We all need an escape from the hectic pace of life and our own personal struggles. As mentioned in our summer newsletter, vacations from the workplace provide a necessary refuge from all that noise and the pressure to produce, perform and respond.
While I find myself returning from vacation feeling grateful for time to recharge the batteries, I know how easily the benefits of a vacation can quickly be usurped by one’s return to the business of normal life. And lets face it, many modern day vacations can also be incredibly stressful and exhausting, rushing from one activity or location to the next, leaving many of us wondering where the time went.
Although I treasure my time taken off in the summer and think everyone deserves a break, just as a diet does not guarantee long term weight loss, I think for lasting results we need to look beyond vacations. In her heart-warming blog, Rachel Macy Stafford reflects on the potential impact on children of being hurried and reminds us that ultimately things taste sweeter and love comes easier when you stop rushing through life.
I have included below some of what I consider to be necessary ingredients to maintaining a slower pace:
1) Carve out time for solitude. Whether it is first thing in the morning or after everyone has gone to bed, a few minutes of alone time is essential. When we spend all our waking hours doing for others; we are vulnerable to resentment, which is toxic to our relationships and a breeding ground for depression. Time alone allows us to reclaim a sense of self and connect with our needs ensuring we honour our priorities throughout the day despite constant demands from others.
2) Curl up with a good book. Not only does this allow a chance for the body to slow down but in an era of instant communication and online information overload, holding the pages of a beloved book, I believe, can almost be a form of meditation. Carving time to get lost in another world is a great, inexpensive self-care strategy. Books, such as memoires, can also be deeply moving and inspiring. We can empower ourselves by reading informative and educational works as well.
3) Journaling is a wonderful way to reflect, externalize and better understand upsetting feelings. Through this process we can identify our needs and engage in more effective communication with others.
4) If possible, play with children. Little people are excellent at being in the moment. Childhood favourites such as puzzles, card games, play dough, colouring and blocks help us to stay present, enhance skills such as problem solving and creativity and work as wonderful distractors from the stresses of everyday life. If there are no little ones at home, remember we all have a child within that needs nurturing.
5) Get dirty. Whether it be in the garden, a mixing bowl or a mountain of finger paint; realize the messes will still be there tomorrow. Creating and cultivating can help keep you both physically and emotionally present.
6) Reconsider your schedule. Pay attention to how much outside commitments your family can handle. While there are many benefits to organized activities and time with peers, Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate in their book”Hold Onto Your Kids” remind us of the necessity of strong adult attachments especially during adolescence. You can loan the DVD from the local library.
7) Break bread together. Try to find a way to share a meal and memories every day with members of the household. Turn off TVs and other electronic devices and let the most important people in your life know how much they matter. This is a great opportunity to hear about the highs and lows of each person’s day and strengthen what Dr. John Gottman calls one of the seven essential ingredients of healthy relationships, “Love Maps.” Eating mindfully also helps to prevent over eating.
8) Practice mindful breathing and other forms of meditation. Muscle relaxation exercises and bubble baths can do wonders for the body and mind. Youtube is full of free clips to help get you started. Many people also engage in prayer or daily devotions.
9) Take the long way. Travel back routes or park further away to force you to slow down and be present to your surroundings. Pay attention to your pace. Pause and breath. Look up and smile.
10) Soak things in. Throughout the day, we experience moments of connection or a sense of belonging; a feeling of strength or personal autonomy and being physically and emotionally safe. As neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, explains each of us struggles with feeling fulfilled in one of these basic needs. He encourages us to help rewire our brains towards more resiliency and positivity by taking in these good experiences as they happen or after the fact.
As we move towards shorter days and cooler temperatures, I hope you will use some of these suggestions to reap the rewards of the gift of slowing down. If you find yourself struggling with managing your time or feeling worthy of self-care, you could probably benefit from a conversation with one of our therapists during our walk-in counselling clinic on Thursday afternoons.