Are you struggling to keep up with the endless demands of your busy lifestyle? Do you find yourself rushing to manage your commitments only to feel like there is so much left to be done? If you often get to the end of your day wishing for more hours and extra hands to juggle your workload, you are among the many who suffer from a busyness epidemic that is running rampant in our society.
Wellness experts agree that this widespread and pervasive problem is affecting our mental, physical and emotional health. Being overly busy leads us to become overly stressed, and our bodies, minds and souls are being pushed to the limit to keep up with the go-go-go lifestyle we’ve tried so hard to become accustomed to.
However, experts also agree on an unexpected solution to this common issue. While it may sound unlikely and feel counterintuitive to a person constantly on the hamster wheel of the go-go-go, it is well recognized that the most productive thing you can do for yourself is to slow down.
As the saying goes “you must slow down if you want to speed up.”
Sonya MacDonald is a registered psychologist in Pictou County. She identified this busyness epidemic in many clients who have come to her over the years with symptoms like fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, weight gain and feeling disconnected from others. She notes that her clients’ stress levels have far exceeded what is necessary to maintain good health, and admits that even she can struggle to maintain balance between the demands of a busy lifestyle and the benefits of slowing down.
“I can speak from both personal and professional hats on this topic.” Sonya states. “The concept of ‘slowing down’ can be caught in the trap of ‘all or nothing’ thinking. A person could say, “I don’t have hours a week to slow down…. that takes time and I’m telling you I don’t have time.” So, the person waits for that perfect moment to start slowing down. And yes, you guessed correct, it does not arrive. That’s because the perfect time does not exist.”
Sonya believes that the best strategy is to make small changes throughout the day in order to slow the rat race pace without killing your much needed productivity. She kindly shared these tips and suggests that if we seize moments throughout our day to put them into practice, we will find ourselves to be more peaceful, happy and productive.
BE PRESENT. It’s not enough to just slow down – you need to actually be mindful of whatever you’re doing at the moment.
FOCUS ON PEOPLE. Too often we spend time with friends and family, or meet with colleagues, and we’re not really there with them. We talk to them, but are distracted by devices. We are there, but our minds are on things we need to do.
DO LESS. It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. Instead, make the conscious choice to do less. Focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest.
DISCONNECT. Don’t always be connected. If you carry around an iPhone or Blackberry or other mobile device, shut it off. Better yet, learn to leave it behind when possible.
SINGLE-TASK. The opposite of multi-tasking. Focus on one thing at a time. Breathe. When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out, pause, and take a deep breath.
SAY NO. Saying yes can open you up to new possibilities, but saying no can give you a chance for me-time: an hour when you don’t have to keep any commitments or please anyone else, or a half-hour when you can just kick back and do absolutely nothing.
Bella Cameron is a local nutritionist who spoke about the toll that our too busy lifestyle is taking on our diet and eating habits. “People eat for three reasons: comfort, joy, and sustenance,” says Belle who cautions that our go-go-go lifestyle is detracting from all of the benefits we are meant to reap from our food.
Bella states that stress reduces our ability to break down and absorb the nutrients in our food because it interferes with the production of hydrochloric acid. “The lower your stress levels, the more nutrients you will absorb.” Overstress detracts from the sustenance we are meant to receive from our food.
Bella explained that the slower you eat, the more time your body has to give you feedback.
BELLA’S TIPS TO BRING COMFORT, JOY, AND SUSTENANCE BACK TO YOUR EATING HABITS.
BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR FOOD. Admire how it looks and smells. Be thankful that you have food while so many in this world have to go without.
SIT DOWN AND TAKE A BREATH. Pause between bites to savour the flavour. Be conscious and chew slowly. This helps with nutrient absorption and helps you enjoy every bite.
EAT WITH COMMUNITY. Nothing will add comfort and joy to your meal like good company and great conversation.
CREATE TIME AND SPACE FOR EATING. Eating on the go and rushing to eat detracts from your joy and adds to your stress levels. Make it a priority to enjoy your meals. PRETTY DISHES HELP TOO!
Bella also highlights the benefits of slowing down to cook for yourself and your family. “Not only does cooking home meals tend to increase your nutrient content, it can be made into a relaxation ritual. Good tunes. Good conversation. It can be a creative outlet.”
Dr. Amy Punke is a local naturopathic doctor who’s medical practice focuses on the healing power of nature, and body’s innate ability to restore and maintain health when it is supported and stimulated.
She describes how our body reacts to stress with an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and tension of the muscles. Dr. Punke shines a light on why our system reacts this way when under pressure, stating “Your body is preparing physiologically for “fight” or “flight.”
She further explains this innate reaction by reminding us that our prehistoric ancestors needed this stress response in order to flee from predators and survive in the harsh environments they were faced with. They would experience short bursts of extreme stress, followed by long periods of recovery.
Our brain has not evolved to differentiate the difference between the life and death stress that our ancestors experienced and the daily stresses we face in our world today. “The response is the same,” Dr. Punke asserts. “The body kicks into high gear, and we are under this “fight or flight” response on a regular basis.”
Dr. Punke sees our chronic stress manifest in mood disorders, high blood pressure and heart disease, digestive issues as well as other illnesses and disorders. She explains that the stress hormone cortisol surprises our immune system, leaving the body more susceptible to sickness. “Ongoing stress often turns into distress,” she warns, “and can wreak havoc on the mind and body.”
Luckily, Dr. Punke has some tips to curb and manage our stress and restore our mental and physical health. She suggests that to keep our bodies from jumping into “fight or flight” mode, we must practice the body’s opposite response, which is “rest, digest, and restore”.
With so many local wellness experts advising a slower, more mindful way of being, it is hoped that those of us swept up in the go-go-go lifestyle begin to realize the benefits of making time for self care. The body innately responds to stress in some negative ways, but it also has infinite restorative powers and can overcome the pressure we put it under. With practice and awareness, you can model the cure to the busyness epidemic and reap the benefits of a more balanced, relaxed and peaceful life.