You must learn to be calm and quiet even in the midst of difficulties. This is the way to overcome all obstacles.The Mother in Words of the Mother II: Calm
Around the world, burnouts are on the rise. This modern disease is characterized by fatigue, emotional instability, and apathy. While ‘burnout syndrome’ is complex and dependent on many factors, experts do agree that the technological age is bringing new types of pressure on our already busy lives: we are constantly reachable, expected to be productive in every aspect of our lives, and on top of that, we are constantly confronted on social media by others, whose lives are seemingly more perfect than ours.
Unfortunately, these pressures are present in every part of our life. Even at home, the place that should be our sanctuary, we have to deal with never ending to-do lists of what needs to be fixed, maintained, or revised. This seems to be the normal way to spend our precious time, as if we are supposed to become the most efficient species that has ever walked this earth. Yet with so many of us being anxious, stressed, depressed and unhappy, more and more people are waking up to the idea that we can – and should – question this way of life, and embrace what might seem like a rather radical alternative: slowing down.
The How and Why of Slowing Down
‘Slowing down’ might be a strange concept in a time when many of us already get agitated when our videos are not loading fast enough. For a great number of people, the reality is that we check our phone every 5 minutes, we eat take-away to save time, and we lose sleep over tasks that are looming at the office. We are afraid of what will happen when things do not get done. We work harder and longer only to realize that there is more to do. It is a never-ending grind.
Do you want to get out of this grind? Then take a step back and become bold. Slow down by letting go of the expectation to do all things. This simple inner change can be incredibly liberating. Simply choose what is most important to you, the things that you are passionate about, and let go of the rest.
If the idea of slowing down speaks to you, we want to give you some ideas that can help you to make more space in your life:
Set a reasonable intention for your day
You might be tempted to make a list of 100 items that need to be accomplished every day, but we invite you to resist the urge. Instead, make a ‘Masterlist’ of tasks, every single one you can think of, and review it twice every week. Putting all our to-do’s on paper certainly helps to clear the mind, as we do not experience the stress of forgetting important things. The trick is in how you use that list: we advise that you keep it only as a means of keeping track, and as a reference. To decide on what to do on a specific day, set aside 5 minutes in the morning to choose 3 things from your list that are most important to accomplish. Enjoy the sense of completion, and do more only when you are inspired.
Learn to say no
Stop taking on more responsibilities. While it is noble to help and volunteer, it is important to know the difference between a joyful giving and an inability to say no. Simply be aware of your inner balance and do not stretch yourself too thin, so that you can keep finding joy in what you do.
Let go of the result
Do nothing that is meant to be productive, even if you only manage for 15 minutes at first. Do not read important books or watch the news. Instead, do something that is fun and that you can do without thinking of the result. For some, that might mean making music or drawing, for others, it might be dancing to loud music or climbing a tree. Just make sure to flow with the activity and not to pressure yourself to produce something that is ‘accomplished’.
Limit your phone use
Check your phone only once in a while and do not scroll without making a conscious choice to do so. Facebook, Instagram, the news – all of these can be addictive and take your focus away from the present moment. Do not forget that whatever you see online – including this article! –stimulates the pleasure that exists in using the mind. While the mind is a beautiful instrument, we can easily be tricked into neglecting the other parts of us that need to be nurtured to find real peace and balance.
Go with other people’s flow
Once, you connected more closely to the people in your life because there was a natural affinity, a spark of joy to spend time together. When we get busy or focused on our productivity, these relationships are usually the first to suffer – we have to plan far in advance to meet, and while we are together, it might be hard to stay present as thoughts of work creep in. Spend time with the people you love, and be present for whatever arises. Focus less on what you want to get out of the relationship – instead, simply spend time together and see what emerges.