify playlist called “Slow Down” you can search me if you have an account and have a listen, I put it on when I am driving. It completely relaxes me. If you don’t use Spotify, Nils Frahm and Joep Beving are worth hunting down.
* I am mindful of what I watch. My old housemates have listened to me bang on about this many a time whilst they were watching Bold & The Beautiful. I am a strong believer that what we watch has an impact on our emotional wellbeing and can play out in our own lives. I try not to watch drama – or any other show that advertises unhealthy relationships.
* I take regular breaks from coffee, as coffee certainly triggers my “go-getter” she loves that stuff. When I take a little time out from it, I sleep better, I make calmer choices, I am more present, and I feel less angsty throughout the day!
* I read books before bed – positive books. My bed side go to’s are Tao Te Ching & Marcus Aurelius – Meditations. Pema Chordon’s book – Start Where You Are is also a great resource. At times I use the prayer ~ “May all creatures big and small have what their hearts truly long for” when I mediate in the evening… it feels good, and takes the edge off when I am having a tantrum about not getting my own way (a massive time suck).
* I also no longer over commit, and if I do, I take responsibility for it, rather then taking it out on or resenting others for taking up my time… and importantly, I watch the sunset, often! I try to finish my days outdoors!
We have so much more time in our days then we are aware of, whether you work ten hours a week or fifty, in my personal experience, I believe we can always slow down and take more precious moments in.
I still get high-jacked by overwhelm from time to time when my task master sneaks in and takes the reins, which often leads me to getting sick if I am not careful. She is kind of like an addiction, I feel powerful when she’s in charge, she fills me with a (false) sense of importance… Thankfully I use the above tools to get her off my back. She has served her purpose in my life for sure, more so in my survival years growing up.. now she kind of just gets in the way of my happiness and wears me out.
I am far more productive when my approach to life is slower, no matter how full my schedule is. It’s been a great gift. I think identifying with busy is far too over glorified, and robs us of so much joy!
May you let go of busy, and find more time + peace in your every day life.