In several past posts I've alluded to the virtues of slowing down. But the problem with making a general statement like this is that it doesn't get to the how. We already know we should slow down. We know we risk burnout or illness if we don't take time to rest and recharge. We also know the good we do for our body, mind, and soul when we do slow down. Yet we don't always prioritize it because knowing and doing are two completely different things. As Lynsey says, when the phone is low we recharge it, so why don't we do the same for ourselves?
Part of my work as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach is to help clients transform knowledge into action. But I also acknowledge that as adults, we cannot just drop everything and ignore our daily responsibilities for the sake of slowing down. So below I am sharing a 3-step approach I have found effective in helping us slow down in the midst of our busy schedules.
1. Invest in Mind Mining
Identify any mental roadblocks to slowing down. Don't cheat yourself by ignoring that negative voice in your head saying "I can't possibly slow down" or "It's not really that important". Dig deeper to see what is fueling those thoughts. Address underlying beliefs or fears about how slowing down might take you outside of your comfort zone or affect your relationships. Are there real-life examples to validate these beliefs or is your fear based on insecurity and anxiety of the unknown?
Furthermore, it's also helpful to identify reasons slowing down is valuable to you. If we adopt habits because we know we should or have been told they're good for us, they won't stick. Know their intrinsic worth for you personally, and then get to work.
After some weeks deliberating whether taking time for herself was worth it, a client concluded: "by investing in myself I am investing in my relationship with my husband."
2. Schedule Non-Negotiable Time (NNT)
We complain there's not enough time in the day, but the truth is that we make time for what we prioritize. NNT (a phrase coined by Marie Forleo) is regular time we set aside for ourselves (it can be daily, weekly, monthly or yearly). The key here is to choose simple activities that we don't have to think about. If we automate self-care and efforts to slow down, it's not something we can as easily push aside or talk ourselves out of doing.
Taking it a step further, have a look at your early morning routine. Research shows that successful, productive people make the most of their early mornings. So the more self-care we prioritize before 8 am, the more likely we'll follow through because there's less opportunity for interruption and we have less time to talk ourselves out of it. Additionally, these activities eventually feel like a natural part of our morning auto-pilot routine rather than a chore we dread doing after a long day.
If taking time for yourself is a priority, but it's just not happening, return to step #1.
A few of my NNT activities:
- #1: Early AM Yoga/meditation or walks/runs
- #2: Non-work related reading before bed
- #3: Prepare and enjoy meals (without multi-tasking!)
#4: Solo "dates" (most notably: yin yoga, soaking baths, Thai massage)
What are your NNT activities? I'd love to hear. Share in the comments below!!
3. Reverse Your Tendencies
How we eat and exercise often reflects how we approach the rest of our life. If we eat fast or on the run or we gravitate towards high-intensity, sweat-inducing, aerobic workouts, it's likely that our natural tendency is to operate at one speed, and that's fast. But often the activities we feel less inclined to do are exactly what we need to do more often in order to slow down and find balance.
On a non-work day, deliberately choose a slower version of an activity you are naturally inclined to do fast. The goal here is to shake up your habitual routine by doing a specific task that involves natural, but slower movement to ease your mind off the fast-paced hamster wheel. And if you stick with it, overtime you might just start to crave this slower movement and more relaxed state of mind.
Here are some examples to get you started.
- Choose a slower exercise: do a Hatha or restorative yin yoga class instead of power yoga; walk in nature rather than on a treadmill; bike in a park rather than in a spin class
- Put away all electronic devices for the day and get out of the house so you're not tempted. Instead of the constant deluge of information we absorb daily, take in sights, smells, and sounds at a park or café while reading that book you never get to or writing long, overdue letters the old-fashioned way.
- Cook and eat differently on a slow day than you would on a busy day. Perhaps that entails cooking low and slow; simmer sauces, bake a cake, or make a casserole.
Speaking of cooking differently, this baked omelet is an example of something I like to make on the weekends to deliberately slow down my breakfast routine and add variety to the weekday breakfast. Instead of making individual omelets for each person, I prefer the less fussy version of one big open-faced omelet, finished in the oven. With this method, the ricotta and asparagus filling is nestled into the eggs as they bake and no messy flipping or worry of runny egg is required. And don't think about making this omelet without the fresh salsa! It's like an Italian-style chunky gazpacho and it's the best sauce I've had in a while. I could eat it alone by the spoonful, it's that good.
Ricotta Asparagus Baked Omelet
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb (500 gr) bunch asparagus, sliced
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Zest 1 lemon
- 8 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 6 big dollops ricotta
- Chives, chopped (optional)
- Fresh Italian Salsa (recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Discard woody ends of asparagus. Slice asparagus on a diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. Heat a 10 inch cast-iron skillet (or other heavy-bottom non-stick pan) over medium heat. Add asparagus, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Saute asparagus for 3 minutes, or until crisp tender.
- In the meantime whisk eggs together in a large bowl with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and make sure asparagus is evenly distributed around the pan. Reduce heat to between medium and medium-low and cook eggs until bottom is set (7-9 minutes), occasionally lifting set edges up (about 4 minutes in) and tilting the pan so uncooked egg run underneath.
- Halfway through cooking, add dollops of ricotta on top (evenly spaced around the pan), using the back of the spoon to gently nestle them into the eggs and flatten/spread them out slightly.
- Once bottom is set, grate as much parmesan over the top as you'd like, then place in the oven to cook for 8-10 minutes, just until top is set and cheese is lightly browned.
- Serve and top with chives (if using), salsa, a grating of parmesan, torn basil, and a few large caper berries if you love them like me!
Fresh Italian Salsa
- 500 gr (3 cups) cherry tomatoes
- 6-8 large caper berries (2-3 Tbsp. small capers, drained)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large (or 2 thin) scallion
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Small handful basil leaves (~15 leaves)
- 1/2-3/4 tsp. salt
- Roughly chop scallions, large caper berries, and smash garlic. Throw into a food processor and pulse a few times to break up further.
- Add the remaining ingredients and pulse into a chunky salsa (do not puree). Taste and adjust for seasoning. Do in two batches if using a small food processor.
- Listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast about treating yourself
- Watch Christine Carter's 15 minute talk about achieving more by doing less
And if you would like further individualized support overcoming your obstacles to slowing down, identifying your NNT activities and putting them into action, schedule a free consultation with me! I meet with clients in person and over Skype.