Many people the world over who currently find themselves in an enforced state of stillness are discovering the benefits that slow living can provide – from spending time with family, baking & cooking meals from scratch, rediscovering hobbies, to regularly connecting with friends and relatives over Zoom meetings.
But understandably, others are finding it harder to slip straight into the joys that slowing down can offer. These are uncertain times, and in this situation, stress levels are naturally high.
Being forced to slow down isn’t the same as choosing to slow down after all.
Make the choice
Making an intentional decision to slow your life is a game-changer. If this pandemic has taught me anything it is that I don’t want things to go back to the way they were.
That is to say, while I hope we get through this well and healthy, I absolutely don’t want the world to just slip back into a state of rush and bother.
These moments of calm among the chaos are going to stay with us for a lifetime and beyond. These moments of genuine connection, of love and laughter, have the power to be utterly transformative.
I have long been an advocate of slow living principles. Taking the time to reflect mindfully on where you are in your life and how to make the most of your time on earth is an integral part of this, and the current situation lends itself well to a bit of soul searching and reflection.
These are truly unprecedented times. And while I obviously lament the fact that things are what they are, I applaud how people are dealing with their emotions at this time.
Take what you need
I feel like people are either in ‘STOP’ or ‘GO’ mode right now!
Many people I have spoken to are finding ways to busy themselves which involve getting back into a hobby they had long ago put down. They are using the time to exercise, garden, cook nourishing meals, to knit, write music, work on their goals and plan for a future when all of this is a distant memory.
But as well as this, many are putting on the brakes and doing absolutely NOTHING, and this is so good to see!
We so often berate ourselves for failing to “make the most of a situation”. We see that others are using this lockdown period to better themselves and we beat ourselves up for eating all the cake and binge-watching Netflix shows.
But in the fast-paced and hectic lifestyle of the modern world, there is so seldom the chance to simply BE. To switch off and unwind.
So much about modern life is fast, brash and chaotic. Some people thrive on this – but so, so many do not. It is simply what we have come to expect.
This is a time for listening to your body. If long baths, comfy clothes, Netflix and chill is what you need, then go with that!
If on the other hand, this pause in time has fired up your creativity and you are feeling the urge to make something of it, then put this time to good use and change your world!
Use this time to get in touch with yourself, use it to bond with your children, reconnect with your lover, cuddle your cat.
Decide that when this is all over, you don’t go back. You continue to allow these pockets of calm into your life. Make the choice to live a slower, more deliberate existence. One in which you can breathe deep, nourishing lungfuls of air and really, truly, feel the joy.
Dealing with stress
Regardless of how you are spending your time, and whether you welcome this period of stillness or not, there will undoubtedly be times when anxiety and stress get the better of you.
So how can slowing down help you combat this negativity?
Be aware of triggers
Be aware of what sparks these stressful thoughts and take mindful, deliberate steps to limit your contact with these triggers.
For example, if you find yourself constantly scrolling your news feeds and being affected by the negative statistics you find there, then make a decision that you will only check the news once a day.
Agree with yourself to only look in the morning when you wake up and then stick with your pact to not look again for 24 hours.
Don’t try to do it all
Don’t make yourself more stressed by trying to fit your old schedule into your new one. Don’t split yourself apart trying to homeschool your kids whilst working from home and doing the housework all at once. Let it go.
A little bit of time spent chilling instead of schooling isn’t going to break your kids. They are likely just as stressed and confused by all this as you! Let them play.
You are only one person, you cannot do it all, don’t even try. Consider ANYTHING you manage to get done a triumph. Breathe and move on.
Look after yourself
Try and give yourself time to incorporate healthy habits into your day. I know it is easier said than done, but there really is nothing more important than taking care of yourself. You cannot hope to be of service to others if you are a big hot mess of anxiety and overwhelm.
If you are able, set aside time when you wake to establish a morning routine. If that is too much then even just a few moments spent looking out of the window while you drink your morning cuppa can be enormously beneficial. Put your phone down, don’t open your computer, don’t mentally go through your to-do list for the day, just sit and be. Breathe.
Exercise is proven to boost mood and reduce anxiety, so don’t forget to move! The other perk of exercising when you feel anxious is that a lot of the side effects are kinda the same… pounding heart, rapid breathing, sweating – so it almost sort of makes sense of how you are feeling. You expect to feel these things when you work out, so consequently, exercising helps you realign and put you in a better place.
Make sure you create time to be alone
My family and I are pretty well versed in the art of small space living…we are a homeschooling family of 4 who live in a 350 sq ft home and have been known to spend months at a time living in our camper van – but a key component for making it work is knowing when to back off and give each other room to breathe.
