As I shared a couple of months ago, I’m taking life a little slower these days.
And I super love it.
I didn’t stop taking classes this semester just so I could fill it up with a ton of other things to do, as evident by my lack of blogging much. I still plan on continuing to share and have been working on content, but I’m basically taking everything slow while I better figure out what I want my life to look and feel like.
As I’ve acknowledged the roles of both PTSD and postpartum anxiety in my life, I’m better understanding why I’ve chosen to pursue certain things. The push-push-push of my life the last few years was never about big career plans, or perfectionism, or feeling like I had to do all the things. It has been my biggest coping mechanism. Just like in high school when school was my safe place, it continued to distract me from actually taking care of myself and dealing with some of the big things that have happened in my life.
It has been freeing to look at what I’m doing with my time and evaluate if I even want to be doing it, why I feel like I need to do it, or why I feel like it has RIGHT NOW urgency. Because the more I question those things, the more I realize that I don’t need or want to do all of my goals right this second.
That being said, slowing down doesn’t mean that I’m sitting around every night binge-watching Netflix–though I watched Stranger Things and my world is significantly better for it, so there’s that. Slowing down isn’t a lack of movement or progress. For me it has meant that I’m more intentional with my time and focusing on what’s most important to me right now..
Remember how my theme phrase for 2019 was “be intentional?” That one kind of came back to kick me in the butt. But in the hardest, best kind of way.
There are a few things that I have been actively doing to help me slow down, and I want to share them with you all. After looking at them, I can see a pattern that they’re things that help me focus on taking care of my body, mind, and heart. Hopefully, you’ll get some ideas for how you can more intentionally slow things down in your life right now.
Mindfulness. Or meditation, whatever you prefer to call it. Earlier this year I downloaded the Headspace app and tried some of the free meditation practices, but was not consistent with it. But going to regular therapy has changed my world in regards to mindfulness. Because of my anxiety, my therapist really focuses on helping me develop mindfulness skills. It’s amazing to see them in action, where I’ll go from being pretty upset about something we’re discussing and then we’ll do a mindfulness activity and I can feel the difference in my body and mind in a minute or so. Several times now I’ve sat at my desk and done one on my own when I’ve felt a rush of anxiety.
If you’re interested in trying to incorporate more mindfulness into your day, you can download Headspace on your phone or learn more at Mindful. Also, my sister showed me this book and I checked it out from the library. It’s written for kids, but these are very similar to strategies I’m learning in therapy and don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t also help adults.
Swimming. I lived my first 20 years in Arizona, much of that time in the pool. I’ve wanted to start swimming laps again for exercise for several years, but we never lived by a pool or had the money for a membership. A little over a month ago we got a membership to a rec center with a lap pool and I am so happy. My first night I swam 22 laps and thought, “Ohhhh, where have you been the last 14 years?!”
The repetition, not hearing all the gym conversations, just being able to glide through the water and not think too much about anything but my breath is so dang relaxing. It’s a different kind of good workout feeling than a fun HIIT workout. I leave feeling a calm and peaceful energy, rather than a super pumped up energy. I love both feelings, but I’m really appreciating more calm in my life.
Ultimately, this comes down to the truth that taking care of physical needs also takes care of mental health needs. Consider how exercising, eating more nourishing food, getting enough sleep, or even scheduling a massage could help you take care of your body + mind, and then start incorporating some changes into your life.
Journaling. While I have always been a journaling fan, I’m doing it a little different lately. In therapy we’ve talked about how people function best when they’re within their window of tolerance, not experiencing hypo- (depression) or hyperarousal (anxiety). After she told me about that, I decided to start tracking how I felt each day to see if I could see any patterns in my moods and when I felt anxious. Every night I jot down the date and how my window of tolerance went that day. If I had periods of the day where I wasn’t within it, then I write down the time of day and what was going on.
That same day, I decided to try writing down 3 specific things I’m grateful for, from that day. There’s a lot of happy little moments I’ve captured as I’ve thought through my blessings each day. Between these two things, I see the good in my life and the progress I’m making with the struggles. I know my anxiety is improving as a direct result and I feel less pull to do things or have a plan “right now!”
If you want to start journaling, but aren’t sure where to start, try doing a gratitude journal each day. It can be as simple as one thing that you write down in your phone before you go to bed.
A Creating Outlet. I’m a big proponent of recognizing the non-traditional parts of creativity, because all of us are creative. However, in this one I do mean the more traditional “crafty” type of creativity. In the last little bit I have painted, colored, started drawing, practiced doodling and hand lettering, and am trying to find a good sewing project to make for my girls. There’s something about creating a thing that wasn’t there before that makes us all feel good. There’s a ton of research on this too, if you’re feeling inclined to Google the benefits of creating!
Creating is super broad, so you should be able to find something that interests you. Could be painting, scrapbooking, knitting, woodworking, sewing, drawing, playing an instrument, growing a garden (or houseplant), cooking, creating a cosplay costume (I know a surprising amount of people who do this and are gooood), or a number of other options. And if you think you’re not skilled, that’s fine–this is a no-pressure creating experience! It’s time away from social media and emails, where you can be absorbed in and satisfied by your handiwork.
Even though I’m obviously “doing” things, they are helping me slow my life down by allowing me to have more feelings of peace and calm in my life. They help me stay in the moment and get out of the anxiety trap of “What do I need to do next?” Freeing up that emotional space in my mind is helping me to better focus on the things I actually care about the most.
Did any ideas come to your mind about things you can actively do to help you slow things down in your life? Share in the comments below!