In this busy world, it can seem insane and even selfish to find time to relax. Why should we take a break when it feels like everybody else is speeding around? Not only do we have to take care of ourselves, but we must also focus on schoolwork, extracurriculars, and surviving a global pandemic. Combined, or even alone, these do not provide much extra time for relaxation. It’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed because there isn’t enough time for yourself. With all of these roadblocks, how can we possibly slow down?
In life, there is an unspoken, implied timeline compelling us to move quickly. It’s easy to get lost in a world that is constantly moving in the fast lane. We are rushed straight from high school to college, then to get a job, then start a life and a family. Everything supposedly follows swiftly from one into the other. Of course, that path can be perfectly ideal for some, but if it’s not… what if you were rebellious and took your own pace through life? Below, I've curated a list of tips on how to slow down when it feels like life is constantly propelling you forward.
1. Organize Your Life
Putting off work can lead to stress and the common feeling that there’s no time to complete tasks. If your life is neatly scheduled it becomes harder to procrastinate and easier to find YOU time because your work will be laid out for you. With the weight of procrastination lifted, you may start to see quick results and feel like you already have more free time.
I recommend keeping a planner/checklist to write your work in because throughout high school it has become my best friend. Together, we take on my day in an organized fashion. Paper planners can be found at a local Staples and digital planners such as iStudiez can be found in the app store. Here, in your planner, you can specifically allot time to activities that calm you down such as meditation or reading. This will allow you to feel accomplished and productive when you complete a relaxing activity on your checklist.
2. Don’t Overwork Yourself
So many wonderful opportunities will likely spring themselves upon you as a student. Whether it be clubs, sports, parties, it can be difficult to reject interesting activities. Although it’s good to be an active participant in your community, you won’t be able to enjoy everything if you’re overworked. Pick a few activities that reflect your interests and dive into those, instead of stretching yourself thin.
3. Enjoy the Present
If we go through life as if it’s all one big checklist, and we are just working to complete the next activity, we won’t be able to stop and enjoy the present. Pay attention to the moment that you are in and try not to let your mind get ahead of yourself. It may not be easy, but it will be beneficial because once a moment passes, it’ll never be back again.
4. Find Peaceful Moments
Throughout your day, you may find yourself with short periods of time in between classes, clubs, etc. During these times, it’s crucial to center yourself and take deep breaths. Being a student right now usually means extreme workloads and unimaginable pressure, so these moments of tranquility should be taken advantage of. These quiet moments can help you to feel more prepared for whatever comes next in your life. It may also be nice to check in on yourself and see what you need for a successful day. This is a great time to process everything and let yourself decompress. In our very active lives we may not think about our physical or mental health, doing so in these spare moments could be astronomically beneficial.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Your Peers
Your classmates might be going from school, to practice, to clubs, to volunteer jobs, and more and somehow complete all of their tasks on time. We all work at different paces and can take on different amounts of work. When you stop comparing yourself to your peers, it becomes easier to stop seeing life as a race and a competition. Life is better without the pressure to get everything done quicker than everybody else. We are all working our hardest and that may appear in different ways for each person.
6. Physically Slow Down
When we feel rushed, we can amplify that by physically moving quickly from one thing to the next. If you’re running somewhere, ask yourself “would I be late if I slowed down and appreciated my surroundings?” if the answer is no, consider looking up and slowing your pace. Oftentimes, we miss so much around us because we are stuck in a constant state of hurry.
7. Connect with Nature
Stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Whatever connecting with nature means to you -going on a bike ride, a walk with your pet, a hiking excursion- getting fresh air without any distraction is a great way to find time for yourself and connect with your surroundings. Getting outside could be the opportunity YOUR body needs to take a step back and consider the big picture instead of the near future.
8. Do your Comfort Activities
Listen to your favorite song, re-read your favorite book, re-watch your favorite movie. This practice can bring you peace because they can bring you back to calm times. This will also help because you know you like these things, so they are more likely to make you happy with their familiar charm.
9. Bake for Yourself or Others
Who doesn’t love receiving a freshly baked batch of cookies? Surprising your friends or family members with something you put your heart into can really be uplifting. Seeing something you’ve taken the time to do make somebody else happy is rewarding. Plus, who doesn’t love baking?! Or, if you’re more in the mood for goodies, why not take the time to treat yourself. You deserve it. Baking can be the perfect opportunity to lose yourself in an activity with a DELICIOUS ending.
10. Write Letters to Your Future Self
“Dear future me,
We are going to be okay.”
Above is just a suggestion for a beginning to a letter you could write to yourself in the future. Thinking about your future self can be a healthy reminder that whatever is occupying your brain right now, or whatever may be stressing you out, will all pass. Conceptualizing that your stressors are valid as well as temporary can become easier through these letters.
PS… you ARE going to be okay.
Take it easy; do not blame yourself if it’s difficult to break fast-paced habits, but recognize and try some of these tips if you feel rushed all the time. Feeling like we have to take life head-on in the fastest fashion is an avoidable source of anxiety, which these steps can help with. If we get stuck in fifth gear and forget to slow down, we can go through our whole life without ever truly being present in the moment. Look outside the car window, blast your favorite playlist, and take your foot off the gas, baby!
Of course, taking your whole life slowly may not be advantageous, but allowing yourself moments to collect yourself is extremely important. Additionally, taking the time to slow down allows for fewer impulsive decisions and more thought-through decisions. Moving forward, I recommend going about your life with the wisdom that Ferris Bueller once graciously imparted upon us, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”