This will be even more crucial if, like most of the world, you don’t generally spend so much “quality time” in each other’s company!
Make sure that everyone can regularly get some headspace. Maybe have an agreement that if a specified door is SHUT it means stay away (bedroom door most typically, but whatever works with your home set up.)
Slow living is all about an appreciation of what you have, practising gratitude is a powerful way to put things into perspective. Whatever is going on in your world, and indeed, the world at large, there is always something to be grateful for. Your warm bed, the roof over your head, that your loved ones are safe at home, a delicious cup of coffee, the sun on your face…
Making a point of everyday listing at least 3 things to be grateful for is a tried and trusted approach to cultivating more appreciation in your life.
Meditation, journalling and yoga are all great ways to manage stress in a healthy, slow and relaxed way. These practices can really help put you in touch with yourself and any emotions you are burying.
(If you are new to this, make sure you check out my meditation for beginner’s post!)
Create a sensory soothing box. This is a beautiful thing to do regardless, but particularly if you have kids! Find a collection of items in your environment that you find pleasing. Stones, fabric, a notebook, photographs. Place them in a box, whatever you have, an ornate treasure chest or a tatty box from your latest online purchase, it doesn’t matter! Decorate it, get a lil’ artsy! A little packet of joy to soothe you in chaotic moments.
Recognise what you can control VS what you cannot
It is what it is. It can be so hard to surrender and relinquish control.
A big part of the slow living ethos is being aware of what is happening in the world around you, but concerning yourself only with those things that you can directly impact.
In figure A, we see that if we focus on what we can control, things like:
- Our thoughts
- Where we shop
- Taking responsibility for our own social distancing
- Spending our time doing things which fulfil us
- What news we listen to
- Our own positive attitude
We can start to push away at the concerns that we have no control over.
However, as illustrated in figure B, if we focus on those things which are beyond our control:
- The attitude and mood of others
- Other people’s social distancing habits or behaviour
- The decisions of those in power
- When shops/school/workplaces will open again
- Whether ourselves or loved ones will become ill
- How long this will go on for
The circle closes in and we struggle to control anything under the crushing weight of it all.
Focus on conscientiously choosing abundance of experience over monetary abundance.
If you, like millions of others the world over, are experiencing a financial shortfall as a result of current events, know that everyone is in this together and remember, you can only control what you can control.
You may not be financially abundant right now. But you are abundant in other ways. Time rich over money rich is the dream for so many!
You may not be able to control what money you have coming in, but you can control what’s going out. Now might be an excellent time to begin a sound monetary practice such as keeping a kakeibo budgeting journal.
Get out in nature
This is not as easy for all of us currently, if you have a garden go to it, if you have a walk close to your home that you can safely do, then do that.
Failing that, just open a window and breathe.
We need to feel the sun on our skin, we need to feel the wind on our faces. It’s so imperative to our health!
Withdrawal from nature always leaves me feeling sketchy and anxious. The air we breathe is made by plants!! We need to connect to the world around us. Whatever way you can safely be outside, make sure you do so.
Get out of your comfort zone
Try something new, just for fun, no stress, no pressure. I have started recording myself speaking. Seems like a straightforward enough thing, but I have always felt so ridiculous talking into dictaphones etc…but just as an experiment I’ve been playing around with it, maybe I’ll even start a podcast, who knows? 🙂
Focus on the wins
Clean skies, animals roaming free, video calls with family and friends, supporting local businesses, bonding with neighbours, clapping for the care workers, singing silly songs on balconies.
All the joy, all the love, all the people doing wonderful things all over the world. Situations like this bring out the best and the worst in people. We do with it what we can.
Cut yourself some slack
Remember also though, that this is a totally bonkers time. I’m certainly not going to preach that if you don’t come out of this having started a new business or learnt to juggle that you have wasted your time. Take what you need, do what feels right for you.
If you feel stressed that is totally normal, if you feel afraid, that’s normal too.
People are an adaptive species. We are marvellously able to fit in and get on with things, maybe not immediately, but ultimately we do. We just do.
No one knows when this will end, or how it will affect the future, but we will endure. We will adapt and make of this situation what we will. What we can.
Life is big and bold and beautiful, and I for one embrace these days. I feel sad and afraid too, but I feel hope. I feel serenity, and slowness and healing, rising up from the ground. Beautiful and complete.
This lockdown has helped a lot of us to reconnect with our roots. To tap deep into wells of creativity long abandoned. Reaching out to people we haven’t spoken with in years. Reinforcing bonds, cooking and eating meals together as a family. Taking time just to be still.
There are so many lessons we can learn from this time, but ultimately, if we just come out of this healthy, a little more appreciative of what we have, and with a deeper respect for our needs, then that is enough.