How I Finally Gave Myself Permission to Slow Down

I am, by nature, a high-energy person. I used to see my own busyness as a sort of virtue. I’d tell myself that there’s nothing wrong with being active, productive, and a busy little bee. And truly, there isn’t. But for me, my constant working/doing/moving lifestyle had turned into something pretty unhealthy. 

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I realized, as I buzzed around, anxiously looking for something to “do” one Sunday afternoon while everyone else in my family was happy to hang around pursuing hobbies and/or naps, that I simply felt I couldn’t slow down. For one, I didn’t even know what “slowing down” meant. Secondly, I wasn’t sure that it was OK for me to slow down — shouldn’t a dynamic, virtuous citizen always be producing something? For Lent, and in my own daily practice, I decided to change the way I do things — and I’ve been taking things a little easier. Here’s how. 

Low(er) tech than usual

It’s no secret that as a culture, our attention spans are dwindling. I often find myself reaching for my phone when I probably shouldn’t be, and social media has a lot to do with this for me personally. Over Lent, I decided to go social media-free. At first, it was strange. How was I to know what all my friends (and random acquaintances I haven’t spoken to since high school) were doing? While I had the gap of social media in my online habits, I chose to either pray, let my mind wander, or actually call or text a friend directly. This small act of taking social media apps off my phone, and staying off them — for a season — has brought a sense of calm, and a sense that I don’t have to always be checking my phone multiple times an hour. 

Honor the Sabbath

Before you think I’m spending all of my Saturdays cooking and cleaning so that I don’t have to lift a finger on Sunday, let me explain. Far from it. I simply try to take time out of my week (either on a Saturday or Sunday) to let things slide. As a mom of three young children (and two dogs!), things get messy pretty quickly. On whatever day we choose to have a Sabbath, beds go unmade, dishes sit in the sink a little longer, and we only do things that feel restful and life-giving to us. I’m not strict about doing absolutely no work (after all, those kids need feeding and care, even on a Sabbath!), but I don’t make work, productivity, and measurable progress my goal. We enjoy time as a family, without guilt about what is or isn’t getting done. 

Practice mindfulness

I learn a lot from my kids, and this year I’ve learned all about mindfulness. My first grader’s school implements a morning mindfulness time each day, and we’ve begun trying some of them at home. My favorite one depicts the mind as a pond with many different fish in it. The fish represent feelings — angry, sad, happy, kind, selfish, etc. The exercise encourages participants to see each feeling we have as a passing thing that exists in us — something we don’t have to ultimately succumb to. I’ve used this in my own life — when I want to fret or worry about something, I’m reminding myself that these emotions and concerns don’t have to rule my life, they can simply exist and pass without causing a huge disruption. I may not be a zen master yet, but it’s certainly a start.

Know my value

Our nation is one that tells us we are what we do. And in some ways, that is true. But that philosophy ignores that we are all valuable, just because we are human, and we are all made in the image of God.

When I think I am only the sum of all my accomplishments, I can get a little depressed — there’s always someone who has done more than me! But when I realize I am valuable simply because God made me, I am able to rest in that fact, and stop striving to always be better, stronger, faster, more. When I know my value as a human, and not as my ideas of what I should be, I can slow my mind, slow my busy-ness and truly be who I was meant to be. Sometimes, that means working hard, by the sweat of my brow, and sometimes, it means sitting still before God, thanking him for who he is, and for who he made me to be.

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