Remember that Alka-Seltzer jingle from the 90s?
Nobody likes to eat and run, they’d rather take it slow.
But the way this life is going, you got to get your food and go!
If all that runnin’ round catches up with you at last,
Get yourself some Alka-seltzer and you’ll feel better fast.
You have no idea how often this song plays in my head as my shoulders crunch up to my ears with all the tension I hold there or I lose sleep thinking of everything I need to get done. What’s sad is how normal it has become to feel stress like that as I rush about all day, every day.
But why am I always in such a hurry? Society has us convinced that unless we pack some task into every single waking minute we are somehow misusing our time. It’s a lie — what we’re really doing is packing every minute with undo stress.
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. — Marthe Troly-Curtin
Not only is it impossible to get everything done, it is bad for us. Stress leads to any number of health-shattering side-effects: sleep loss, malnutrition, indigestion, depression. Who needs any of that? Nobody, that’s who. What we need is more time — time to unwind, to decompress, to heal, and to enjoy. Here’s how to take it back.
Get Out of the Fast Lane
How: I’m starting you off easy with a literal interpretation of slowing down by telling you to budget more time for getting from place to place. Forgo doing that “one more little thing” and, instead, use those extra minutes for your commute. If your GPS tells you a certain route will take 20 minutes without traffic, set aside 20 minutes of drive time, 10 minutes for traffic, and 10 more minutes for events unforeseen.
Why: Minimizing stress related to commuting does a number for your overall well-being: lower blood pressure, improved state of mind, less soreness from tensed muscles, and you’ll be better able and willing to grant patience to fellow drivers.
Deluxe Tip: Being consistently punctual is a much appreciated quality — in fact, it is one of my goals for 2015 — and will garner more respect from your friends and colleagues. Plus, if you arrive early at your destination that extra time will be like a bonus! Use the extra minutes to meditate, tackle a phone call or two, or practice your resolution to read more.
Don’t Bolt Your Food
How: Make your mealtimes last 20 minutes. It might be hard given how we all tend to throw food down as fast as possible (usually while also doing something else) so we can move on to the next thing on the to-do list. Fill out the time by physically slowing each step of the dining process. Select a piece of food, put it in your mouth, set down your utensil, chew, and swallow. Repeat. Taste everything. Feel free to play with your food — by mixing things up to see what they taste like together. If you still can’t make a meal last, refrain from getting seconds until 20 minutes after your first bite has lapsed.
Why: Years of diet research has found that the satiety signal is sent from the intestines to the brain. It has almost nothing to do with your stomach! The digestion process takes a few minutes to get started after that first bite crosses your lips, so give your food time to travel a bit and send back an accurate hunger reading.
Deluxe Tip: If you are doing your darnedest to slow your eating but are unable to savor your food, it might be because your food isn’t worth savoring. Eating good might mean you are getting all the necessary calories and a good deal of nutrients, but eating well means you’re getting more. Take a hard look at what you’re putting into your mouth to see where you could stand to upgrade. We’re more than happy to share our favorite recipes!
Think Before You Speak
How: Too often when other people talk we are focusing on our responses and not on what’s being said. It is the conversational equivalent of skimming an article; you get the gist, but the details are lost. Instead, focus on what is being said as it is being said. Once the speaker is finished, take a deep breath, reflect on what was said, and offer your response.
Why: Whether you are in a one-on-one conversation, a group discussion, or giving a speech, taking time for your thoughts to solidify will strengthen your connections to others and reduce misunderstandings. You’ll also be more articulate, which will up the impact of your thoughts and opinions. Most of all, you’ll garner respect as a good listener in your professional and personal relationships.
Deluxe Tip: When in conversation, move all communication devices out of sight. Even if you aren’t actively checking e-mail or texting, seeing your phone or computer can pull your subconscious away from the current conversation and onto other tasks. Take into account more than just what words are being said. Tune into body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the particular verbiage chosen. This will engage multiple regions of your brain so you get wrapped up in the conversation the same way you would a good TV show.
Do Only What You’re Doing
How: I have not believed in multi-tasking for a long time. The human brain can consciously do only one thing at a time. You might think you’re able to do two tasks at once, but in reality you are switching back and forth between each task. With each shift you lose focus for a few seconds, which means you lose time, and that slows you down. There is no sense in rushing about if it doesn’t get you anywhere any faster. Instead of trying to do more at once, do it more efficiently by concentrating fully on only one task at a time. If you feel you have a lot on your plate, make a list in order of priority and assign each item a certain amount of time. Only focus on the highest priority until it is either finished or you’ve worked on it for the time allotted. Practice concentrating on the job at hand — no thinking about what comes next or dwelling on something you did earlier.
Why: It simply doesn’t make sense to do two things at once when you can’t do either to your best ability. Speed and efficiency are not the same thing. If you drive fast you might get somewhere quickly, but your fuel economy (and your wallet) will suffer for it. Keeping yourself focused will allow you to put all your resources to their best use. You’ll be able to accomplish things quickly with fewer mistakes, thereby increasing your self-worth.
Deluxe Tip: If you finish a task with time to spare, use the extra minutes for you! Go for a run, search the net for kitten photos, or take a power nap. You earned it!
Slow Down… But Slowly
Slowing down is definitely a good idea, but there’s no need to rush into anything; that’d be the fastest way to failure. Instead, make changes slowly. Opt to change your daily approach to just one of the life facets I’ve listed. Maybe 2015 is the year you become a better listener. Or use this to rid yourself of road rage. Even small, slow changes will have a big impact on your stress levels and, in time, your overall wellness.
Photo Credits: Kent Kawashima, PlayBuzz.com, Peggy Greb, Chris Clogg, and Chris Blakeley.