Sometimes I feel like I am on a treadmill and running through my life. Going to work all day, then coming home to take care of the cooking, cleaning, paying bills, doing laundry, and tending to my family’s needs. And worse, despite working really hard, I rarely enjoy any sense of accomplishment – in all the rushing around, I am barely able to keep my head above water. I end up feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and run-down, and find myself wondering, how can I find a way to slow down and live joyfully?
Why I am sharing this with you? Because I suspect many of us feel this way sometimes (or all the time!). There has to be more to life than living for the weekends and vacations. How can we slow down and enjoy more peace and joy in our everyday lives?
There are a lot of reasons for us to learn to slow down, relax, and live with more peace and joy. When we are centered, calm, and joyful, we have so much more to offer our families, friends, and communities.
When our lives are frantic and stressful, our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is compromised. The physical response and the long-term effects are devastating. Research links chronic stress to:
- Poor digestion
- Heart disease
Of course, we can’t just drop all our responsibilities, but we can do a few things to make our life a little less crazy. I have fives simple strategies to suggest as a gentle reminder to slow down and live joyfully. Of course, you will find your own way, and take what works for you and ignore the rest.
Five small but powerful things you can do to feel better now:
- Slow down and focus on the Present
- Change your expectations
- Prioritize and learn to let go (without the guilt)
- Practice gratitude
- Take time for self-care
1. Slow Down and Focus on the Present Moment
How much of our time and energy is spent on fretting over the past or worrying over the future? How can we take pleasure in the daily tasks of living if we are focused on rushing ahead to the next thing?
Slowing down and paying attention to the present moment is a powerful way to bring more peace into our lives. Whatever the task at hand, pay close attention, using all your senses. Perhaps you are washing the dishes. Pay attention to the sensation of the warm water, soapy sponge, and the sounds of dishes clattering as you move through the process. Don’t rush, or become distracted, but focus and breathe. You might find a new sense of calm and ease. Try to hold onto this as you move through your day.
2. Change Your Expectations
Are you trying to do it all? When I stopped to evaluate everything I was attempting to do (and put it all in writing), I realized how crazy my expectations were. There are only 24 hours in a day, or 168 hours in a week. Take away the time spent at a job with commuting, then subtract about 7 hours a night for sleep and that only leaves about 69 hours a week for everything else.
When I realized how limited my “free time” was, I knew I had to adjust my expectations. Which leads me to strategy three.
3. Prioritize and Let Go
As we all know, there are obligations and responsibilities we cannot abandon (well, we probably could, but not as responsible adults.) But at least some of the stress and madness in our lives can be adjusted if we stop to consider our choices.
There are many things that are really important to me, and probably to you too. But the most important to me are family and health – both physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Changing my expectations and realizing the preciousness of my free time helps me to decide my priorities. Deciding what matters most helps me to let go of many of the smaller things that were sucking up my time and energy, and causing unnecessary stress. I was able to let go of some things without the guilt because I knew I was saving my time and energy for what really matters most in my life. We can let go of the negative belief that we need more to be happy. We can choose to live with less and enjoy voluntary simplicity.
4. Practice Gratitude
Feeling grateful when you are overwhelmed and stressed can be a difficult challenge. But don’t underestimate the power of taking just a few minutes to find gratitude. During a three-year period I lost both my parents and my marriage, and yet I used the power of gratitude to pull myself through my days. Some days I was simply thankful for the clear blue sky and the love of my young children. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it is to feel a deep sense of peace and fullness in life.
Staying mindful and present, adjusting my expectations, considering my priorities, and finding gratitude, all help me to remember to take care of myself. If I neglect my needs, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual, I cannot function at my best, and everything that matters most to me suffers. I cannot be mindful, present, and joyful with my family if I am suffering from my own neglect.
Self-care doesn’t require a big time commitment. It can be as simple as asking for a little support when needed. A gentle reminder to my spouse and children to pick up the house, or to give me a few minutes alone after I return from work to recoup from a hectic day.
Small things, if done regularly, can make a big difference.
- Perhaps sitting quietly with a warm cup of tea for a few minutes.
- A hot bath with lavender oil.
- A few minutes of gentle stretching or yoga.
- A short walk in nature.
We often get caught up in the “all or nothing” mentality, and think that we need to do a lot of something to get a benefit, but in reality, it’s the small things done regularly that can make the biggest difference without taking too much time or adding more stress to our already full days.
Think of the small actions you would do to offer comfort to a loved one. Can you do this for yourself?
These are the thing I am doing to stay healthy, happy, and productive. While they seem simple and obvious, it can be hard to think clearly when caught up in the hectic pace of our full lives. I hope this is a gentle reminder for you.
Questions for you to consider –
Are you mindful of the present moment as you move through your day?
Do your expectations need adjusting?
What matters most to you? Are your daily choices supporting this?
What are some of the small ways you can take care of yourself?
In peace and comfort,
For more on slowing down and enjoying life:
Seeking Joyful Simplicity – Four Herbs for Managing Stress and Overwhelm
Especially for working moms: https://www.pgeveryday.com/health-wellbeing/stress-relief/article/7-top-tips-for-handling-stress-as-a-working-mom
Self-Care Habits from the Tiny Buddha blog: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-a-healthy-mind-body-and-soul/