“Slow down you move too fast, you got to make the morning last…” I’m pretty sure all of us know Feeling Groovy by Simon and Garfunkel. If you don’t, it’s not a train smash. Just Google the words in quotation marks or click on this link.
In essence, they sing about how rushed our lives have become and that we need to slow it right down. I couldn’t agree more! In today’s post I’ll be preaching to myself about how to slow down my lifestyle, so if you think that your life needs adjustment, read on! These last couple of weeks has been so full, I hardly had time to have a decent conversation with anyone. Not even my wife or my cats. Do you know this feeling? Do you also stretch yourself too thin? If you do, this blog post is for you.
Do we really live too fast?
The simple answer is yes. On to the next paragraph… Just kidding. But yeah, we do live too fast. This is not just a sentimental statement that I’m making because of how my weekend and preceding weeks went. No, it is a scientific fact. Even though humans tend to live longer than we used to a couple hundred years ago, we still live too fast.
But what does it mean to live too fast? Do we drive our cars too fast on the highway, or ascend too fast with an elevator? That is not entirely what it means, no. It means we spend too much time doing things and too little time resting and relaxing.
Coming back to the science behind my statement on living too fast; there are a couple of studies out there that suggest our way of living produces too much adrenaline in our bodies. In fact, some of the tests show that people working behind computers and in artificial light have a permanent level of adrenaline in their blood. Why is this bad? Because adrenaline is not meant to be in our bloodstreams for long periods of time. It should only be there for up to ten minutes at a time.
The workings of Adrenaline and why it can be detrimental to your lifestyle
Adrenaline does the exact opposite of slowing us down. It speeds us up. This hormone, also known as epinephrine, gets released into the bloodstream when we are in danger or under severe stress. It is known as the “fight or flight” hormone. When epinephrine gets released into the bloodstream, blood vessels and airways dilate (meaning blood and oxygen can get to where it needs to go faster). Your heart rate and blood pressure also increases, so that the heart can pump that oxygen rich blood through the body at high speed.
In the primitive man, this hormone would typically get released into the bloodstream if a person was under attack. It would enable the person to either defend him/herself against a predator or to run away. After the person escaped, the adrenaline would have worked out of the bloodstream. The person would experience some fatigue after the fact, but would soon be up and running again.
Nowadays, computer screens and flickering electric lights stimulate the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. You can see how this can be a problem, right? How do you slow down when your body constantly tells you to fight or to run? You can’t. It’s as simple as that.
So what happens when all of this adrenaline stays in your bloodstream?
Cortisol gets injected into the blood stream along with adrenaline, and as you may know, cortisol is also known as the “stress hormone”. So when you are suffering from permanent adrenal exposure, your body is also exposed to cortisol. This increases your overall stress levels. When you have these high levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your blood, you are more prone to illness and insomnia. It increases the likelihood of getting Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in kinds and often leads to being overly nervous about every day stuff. You may not believe this, but people that are exposed to continuous high levels of adrenaline in their blood starts showing signs of age earlier than others.
I don’t know about you, but I really think this warrants a change in lifestyle.
Okay, so what now? How do we get rid of these symptoms?
You want to start living your life with less stress, right? The fact that adrenaline is constantly gnawing away at your immune system is troubling, isn’t it? Are you with me on this? It is time to slow down. Time to go back and reinvent your way of living. Now you immediately think that I am asking too much, aren’t you? You think that I am crazy to suggest such drastic measures, am I right?
Well lucky for you, I don’t mean that you have to sell your belongings and give everything away. That is not at all what I have in mind, even though less belongings might not be such a bad idea… You also don’t have to start doing two hours of yoga each day or meditate for hours on end. Do small things, change small things. Instead of reading that last article about the latest mass shooting in America, go to sleep five minutes earlier. If you think that reading one less news article a day is within the reasonable limits of what you’d be willing to do to slow down, check out the rest of my suggestions below.
Slow down your steps
Crazy as this might seem, you don’t always have to walk with a fast pace. It is okay to sometimes just wander around at a relaxing pace to take in the scenery. You don’t even have to be in a scenic setting to enjoy the scenery. All you need to do is to take the time to look around. You’d be amazed at what there is to see. Families enjoying each others’ company, young couples in love, children running around and enjoying themselves. How much of this can you really enjoy while you are walking at a near sprint?
