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Slowing Down as a Form of Self Care- Three Ways to Incorporate it into Your Life

Updated: Nov 9, 2022


This past weekend I had the privilege of going on a retreat away with a group of guys I am close to and who mean quite a bit to me. The days prior to going I began dreading the trip, to be honest, and not because of any reason related to the trip, what we were doing, where we were going, or whom I was going with: instead, it was primarily related to the fact that I had so much that I could be doing instead of going on the trip. I was very far behind on work that was trying to get caught up on, emails to send, articles to post, etc. The idea of taking time to go away just simply didn’t fit into my schedule at that time. It did not take me long to realize that this is exactly what I needed though. The intention of the retreat was simply to spend time together, grow closer to one another, have a good time, rest, and relax. This is actually exactly what I needed. The truth is that sometimes the times when we are trying to talk ourselves out of something like this are the times when we may need it the most. I was able to leave the weekend refreshed as I spent lots of time with good conversation, and relaxing in nature. Just as I expected, I was able to feel much better mentally and physically and had more energy for the upcoming week.

The importance of self-care has been documented countless times in order to help combat burnout and give us the energy to do the work we need to get done (1,2,3,4,5). Stress has been shown to be linked to both physical and mental health. With that being said taking care of our physical health has shown to have big effects on our mental health and fighting burnout or stress. Activities such as tia chi, yoga, other forms of exercise as well as taking time to get away can all be great ways to benefit your mental health.

In The busy world, we live in we often do not take time to slow down, and unfortunately not doing so can impact our ability to be productive in other areas, lead to higher rates of anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health such as our immune system (6,7,8). If we don’t take time to slow down our body will usually force us to in other ways such as getting sick and it’s usually not at a convenient time.

With this in mind, I believe taking time to slow down should be just as important in our goals of productivity. Often time our culture tells us more is better, and there is nothing wrong with setting big goals or striving to accomplish certain tasks. However, more and more research is suggesting that taking time for yourself is beneficial and actually can help you be more productive when you do take the time to try and get work done.

I am a firm believer that this is an important piece for anyone who is wanting to live a healthy and meaningful life. Here are three ways in which to incorporate it into one's life on a regular basis.



Taking time each day to slow down and practice self-care

Each day it is important to devote some time to self-care. It does not have to be a lot of time but doing something that forces you to slow down or brings you time to have life is very important. Examples of this may include exercise, meditation, journaling, yoga, reading, or prayer. Everyone is different but I like to spend some time in the morning forcing myself to start my day at a slower pace. Oftentimes if we start our day in a stressed or rushed way by jumping out of bed after snoozing our alarm a dozen times. Then we rush trying to pick our clothes for the day and everything seems to go wrong in some way. By taking time to slow down and be devoted to some kind of self-care we are more likely to start the day off on a better foot.


Taking a day each week to slow down and practice self-care

Taking time once a week devoted to slowing down and resting is something many different cultures or religions have been practicing for thousands of years, with some doing it on different days of the week. It wasn’t until recently that the American culture was so busy on Sundays as most stores, restaurants, and other facilities were closed on Sundays. Taking a day to slow down, rest, and take care of yourself can greatly impact your mental health and help charge your batteries to get through the workweek and actually do so in a more productive way.


Taking time away for a retreat or getaway once a quarter

This is something that I am still trying to get better at but I see the benefits when I do it. When taking multiple days away simply to rest or take care of yourself it can greatly benefit your ability to slow down and your overall health. I like the idea of getting away as you are less likely to have the temptation of getting work done or trying to be productive. This can be a time of spending time in nature such as camping, getting a cabin, going to the beach, or simply doing activities you enjoy such as getting good food or reading. This can be similar to a vacation for some but the key point is that there is time to relax and slow down. Often times on vacation we pack our schedules so full that we come back to work more exhausted than when we originally left on the trip. Being more intentional with the time we have and making it more of a time of rest can be very beneficial for helping us to slow down and relax in this way.


I am sure many who read this will agree or see the benefits of slowing down, yet not change anything as they may claim to be too busy or not have time to incorporate it into their life. I believe that slowing down and self-care is even more important if this is the case. I challenge all who read this to figure out some sort of schedule that will work for them and take time to spend relaxing or doing activities that help bring you life. A good way to start is to start with smaller goals. Maybe instead of taking a day of self-care, take three hours out of that day for yourself. Another example is instead of taking an hour to do some kind of self-care spend 30 seconds meditating in the morning before work. Any sort of small act of this can be beneficial and help you grow in that direction and benefit your overall mental health and help you live a healthy and meaningful life.



Additional reading


References

1. Sanchez-Reilly S, Morrison LJ, Carey E, Bernacki R, O'Neill L, Kapo J, Periyakoil VS, Thomas Jde L. Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self-care. J Support Oncol. 2013 Jun;11(2):75-81. doi: 10.12788/j.suponc.0003.


2. Layman E, Guyden JA. Reducing your risk of burnout. Health Care Superv. 1997 Mar;15(3):57-69.


3. Sardiwalla N, VandenBerg H, Esterhuyse KG. The role of stressors and coping strategies in the burnout experienced by hospice workers. Cancer Nurs. 2007 Nov-Dec;30(6):488-97. doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000300159.67897.c7.


4. Ohrnberger J, Fichera E, Sutton M. The relationship between physical and mental health: A mediation analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2017 Dec;195:42-49. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.11.008.


5. Esch T, Duckstein J, Welke J, Braun V. Mind/body techniques for physiological and psychological stress reduction: stress management via Tai Chi training - a pilot study. Med Sci Monit. 2007 Nov;13(11):CR488-497.


6. Daviu N, Bruchas MR, Moghaddam B, Sandi C, Beyeler A. Neurobiological links between stress and anxiety. Neurobiol Stress. 2019 Aug 13;11:100191. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100191.


7. Tafet GE, Nemeroff CB. The Links Between Stress and Depression: Psychoneuroendocrinological, Genetic, and Environmental Interactions. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2016 Spring;28(2):77-88. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.15030053. Epub 2015 Nov 9. PMID: 26548654.


8. Schedlowski M, Schmidt RE. Stress und Immunsystem [Stress and the immune system]. Naturwissenschaften. 1996 May;83(5):214-20. German.

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