Have you ever looked back at particularly busy times in your life and wondered, “How did I do all of that?”
I know I have!
Interestingly, while amazed with how I was able to manage so much, I felt sad as I also remembered a subtle, nagging voice pushing me with a fearful narrative that I wasn’t enough. Do you know that voice as well? The one that pushes you to do more, take on more, over-schedule yourself, go faster, accomplish more?
Yes, it feels like society places demands on us like never before. Although I feel part of that is true, I believe that much of what fuels our need to keep moving fast and taking on more is our fear of not being enough.
We confuse doing with being.
When our self-worth and value come from feeling accomplished, it can be easy to fall into a trap of performance-based living. Getting stuck here means that we are always seeking, searching, doing too much, hustling and, in general, living an unsettled life.
When we are constantly on the go and stretched in a hundred different directions, it is not a surprise to think that this way of living can seriously impact our health. Anxiety disorders are the most commonly identified mental health conditions in the United States, with slightly over 18% of adult American population being impacted, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people between the ages of 15-44 years old, which is roughly 6.7% of the population. Social anxiety comes in even higher, impacting approximately 6.8% of the adult population. Our emotional health and well being can certainly be influenced by stress, along with many complications related to our physical health, including things such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Autoimmune complications
Learning how to slow down can help us to better manage our time as well as improve our physical and emotional health.
When we are constantly busy it can be hard to maintain and nurture meaningful relationships. Although it might be possible that part of the overwhelm and fast-paced living comes from having an overfilled social calendar, it is likely that those events are not doing much to help you nurture meaningful connections with the people who matter most to you. Our relationships, just like other things, need time and energy to grow and thrive. It can be very easy to fill up our calendar with tasks and to-do’s and neglect relationships with family, friends, and other loved ones in our support network.
Our Sense of Self
Ultimately, much of what fuels us to maintain a fast-paced life is a longing to feel accepted, important, valued, loved, or admired. When we feel connected to others we often feel better about ourselves. Trouble comes when our longing for value and importance comes from accomplishments and approval of others. In a performance-based life, we are relying on accomplishments to fulfill us, help us feel valuable and, in turn, important to others. To think that our sense of self will be adequately fulfilled by accomplishment can lead us down a deceptive path of hustling for significance.
How to Start Slowing Down
Understanding the consequences of living a fast, performance-based life, it might be easy to see how slowing down can help. If only it were that easy! A performance-based person will likely find it very anxiety-producing to think about slowing down. What do they do with their time? How will they view themselves? What will others think?
When talking about slowing down, it is not suggested that you stop completely. Slowing down, in the way we are discussing here, simply means to refocus and refine. Take time to consider your values, your personal goals, the legacy you want to leave with your friends, family, your spouse.
Steps to take:
- Review your values: When we are always busy it can feel like we are running around with our hair on fire. We have lost sight of what is important and we start believing that everything holds the same value or importance. It doesn’t. Take a moment to consider what you are about, what is important to you, and what gives you life.
- Check in with others: Being busy often means that our relationships with important people in our lives become neglected. Take a moment to connect with a couple of people you haven’t seen lately. Share experiences, laugh, and catch up with each other.
- Practice gratitude: Gratitude requires us to slow down enough to take inventory of what we appreciate. When we maintain a constantly full schedule, we are never leaving much time to inventory anything. Using a journal, or simply going for a walk and mindfully reflecting on things you are thankful for can be helpful.
- Put down the devices: Having our phones with us can be so helpful for research, scheduling, managing tasks, and connecting with people. However, we are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of spending too much time on our devices, especially on social media. Dedicate a specific period of time to unplug each day.
In our society it takes courage to slow down.
People may ask questions and even disapprove of you slowing down. Being clear on your purpose for slowing down will be the key. The more you identify the positive reasons for slowing down the more confidently you can stay the course and be a model for others.