I had my brakes put on hard. Literally! A busy fast-paced wife/mom/realtor, I was constantly on the go with a mile-long list of things to do each day. Slow was not an option for me. Exhaustion took over one evening and I fell asleep while driving and rolled it over 100 yards. When the car came to a stop, I knew I had broken my neck.
I had been given many opportunities over the years to voluntarily slow my roll, but now it was imposed on me. Nothing from the neck down worked correctly. I had to rehab each muscle and regain function one tiny step at a time. For the first time in my 40 years of life, I now could see the beauty in the slow journey. Even though it is painful, I am still learning to live on purpose.
While I would not recommend the method in which I learned to slow down, I would say we can each learn to pause and think about what kind of life we want to live. Here are a few tools I have in my toolbox for pacing myself:
One thing I realized after going from fast-paced to sitting in a wheelchair is that I rarely listened without doing something else at the same time. I love it when someone listens to me and I want to be able to give that beautiful gift to those around me. Here are some tips for deep listening:
Breathing is an automatic process, which we typically don’t focus on. I was unaware of how much breathing could impact my stress and muscle tension, until I learned about diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing can calm our bodies and allow pain levels to go down. It is a tool that can be used anytime, anyplace.
I’ve always loved to read. It has always been a routine for me, but I didn’t think of it as part of my relaxation tools until I read the research by Mindlab International. They showed reading for just six minutes slows down the heart rate and eases tension in the muscles. Reading silently lowers stress levels faster than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea. Reading works best, reducing stress levels by 68 percent. While, I have other things that help me relax in the evenings, I will be sure to keep up my reading habit.
I start my day with music. I use music to calm me down and get me moving. It’s one of my favorite tools. The benefits of listening to music are interesting and numerous. Here are a few:
• Music has been shown to reduce anxiety, fear, depression, acute pain and related distress and blood pressure.
• A 2012 study of chronic pain patients showed two daily sessions of listening to music helped relieve symptoms related to conditions such as fibromyalgia, inflammatory disease, and neurological conditions, as well as anxiety and depression linked to chronic pain.
• Music has been documented in a variety of clinical settings to lower pain intensity (which can lead to lowered opioid requirements in post-operative pain).
• Researchers at the University of Buckingham (UK) conducted a study in which 41 volunteers in their 20’s underwent cold water challenges while marking pain levels and the perceived passing of time. The greatest amount of pain reported was with no music, followed by sad music. The greatest pain relief and losing track of actual time passing was with happy and relaxing music.
I notice it has become difficult for me to spend even a few minutes without my phone. I’m always on call. It’s exhausting. I have made a new resolution to ask myself these questions before I scroll. Is this the best use of my time? Will this forward my goals? Is this the most relaxing thing I can do? Most of the time the answer is no. Social media is just one more distraction to keep me from relaxing.
I recently took a 30-day break from social media and enjoyed reading more books, having more conversations, better focus and feeling less distracted. I have also taken all notifications off my phone including email as it’s a constant interruption.
Life gives us so many opportunities but not all of them will contribute to my best life. I find it difficult to say no, but necessary if I want to live a balanced life. I often make impulsive decisions instead of thoughtfully responding to each opportunity. Try thinking through requests for several days before making a decision. Say no as often as you can. Intentionally let go of any guilt that might creep up…
These are just a few things I have implemented in my life to pace myself. What are some things that you have tried? I would love to have your thoughts in the comments below.