How I’m Learning to Slow Down (and How You Can, Too)
Learning to slow down in our fast-paced society is so difficult, but lately I’ve been realizing just how important it really is. Some of the last few posts I’ve written in this blog have been less focused on tips, advice, and other forms of useful content that I’ve always felt a lot of pressure to produce.
For instance, recently I posted some blogs about our fascination with superheroes and why that might be important (check them out here and here). I love these posts and the material (because hey, Black Panther, ya’ll), though they’re a far cry from the usual fare of this blog thus far. Much more often, I’ve featured tips and other thoughts about addiction, marriage and relationships, recovery, and the like: how to make a good apology, the pros and cons of twelve-step programs, for instance, or how to know if you have an addiction in the first place.
I found that this pressure to produce content that would be really useful made me anxious and harder for me to be “me” in the blog. It made me “speed up,” and I didn’t like that very much. I didn’t like the pressure I felt and how that pressure would sometimes make me choose to disconnect from people I care about.
I’ve always wanted this blog to be helpful to those who read it, but what I realized is that I really wanted the blog to also be an encounter with me. The real me, not just the smarty-pants therapist me. I realized that it was just as important to me to be myself as it was to be helpful; in fact, being me would actually be the most helpful to anyone reading the blog.
So there’ll still be posts talking about topics like tips for moderate drinking and signs you might have a problem with pornography. But I want to invite you to shift with me, to slow down with me, starting with this blog post. This feels much healthier to me, and I hope it’s the same for you. So, what in your life feels inauthentic? What feels out of sync? What right now needs to be perfect that would be fine being “good enough”? What shifts or changes might you need to make to feel more alive, more like yourself? In what ways might you be learning to slow down?
Learning to Slow Down at the Donut Shop
Every Tuesday morning, I take my 3-year-old son to gymnastics, where he plays with other toddlers his age on trampolines, gym equipment, and the gym’s giant foam pit. It’s a ball. Afterward, we go to the neighborhood donut shop and share a donut. I love the quality time with him; it’s become treasured father-son time that’s very special.
This week that time became even more special.
I was sitting with my son at one of the tables outside of the shop when another customer, an older gentleman, looked at us sharing our donut. “A father and son sharing a donut,” he said. “He’ll remember that forever.”
Instantly, I remembered so clearly how when I was my son’s age, my grandpa had my brothers and me sit on his lap while we all ate an apple together. We’d each take bites of it, passing it around, the three of us kids (yep, I’m a triplet) taking small little bites to match my grandpa’s bigger bite. When just the apple core was left, Grandpa would eat the apple core. It’s one of my earliest and fondest memories, because I knew I was loved.
In the moment the man at the donut shop spoke to us, I realized I was giving my son such a moment. I wasn’t doing it by working, by looking at my phone, by checking my email or writing a blog post. I was focused on, present with, and connected to him. His eyes, his smiles and giggles, punctuated by the occasional gesture toward the donut signaling he wanted more, told me that he was with me too.
I knew that by slowing down and being present with my son and others in my life, I could give him and others the same great gift of connection that my grandpa had given me. I really want that for my life, and I’m learning to slow down so that I can do that better.
We all have days where we feel stressed and pulled in a million different directions. That’s going to happen no matter what we do. Here are some things that I’ve been trying to do to help myself slow down and feel more connected.
4 Ways I’m Learning to Slow Down
Unplug. I used to be on my phone a lot. Checking email. Playing a game. Reviewing finances for my practice. Scrolling through the news. It was so habitual sometimes, I did it without thinking. I noticed how sometimes I’d be on my phone while my son was asking to play with me. What message was I sending to him? What was I modeling for him?
For many of us, smartphones and technology in general can help us escape our reality. The games we play are addicting and designed to be that way. The social media apps we use offer endless scrolling, so that there’s no end to the content we could peruse. Phones especially can really suck us in and disconnect us from others. After all, how many of us have seen a family at a restaurant all glued to their phones?
Saying no. I’ve become aware that in my anxiety, I’d sometimes find tasks to do that would help me feel productive and effective but weren’t actually all that important. Of course, it felt important at the time, especially if these were tasks that others had asked me to do. But in the end, saying yes to all of these tasks was overwhelming, and I couldn’t do any of them very well.
Instead, I’m learning to choose a few things to do and do them well. I’m trying to prioritize tasks and relationships that I really enjoy and spend my time there while minimizing the “meh” stuff that I might have to do but don’t enjoy as much. And I’m learning to say, “I can’t do it all” to others and being okay with that.
Doing what I love. I love reading a good book, even if it’s about therapy or counseling. I’ve been learning to carve out more time for playing games with my family, for taking a walk, for going to a movie and—here’s the hard part—feeling okay about that.
Not only do I find that I’m a better human to be around when I do these things, I find that when I do work, I’m more productive and get more done.
Connect. I’ve become much more intentional about the time that I spend with family. Because I feel less anxious and more present when I’m with them, that time is so much more meaningful to all of us. The boundaries with technology are still a challenge sometimes (“Yes, my son, we can watch Mighty Machines but only for a few minutes, okay bud?”), but we’re working at it as a family.