An old Zen-saying says “Meditate for twenty minutes every day, except if you are too busy: then meditate for an hour.” Whenever we share this idea during one of our wellness trainings, people start laughing. At first glance, it seems like quite a humorous statement, but at the same time, it also contains a fundamental principle of mindfulness: becoming aware of your reality. And if you find that you are too busy to do so, you need to take some extra time to become aware of it.
The acceleration trap
In French, people say “reculer pour mieux sauter”: this means taking a few steps back to better jump forward. And there is definitely a lot of value in this statement. In Swiss research, scientists discovered that there is such a thing as “the acceleration trap”: under pressure or out of genuine passion, we tend to keep going and keep pushing further. We can be so much in the zone or feel like we’re on a roll that we don’t want to stop. But this also means the risk of outrunning ourselves and even burning out becomes bigger and bigger.
Slowing down as a step towards more well-being
The remedy? Slowing down. And it’s best to do that preemptively.
You can approach this in many different ways, for example:
- Every day during your workday, take a few minutes for yourself. This will allow you to consider important questions: How do you feel? What do you need to be more efficient, productive or happy/happier? And how can you achieve even a little bit of that right now?
- Make sure to take a few moments of qualitative me-time every week. It’s best to actually schedule it in your calendar, just like any other appointment. Believe me, if you just say to yourself “I will do it when I have time for it”, I’m afraid you are just tricking yourself. There will always be something more important that will come up – especially if you have a caring personality. The result will be that you are taking care of everyone but yourself! And in those moments of me-time, do something that you truly enjoy doing. This can be any hobby, sports, being out in nature, doing something with friends, family or your family, whatever makes you feel good.
- Take regular vacations and allow yourself to truly and completely de-connect. This can have something to do with a so-called digital detox (less screen time really does work miracles!), but it can is also just be about disconnecting from your worries and work projects.
Exit macho culture
Unfortunately, slowing down still has a dubious reputation. That’s a real pity, because by taking regular and sufficient rest and mentally disconnect from the rush of the day, your energy will be rising and your creativity will be bubbling. So, the French actually make a good point: although it seems contradictive, you will be able to get a lot further and get a lot more done if you make sure to slow down once and a while. The macho culture that cherishes overtime and being busy all the time as a status symbol has – luckily – started to crumble, thanks to people such as Tony Crabbe, who courageously wrote “Being busy is for losers”.
Still, many people remain convinced that we must work hard (until retirement!) if we want to get anywhere in life. In some environments, even questioning the accuracy and validity of this model is still not allowed.
Making a conscious choice
Without wishing to advocate laziness – although it can be very healthy in moderation! – or taking advantage, I do support the conclusion of various experts that state we should be courageous enough to leave behind pathogenic models such as “I live to work”. So that we can be able to choose a job in which we can learn, a job in which we can find a challenge that fascinates us or a job in which we can do meaningful work.
By choosing to step away from the old models and consciously slowing down regularly and taking a break, we make sure that we are – and stay – in good shape. We should be able to feel good in our skin and in our mind, as they are hopefully going to serve us well beyond our retirement age.
So, take care of your mind and body and slow down today.