Thursday, March 30, 2023

Our very busy and hectic lives don’t really leave us much time to “slow down.” Slowing down refers to any activity, which when utilized, provides a person with relief and therapeutic balance. Daily exercise, yoga, meditation, or other forms of relaxation activities have become universal activities that are designed to provide relief for the tired and worn down body. In this article, I wanted to explore the benefits of slowing ourselves down.

Whether we realize it or not, as we go through our day, our brain is extremely active. Thoughts about ourselves, our life situations, interpretations on how others perceive us, are ongoing events which may produce some unwanted “brain noise.” Whether conscious or unconscious, our thoughts and ideas are active in our minds throughout the day. Triggering events or stressful life circumstances may exacerbate latent feelings, thoughts or negative self-perceptions. Let’s consider the following two examples:

Bob, 40, was recently laid off from his company of 15 years. He feels stuck and helpless as he attempts to prepare himself for a new job search.

Rachel, 24, has been dating for five years. She thinks that she has finally found “Mr. Right” but finds herself struggling to work through some important issues in her relationship. Over the past two weeks, she has had trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping and doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite.

The pressure to find a new job or settle down and get married may convince a person that he or she needs to find a quick solution. However, research indicates that slowing ourselves down (especially in stressful life-related situations) has significant long-term benefits. It allows for:

1. More thoughtfulness and introspection

2. Energy (physical and emotional) to bring more active attention to difficult thoughts, feelings and situations

3. Using coping strategies for reduced impulsivity and improved decision making

In our first example, Bob would not just run to the newspaper and send out resumes to the first 10 jobs that he sees. Bob would engage in a more thoughtful job search; one that includes developing a plan, seeking out guidance from peers and setting structure to his daily routine. Bob may even feel that it is necessary to engage in a relaxing activity (yoga, meditation or any form of exercise) to give his body the necessary energy to move forward. Without slowing down to assess his “next steps,” Bob may never be able to plan forward in a meaningful and introspective way.

In our second example, Rachel would not just run to social media and ask for immediate help from her “virtual friends.” She would slow herself down and develop a thoughtful approach to understanding her thoughts and feelings. This may include seeking professional support and speaking with her boyfriend about some of her doubts and misgivings.

To summarize, the better and perhaps more appropriate title to this article should be, “Slow Down In Order To Rev Ourselves Up.” Our busy and hectic lives doesn’t mean that we should not take the time to slow down. Slowing down is a necessary prerequisite to developing increased physical and emotional energy to handle life’s obstacles and challenges. Running around, or avoiding difficult aspects of life is a short-term fix that may eventually circle back into the forefront of one’s mind.

Take a few minutes today to see how “slowing down” your life can work for you. Better choices and sustained positive change will directly come your way.

Mark Staum, LCSW, is a clinician at Achieve Behavioral Health in Monsey and maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Teaneck. Mark utilizes Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to assist children, teenagers and young adults navigating stressful social, emotional and academic challenges.

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