Living Slowly In A Fast-Paced World

  • Do you feel rushed?
  • Always behind?
  • Overwhelmed?

When everything feels like it’s moving much faster than we can handle or like to handle, there is a feeling of overwhelm and an impression of living in a constant state of emergency.

Long-term, it's incredibly uncomfortable to live like that. It's also not healthy to be rushed all the time, and living in emergency mode jeopardizes the health of our intimate relationships. It's not even the best way to be productive because productivity requires calm, purpose and focus and needless to say, it's hard to feel joy when we spend our days like a hamster running on its wheel.

So how can we slow down when the world we live in constantly pushes us to move faster and faster?

It starts with tuning into ourselves and listening to our own inner rhythm. When we have a better sense of our inner landscape, we can then learn to stay grounded within ourselves, not allowing external factors to push us around like dead leaves in the wind.

1. Start the day with your own self. Just yourself.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up and open your eyes? Are you grabbing your phone on the nightstand to turn off your alarm, and then immediately proceed to open your Facebook app or Newsstand?

Such reflex is normal when the same device serves as clock, phone, camera and computer. It's unfortunately also the best way to be dragged away from oneself before the day has even started. When you tune into your friends’ announcements or the world news before tuning into yourself first, you set the tone for a day where you don’t even know how you’re feeling and how you want to spend your day. This progressively robs you from your inner power.

Tip: Refrain from starting the day with your electronic device(s). If it’s difficult to resist the pull of the phone, consider recharging it overnight in a different room and using an old-fashioned alarm clock in your bedroom.

Practice: Design and engage in your own morning ritual before firing up any device. Starting your morning with a Morning Centering allows you to tune in into your own energy, pace, and voice first. Only after you have grounded yourself is it time to decide if it’s a good idea to tune in into the energy of others and of the world. Some days it will be, some days it will not be.

2. Choose how to use your time wisely.

A fast-paced world makes us believe that we can do it all, if only we’d spin our plates faster or juggle our balls more skillfully. Truth is, there are only 24 hours in a day, we need at least 8 hours of sleep, and there is only so much that can be done in the remaining 16 hours. It's essential to make choices that make sense with the time and energy we have and with what we want to accomplish with our lives.

Tip: If you feel overwhelmed, chances are that you are overcommitted for the level of energy you dispose of. In some seasons of life, you will have to scale down your schedule. Some people will never be able to do as much as what others can manage, and it's ok. Please don't compare yourself to others because it is pointless to compare completely different energy systems and life circumstances. Choose to commit to always doing the best you can with what you have at any given time. Learn to say no or not now with no regret, so that you can say yes! to what you can and want to do.

Practice: Every weekend, purposefully schedule the following week. Refrain from scheduling commitments back to back; this contributes to the feeling of being rushed. Always plan "buffer time" to allow for transitions such as transit, parking, last-minute to-do items, or taking a short break to recenter yourself. Decide how many evening commitments are reasonable for you. Schedule “me time” sessions to refresh, process, organize, and take care of yourself.

3. Be present.

Learn to bring your attention to your breath as often as possible. When you do something while being in touch with your breath, you are fully present. Your productivity increases, your creativity soars, your feelings get cleared out of your organism naturally, and time seems to slow down. Focus makes you more productive, which in turn saves time and increase trust in yourself. It's a virtuous cycle.

Tip: Consider setting up reminders on your phone to be reminded every hour of so to take a few deep breaths. Little by little, you will start to remember without prompting and you will become more and more present throughout the day.

Practice: Devote a few minutes every morning to practice mindfulness. It can be a formal sitting meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi kung, mindful walking, etc. Start with 5 minutes and build your practice from there.

4. Be friends with someone who lives slowly.

Do you have at least one friend who is good at helping you return to your own self? You need one of these people in your friends circle!

Having a friend who moves slowly, deliberately and enjoys making time for "slow time" will help you tune into your inner rhythm. It sure is fun to run around doing all sorts of activities, yet sitting quietly together and sharing one-on-one allow the both of you to reset after a long day of work and other commitments, and it's a great way to deepen your friendship through more intimate conversations.

5. When everything feels extra crazy…

Always return to the basics.

Whenever you feel extremely overwhelmed and/or exhausted and/or super anxious, ask yourself:

  • Am I sleeping enough? If not, cancel all evening commitments for the time being and go to bed super early until you feel more rested.
  • Am I eating nutritious food? If not, go to the grocery store and purchase brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins.
  • Am I drinking enough water? If not, start carrying a water bottle at all times and set up alarms on your phone to remember to drink every hour.
  • Am I getting enough fresh air? If not, go outside every two hours for a 5-minute deep breathing session.
  • Am I moving my body enough? If not, start by adding one or two 10-min walks in your day.
  • Am I processing my feelings regularly? If not, go buy yourself a new journal and write for a few minutes every night before bed time.
  • Am I getting enough support? If not, get in touch with a supportive friend. Talk it out. Ask for what you need. Your friend will be happy to be there for you. An alternative (or in addition) is to go talk to a per counselor, coach or therapist.

Keep that list handy and go back to it in times of crisis. Work on each item in that order. Little by little, you will get out of the immediate crisis and access a state of being when you can troubleshoot with more specificity and depth.

We must tune in to our own rhythm and resist unhealthy outside influences. We can be in the world without being of the world by moving slowly, deliberately, purposefully and by breathing deeply.