People (including myself) are so focused on where they are going and when to get there, that they don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them anymore. But be honest with yourself, what’s the rush? Is it really so important to get there, wherever there is, in record speed? If you have to be somewhere, leave five minutes earlier than you normally would have and enjoy the trip. There is no harm in that. Go ahead and try it, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you see.
This is something I mention in nearly all of my posts. And it’s not because I don’t have anything to say. Breathing is just so important! Obviously. without breath we wouldn’t be here. But that is not what I mean. Don’t just take shallow, normal breaths. Breathe in deeply through your nose, relax your diaphragm and allow the breath to fill up your lungs and abdomen. Now breathe out through the mouth, contract your diaphragm and stomach muscles. Repeat. Visualize the oxygen circulating through your body. Going to the furthest tips of your toes, to your fingers, to your brain. Feel yourself relax as you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
The breathing routine I just described isn’t some aerie fairy rubbish. It is a breathing method that has been scientifically proven to reduce adrenaline levels in the blood stream. Yup, that’s right. Breathing deeply and evenly helps your body to get rid of that built up epinephrine and cortisol. So take some time each day to breathe properly. Don’t shoot this down folks. Think about it. With five to ten minutes of proper breathing, you can significantly decrease your stress levels. Isn’t that worth the effort? I certainly think it is, and so does a couple of very smart (I’m talking PhD smart) people.
Focus on what you are doing right now
I often find myself thinking about what still needs to be done or what should have been, what could have been… This is not a helpful habit. I need to shake this habit, don’t you agree? It would be much better for me (and for you) to focus less on what has been and what is still to come.
When you are busy with a task, don’t let your mind wonder. Focus on what you are doing and make sure that you do it to the best of your ability. In this way you will make a significant dent in your “what could have been” thought bank. Honestly, if you do things properly the first time round, you won’t have to worry about it later. Likewise, if you think ahead too much, you will lose thread of what you are supposed to be doing right now and make a mess of it. Which, in all probability, means that you will have to redo the task that you are currently doing. So instead of rushing through something to get it done, take your time with it. Take ten extra minutes or take an hour extra to complete a task, but do it properly.
Plan ahead realistically
You might think that planning ahead will increase your pace of living. On the contrary, it will definitely enable you to slow things down. Why do I say this? Well, if you have things planned out in advance and you allow for overtime with each appointment or task, you won’t be rushing from appointment to appointment. Rather, you’ll be able to complete each task with merit. You will be better able to answer all of your clients’ questions and he/she won’t feel pressed for time.
So yeah, maybe you have to work in one less appointment each day… But that might mean that in the long run you’ll have less follow up appointments, which means you can see more new clients. Or you can complete more newly appointed tasks within the given time framework. And plan to take time off as well. There is nothing wrong with taking time off to relax and nothing more relaxing than taking time off when you know you planned for it and there is nothing else that needs to be done. Go ahead, give it a try and let me know if I’m wrong.
Spend less time on your mobile devices
Plural. Devices. Put away your smart phone, tablet and laptop. Switch of your TV and desktop computer. Take off your smart watch and heart rate monitor. Did I miss something? Oh yeah, don’t listen to the radio when you drive to work and don’t read the newspaper today (technically not mobile devices, but still devices telling you what’s going on while you are mobile).
We are never ever “offline”. Our every move is tracked by a dozen different devices, every second of every day. We are always checking our phones for new messages, to see if we have any new likes or to check the news. This is crazy! Can’t we just switch things off every now and again? If we are constantly connected our brains can never truly rest. I mean, sometimes I get work emails in the middle of the night, and then I read them! This means that both myself and my client or colleague is up and doing work at a time that we shouldn’t be. Does this scenario resonate with you?
Don’t you get tired of working all the time? Or of keeping your image up on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder etc..? Take one day in a week and switch everything off. Just spend some time alone with yourself and your loved ones. You’d be amazed at the restorative power of one such day and before long, you’ll be looking forward to that day more than anything. If a day at a time is too much for you, set a “device curfew”. No more device time after eight, or something like that. Just lower that screen time a bit. It truly feels fantastic!
Having said that, I feel that this is the perfect time for you and me to switch off our devices.
Let’s slow down our lifestyles a bit. Just because everything around us is so hectic and fast paced doesn’t mean we have to be like that too… Just… Slow down.