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We were vacationing in Washington, D.C. I didn’t have the energy to walk for than a hundred yards before I had to sit down. Later that evening in a cold sweat, I was taken to Georgetown University Hospital.
The next morning the doctor and I had a long conversation about my busy life. He said, “Don, you’re 30 years old with young kids. Do you want to enjoy life, see them marry and be a grandfather? If so, you have to slow down your pace. You’re moving way too fast.”
I spent a week in that hospital recovering from a virus that completely sapped my energy.
The bedside chat with the doctor was a wakeup call that saved my life. Today I continue to slow down and enjoy a full life with my adult kids and grandkids!
Don’t wait for a crisis to get your attention. Here are 3 simple ways you can slow down and enjoy your life.
Slow down your pace
Do you live a hectic lifestyle? If so, you are not alone. Stressed out parents reach out to me on a regular basis seeking help to cope with a myriad of mental health and relationship problems. These are symptomatic of a chronically busy life.
Spending my vacation in a hospital gave me time to think about how to slow my hectic pace. Clearly I needed to make time for relaxation and enjoyment with my family.
I focused on two things: stress management and increasing margin for family time. One of the decisions I made that worked well was setting up a basketball court in our driveway. I played ball with my kids and their friends. Eventually some of the dads joined us.
Reflect on what you can do to slow down your pace a little. Here’s some food for fodder.
- Cut back an hour or two of work
- Eliminate one of the kid’s activities and use this time to play together
- Limit volunteer and/or committee work
- Establish a “down time day” routine and relax cuddling on the couch (see pic above)
Slow down your thoughts
In a fast-pace world we have a tendency to operate our brains at high speed. Multitasking all day long while moving from one event to the next is not good!
Slowing down your thoughts is about being more self-aware. Being present with yourself. Monitoring your thoughts and feelings in a given moment.
In his book, “Thinking Slow & Fast”
author Daniel Kahneman talks about two thinking systems:
- Automatic thinking system based on the subconscious mind and emotions is fast.
- Deliberate thinking system based on conscious mind using logic is slower.
Kahneman argues that we rely too much on system one thinking and it can get us into trouble. Slowing down (system 2) increases self-awareness and affords the opportunity to think things through more clearly.
Here are some suggestions on how to slow down your thoughts
- Spiritual reading and prayer
- Taking 5-20 minutes a day to meditate
- Deep breathing and stress relaxation exercises
- Going for a walk outdoors without use of electronic devices
- Taking a few minutes before the start of the day or an activity to deep breathe and reflect on how you want to be present with others
Slow down your reactions
This is about managing yourself in a social world–especially in your family. One of the measures of emotional intelligence is self-expression and interpersonal relationships.
You can enjoy your life and relationships more if you can slow down your reactions to people by being more thoughtful and deliberate in how you act.
Slowing down helps you manage impulsivity in stressful situations. It increases stress tolerance. Slowing yourself down allows you to execute a respectful response toward others. This is especially important in stressful situations.
Here are a few slowing down practices:
- Take deep breaths and count to ten
- Paraphrase what you hear someone say before you respond
- Ask clarifying questions to increase your understanding of the other person
- Speak slowly
My “go to” when I need to slow down my reaction time is a verse of scripture I memorized.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Benefits you can expect when you slow down
Here are 5 benefits you can expect when you slow down.
- More control of your life.
- Shift from a hectic pace to a healthy pace.
- Increase in happiness.
- Increase in satisfying relationships.
- Improved health (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually).
Now it’s your turn
Don’t be like me and need a bedside chat with a doctor to get your attention. You can relax and enjoy your life today by taking action in one or all three of these areas. Which one will you choose right now?