Slowing Down to Enjoy Life

Rushed, hectic, stressed, fast-paced, out of time, tired, ineffective is how I would describe my life was for a few years.

It started with a rushed morning on the way to an 8-10 hour work day.  Afternoons included going to the gym, volunteering for an event, helping with too many church activities or attending special classes three times a week, online school classes, meet ups with friends, running errands, and grocery shopping.

Then I’d go home and if I wasn’t tired I’d make time to spend with my husband.  Sometimes, I’d go directly home to continue working until 12-2am as I made lesson plans for my class.

It wasn’t until I heard a presentation about how important it is to say “No” sometimes to things we want to do.  Sometimes we commit to so many things, we take ourselves to the limit of exhaustion and stress without realizing the damage we are causing to our health.

There came a moment  in my life that I decided I no longer wanted to live stressed.  I cut back on the activities I was  participating in, left work on time, cut back on the time I spent working at home, and started spending more time with my husband.

When I did that, my marriage improved, I had more time to focus on daily work outs,  and I had more time to go home and relax (at least for an hour).  At first it wasn’t easy to quit a few activities I had or to say no to commitments.

I thought I’d be hurting people’s feelings by saying no, that I’d miss out on growing opportunities, and felt it was lazy to be home laying on my couch.  Life for me was about doing as many things possible.  I didn’t know how to relax!

Because my personality is a very active one, I couldn’t let go of too much.  I stayed active in only a couple of activities a week (besides my workouts) and noticed I was much more dedicated and productive when I focused on less and not more.

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But what do we gain from slowing down in life? Here are some things I noticed happen:

1. We feel rested
How nice it is when we can go home and actually throw ourselves on the couch and watch television or read our favorite book? Our heart rate slows down, our anxiety pauses, and we can actually breathe.

2. We spend more time with loved ones
When we cut back from commitments, we have more time to go home and spend time with our partners. A time to serve them, have conversations, and work on our relationship.

3. We become productive
Having less commitments and activities we take part in allows us to focus more on the things we decide to keep doing.  The time we give to our commitments becomes more effective and dedicated and not being distracted by too many things at once.

4.  We feel less stressed
Peace and relaxation are health benefits we gain from slowing down. Anxiety goes down and we feel more rested, thus bringing stress levels down.

5. We enjoy and appreciate things
When we aren’t rushing, we have time to enjoy the moment we are experiencing rather than thinking about where or what we need to do or be.  We have time to appreciate the small stuff that happens daily. We learn to appreciate what we are doing and the people we are spending time with.

How can we slow down?

1. Learn to relax
Decide to purposely rest by watching your favorite show, reading a new book, or just taking a nap.

2. Commit less
Choose to cut back on activities and commitments. Keep what you enjoy most and let the rest go.

3. Do less
Cut out any unnecessary things from your day, like extra work, checking your email, or time spent online.

4. Live in  the present
Learn to pay attention to your surroundings, especially the people around you. Live in the moment and enjoy fully what you are doing. Remove distractions that call you to get busy. Be completely in the moment and mindful of your feelings. Smile, breathe, relax.

Slowing down is not easy. Sometimes our job requires so much from us that it nearly makes it impossible.  It’s our job to take responsibility of our job and  lives. We  need to search for ways to cut back on meetings, have fewer distractions so we can finish on time, or simply ask for help in a project.

To some it may not be easy because we want to do it all or we try to please others (like our friends or boss).  We have to know it’s okay to say ‘No’ and know that we will be more effective when we focus on less things at once.  And because we can’t say ‘No’ to our boss, we can kindly ask for less work (it it’s possible), share the work with a colleague, or get organized to improve our work.

This year I decided to take a year off work as a teacher to focus on my health.  I had slowly gone back to living a hectic life that led to a lot of stress.  My husband working out-of-state, traveling back and forth to visit me made it even harder.  I stopped watching my fitness and health, and went through a miscarriage that led to depression.

With much in mind, I decided to take a leap of faith and slow down.  Faith because we would now live on one budget.  Faith because I didn’t know what life would be like without commitments.  Faith because my goal is to become so relaxed that it helps my fertility.

The funny thing is, I noticed I wasn’t enjoying the slow life.  I was so used to working and speeding through life that I started to feel life was worthless if I was living it at home.

It wasn’t until I noticed that so many people wish they had an opportunity like the one I have to be home, that I realized how lucky I was to relax.  Here I was anxious to get back to a busy life that I didn’t notice how nice it is to have time to actually watch tv, have time to cook, read, sleep in, and do the many things I didn’t have time for when I was working.

For that reason, I’ve tried to become more mindful and thankful for this opportunity.  I am grateful for this time to rest before returning to work.  Of course there are times I will feel life is going by too slow and feel anxious, but it is then I need to remind myself how blessed I am and enjoy the moment.

Though not everyone has the opportunity to completely stop working, I encourage you to slow down a bit. You will feel more rested, happier, less stressed, and more productive. You will be more present in the moment and enjoy the people around you. I hope you enjoy everyday and become more mindful as you do so.

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