I think a lot of people have misconceptions about slow living. One of the biggest myths, is about stress. If you are pursuing a life where your priority is to slow down, and connect, and fill your day with wholehearted moments, is there any room for rushing around, being busy, and feeling stressed?
I would get it a lot as a yoga teacher, my students would assume I floated about in a little zen bubble all day, not getting angry, or feeling anxious. I understand why they thought that, they only knew me through a certain context. However, stress is unavoidable, and I am naturally quite an anxious person – not to the Woody Allen extreme – but I have to work at keeping any worries in-check, other wise it can be all-consuming.
With my work, just like any other job, I come across situations that cause me stress. I also encounter days where I am really really busy – days when what needs to get done, trumps how much time I have to do it in.
I think it is really important to reiterate that ‘slow living’ does not mean taking a long time to do everything. You can be focused, and do a task efficiently (and with speed), and still be ticking the ‘slow living’ box.
To me, slow living is about getting the most wholehearted moments from your day – moments where you are truly present, and engaged – not where your mind is somewhere else focusing on something else. It’s about the quality of your actions, and the mindfulness behind what you do. If you can cut out all the extra unimportant stuff; the things that distract you from your true purpose, then you can narrow down what your energy needs to be spent on, and can dedicate more time to it.
The challenge then becomes how we deal with any stress in a mindful way. And how do we navigate those busy periods without flapping, but with focus and purpose.
When we hit a busy patch I think it’s so easy to get swept a long with the moment. I often wonder if this is heightened as a freelancer? Do we get a big adrenaline rush from being busy? If we’re getting lots of emails asking us for things, having pitches accepted, lots of comments on social networks etc, perhaps we like the buzz – and it sure is great to feel like it’s all going well.
It’s amazing how long we can run off adrenalin, and once we’ve been busy for a while, soon working in fifth gear becomes the norm. A gentle slower pace can seem a world way, so how do we bridge that gap?
Here are my top three things to try to bring a slow and mindful approach to your work environment….
- Avoid multitasking – we waste so much energy switching from one task to another, that it is actually an unproductive way to work. Especially where creativity is concerned – it’s important to be able to lose yourself in an activity and find the ‘flow’ with what you are doing. If you are being interrupted every five minutes by social network notifications, or email alerts, then it’s hard to wholeheartedly absorb yourself in whatever task you are doing.
- Listen to our bodies – I think this is so important; Our bodies know best, and can guide us if we let them. The problem is we often ignore any whispers of ‘have a rest’, or ‘take a break’ – because when we are overwhelmed with the amount of jobs there are to be done, that’s the last thing our heads think we should be doing.
- Number three of course has to be – take more breaks; It is particularly important to give our minds a rest. We need to get better at changing gear and moving from busy, to relaxed, and by doing simple things like making time to enjoy a proper lunch, or taking five minutes to make a cup of tea and do some deep breathing, will help us do this. They only have to be little pauses (and catching up on Instagram doesn’t count) give your mind a chance to daydream. I really believe this will help us work through any busy spells in a calm and grounded fashion.
I have written this post as much as reminder for me, as for all of you. With slow living, just like any other lifestyle choice, of course you encounter stress. However, with a bit of thought (and my tips) you can handle that stress, and those busy times in line with your slow living principles, and still have time for those wholehearted and calm moments everyday.
What do you do to help you work in a mindful and intentional way? How do you make sure you don’t get carried away with the busyness and stress of your work? Would love to hear any tips you have to share.