How To Slow Down In A Busy World
by jo dymock
Modern life is unfailingly busy. The reality is that, whatever we would prefer to be doing with our time, many of us are juggling paid work, pets, children, unpaid responsibilities, the logistical burden of running a house, and our own personal mental or physical health challenges. And while the idea of giving it all up and living off grid in a hut in the forest to weave foraged sheep’s wool all day is occasionally tempting, the reality is that most of us aren’t in a position, or even have the desire, to make that kind of a total life change simply in order to feel less overwhelmed.
But there are ways to tap into that slow living feeling without changing your entire life. I am a firm believer in the power of moments of slow to bring steadiness and self care to your day, without sacrificing the responsibilities you already have. Those slow moments can also provide you with the opportunity to take stock of where you life is now, and consider whether there are (less extreme than moving to that hut) shifts that might be made in order to refresh or downshift the pace of your life and bring you more joy and satisfaction.
Here are my favourite five ways to create calm in your day, in small and manageable ways:
1. Create a gentle morning or evening routine
Creating gentle bookends to your day which support you and allow you to launch into, and wind down from, your day in the best possible way for you, is right at the core of creating a life that puts you at the centre. It gives you the time and opportunity to look after yourself before the responsibilities of the day take over, or once they are done.
This isn’t the time to add a fourteen step health routine to both ends of your day, overwhelming yourself and ending right back at square one. Instead, pick the key couple of steps that will give your mornings and evenings an element of slow and self care, and focus on implementing those before adding anything else. It might be something as simple as ten minutes stretching, a cup of tea outside in the garden, or a luxurious bath.
2. Create rituals out of regular tasks
This is one of my absolute favourite ways to create a little slow and self care in a busy day; turn the jobs you’re already doing into moments of slow. For instance, if your current weekly menu planning session looks like a rushed chore involving google and a scrap of paper, why not instead give yourself an hour to do it?
Light a candle, open a few favourite recipe books, and indulge in a beautiful notebook to keep your weekly plan in (as an added bonus, this will also give you a library of menu plans to look back on when inspiration is lacking). This same theory can be applied to anything you do regularly – planning your week, a skincare regime, catching up with a friend.
3. Create empty space in your calendar
This can feel really tricky to do if life is really hectic, so start as small as you possibly can with this one if it feels overwhelming. See if you can find 15 or 30 minutes in your day to sit down and do whatever soothes you (reading, knitting, meditating – keeping it screen free will make you more aware of that time and appreciate it more, but even a conscious block of time to scroll instagram guilt free is a start).
When my children were small and life was unthinkably hectic, this used to be the first thing I did when they finally fell asleep, whether that was a daytime nap or didn’t come until evening; everything else could wait until I’d had 30 minutes of blissful calm. It meant that even if it all went wrong, everyone woke early from their sleeps, and the rest of the day was stressful, I had at least prioritised a tiny chunk of time for me.
Once the habit is ingrained, you can look at giving yourself more, and I hope you will do so. But when life is busy, the key is to start small.
4. Get outside
It’s such a cliche, but there is little in life more able to ground and slow a human down than being outside in nature. An hour’s walk in the woods can work magic for the soul, but if that’s tricky to fit in, try slotting that outdoors time into something that’s already part of your day. Maybe your daily run could move from the gym to the park, or you could simply take your morning coffee out to sit in the garden each day, or you can change your morning commute to include a walk.
Do whatever you can to incorporate daily outdoors time, especially if you work in an office the majority of the time (I know this is when it’s most difficult, but it’s also when it’s most valuable).
5. Begin a new habit
I highly recommend you focus on a small daily habit rather than something bigger that only happens once a week or so. Firstly because if you miss a day (or three), it isn’t such a big deal when the chance is coming round again tomorrow. The second reason is this:
Daily habits are wonderful. Not just because they give you a daily opportunity to take time for yourself each and every day (one that becomes easier and easier the more you do it), but because there’s something magical about doing the same thing every day. It creates a benchmark, gives you a regular ‘set point’ in each day when you can notice variations in your mood, energy level and stress, and even, gradually and in a manageable way over time, make and track tiny changes to your life to help you love it even more.
Some ideas for daily habits, although this list is by no means exhaustive: journalling, a gratitude list, meditation, exercise (of any description, but particularly more mindful exercises like running or yoga), a walk (get that time outside too), your favourite hobby or craft.
I hope that this article has given you a little inspiration, as well as a good handful of practical ideas, for creating moments of slow in your own life. There has never been a better time than right now to add a little more self care to your everyday.
Jo Dymock is a business owner living on the coast in South Devon. She owns and runs Ochre & Flax, an online candle and lifestyle store that celebrates and supports the slow moments in life, through simple daily routines, planning and journalling.
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