little steps for walking slowly through your busy life

"this is literally theee first time i've sat down today."

how many times have you found yourself saying that?
i catch myself saying that to friends on the phone...saying that to my husband when he texts that he's on his way home from work...saying that to my kids when they come to me with yet another random request.

"this is the first time i've sat down all day.  i've been go-go-going and i'm finally sitting down and resting.  i'm exhausted.  i'm worn out."

a few weeks ago, i found myself sitting down mid-day, catching a rare, brief moment of respite.  as i sat and just thought through my day, i came to the realization that i live my life in a constant state of hurry.
i am always go-go-going.
always rushing.
as i contemplated this, i wondered, "why? why am i always hurrying?"
and try as i might, i couldn't come up with a single good reason.

i rush because it is my "default mode."
get done with this so that i can start that.
do this tonight so that i can do that tomorrow.
hurry and get out of bed so that i can fix breakfast.
hurry and clean up after breakfast so that we can do school.
hurry and finish school so we can go to the library, or to the farmstand, or to the grocery store.
hurry and pay for the groceries so i can get home and cook dinner.
hurry and wrap up dinner so i can spend some time with paul.
hurry and fall asleep so that i can get up tomorrow and start this whole cycle all over again.

once i unraveled the spiraling of this vicious cycle, i began to see small triggers, patterns that seemed innocent enough but that led toward my daily rushing ruin.
fortunately, as offensive as these bothersome impulses are, they're almost equally easy to curb.
in fact, in my personal experience, just the heightened awareness of actually seeing this as a concern was enough to help me walk through my busy days just a bit more slowly.

i've implemented a few basic, practical strategies that have really made a difference.  i think, sometimes, the change may be more of a mental thing for me, an imperceptible shift that an outsider wouldn't even notice.  but, as all of us know, little changes can equal big results, and visible or not, increased peace of mind is result enough for me.

1. lower your voice.
this is a classic example of "fake it 'til you make it."
there are a lot of times that i don't feel calm.
i want everyone to hurry...we have things to do and we need to get them done now
but lowering my voice {and thus denying the natural instinct to raise it} instantly has a quieting effect on those around me.  and for the most part, in reality, things happen more smoothly--and therefore, more quickly--when calm prevails.

2. decrease caffeine consumption.
wait! wait!
don't let me lose you already!
i'm sure most normal people can handle copious amounts of caffeine.  but, just in case you're a weirdo like me, you may want to consider switching to half-caf or decaf partway through the morning.
i'm extremely sensitive to caffeine and have had to limit my consumption of even decaf!  the caffeine gives me deep pangs of anxiety and a general chicken-running-around-with-its-head-cut-off feeling.
if you're experiencing a frantic thrum of go-go-go-do-do-do, maybe, just maybe, try staying off the joe for a day or two.  
i've been off it completely for a week now {other than one decaf latte on saturday} and have noticed a considerable difference.

3. if you do decide to stick with your coffee, try drinking it with two hands.  
hey, even we tea and smoothie drinkers can implement this slow-down method.

4. silence your phone.
i can't tell you how many times i've thought, "if my phone rings one more time {or 'if i get one more text'}, i'm going to throw it through the window."
i'm sure your thoughts have never ranged to that extreme.
there are some days, though, where it truly feels like every single family member and friend and those who belong in neither group feel like they need a piece of me.
the truth is, if someone truly needs us, they'll know how to reach us, even through the impediment of a silent phone.
i've been silencing my phone during the day for the past two months now.  i check it at my will, usually once an hour or so.
just removing that constant, somewhat-unexpected chiming and dinging and buzzing for my attention takes away a factor of "must-do-now-ness."

5. while you're silencing your phone, go ahead and turn off your phone's automatic email "pushing" and silence the email notifications on your computer.  see reasons in paragraph above.

6. when you're driving and you come to a stop sign, always come to a complete halt.
yes, this is the law.
no, most of us don't do it.
but we should.  i find i drive considerably more in-control when i consciously come to a complete stop at every stop sign.
it also must have some sort of subconscious effect, because i find that i just don't feel like i'm in as much of a hurry when i do so.
added benefit: avoid expensive tickets! win-win!

7. eat only while sitting down.
how often i've found myself standing at the counter, fisting a half-empty bag of chips, wondering how i could have possibly eaten all of them!
i'm trying to force myself to take the time to plate a small meal and eat it at the table.  
many days it means that i eat my lunch around 2:00 in the afternoon, simply because i prefer the peace and quiet of lunch alone {we eat dinner as a family, and i am in the kitchen with the kiddos for both breakfast and lunch}.
grabbing on-the-go snacks and meal replacements not only adds to our waistline, but also to indigestion.
when at all possible, fix yourself a small meal--a half sandwich, a small bowl of leftover soup, a simple salad, an egg or two fried with some greens and veggies, an apple with a bit of peanut butter and granola for dipping, whatever--put some thought into your food and make the time to sit down and eat.

8. make yourself "pay" for using "bad words."
no, i'm not talking about cussing here.  although, if that's your weakness, maybe this does apply.
what i'm talking about is this: listen to yourself.  what are your code words, the phrases you over-use especially when you're trying to get people to hurry?
that same day that i had this little talk with myself on the couch, i observed that i repeatedly use the phrase "hurry up" and the word "quickly" {just that word, all alone, as a command}.  i determined to eradicate those from my daily vocabulary.  i simply forced myself to make a tally mark on our big chalkboard either time i slipped and said either of those or any variation thereof.
the first week, i think i had six tallies.  the second week three.  and now, four weeks out, i've quit keeping score, but i know i'm down to just one or two slip-ups a week.
i'm not saying that it's bad to occasionally ask your people to light a fire under it, but if you find that you are constantly harping on people to "move it! hurry up! quickly! now! get going! come on! faster! hurry! let's go!" you may need to enforce a small consequence to train yourself out of that verbal pattern.
all of us are different, i know that.  but of all these small changes, this is the one that has made the biggest impact on me.

9. remind yourself as often as needed that life is not an emergency.
emergencies will arise.  but nine times out of, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, that text or that phone call or that email that you missed because your phone was silenced was not in any way related to a bonafide emergency.

i'll be the first to admit, i still stumble and fall into the old, troublesome routines of urgency on a regular basis.
i'm human...aren't we all?
but if i...if we can take small steps on a daily basis that help us to be more calm, to walk more slowly, with more intention through these busy lives that we lead...if we can all do that, even those little steps promise to accrue to a great big change.

i love practical little tips like this...small things that i can start doing today to make a difference in my life, in my home, in my relationships.
do you have any proven techniques that you use to center yourself?  to calm the inner "noise?" to slow yourself down?  please share.
i'm willing to say that this is an area i struggle with...always have...probably always will.  but i'd love to know what has worked for you.

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