Ever got to the end of the week with an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion ... but with no clue as to what you did to get there? I have, many times. But I am pleased to report those weeks are becoming less and less, and fewer and far between.
Slowing down isn't easy, in fact I find it really hard. I feel as though I wired to go fast ... bouncing from one thing to the next, juggling many things at the same time ... that's just being mum isn't it? I mean women are glorified over our ability to multitask, be busy ... and just get s**t done!
Going fast just feels natural and normal to me ...maybe because it's just the way it has always been. I had a councilor say to me once, in a very concerned tone ... 'Bianca, do you always talk so fast?' ... 'Am I talking fast?' I replied ... laughing ... 'yep, this is just the way I am!'
I was seeing this Councillor for my anxiety. You could say Anxiety and I are the best-est of friends ... except I didn't realize I even struggled with anxiety until after I had my second daughter. Before that, I thought everyone thought the way I did. A hundred thoughts a minute, constantly battling that little voice inside our heads telling us something bad was going to happen. Wasn't that just 'normal' ... it wasn't until I suffered a trauma with my second daughter that it saw me visiting a mental health professional and realized just how severe my anxiety was. And that I had in fact been battling it for as long as I can remember.
Anxiety for me ... made me 'fast' ... I talked fast, I walked fast, I crammed as much into my life as possible. I guess I'm lucky, in that my anxiety never tipped over into depression, like it does for so many. I remember telling my Councillor, when she asked if I had ever suffered from depression ... 'no', I replied ... 'I'm anxious, but I'm up beat about it' ... laughing once again.
Slowing down is something that needed to happen not only for me, but for my family. My little girls were watching every move I made .. soaking it in like little sponges. I wanted, I needed to set a good example.
But what does 'slowing down' or living a slow life even mean? Well, it will be different to everyone. In my case, it meant learning to be okay with just 'being' and not doing. There were a few major changes that I made that have helped me to move towards living a slower life ... and by no means am I perfect, or completely removed from my former 'fast' self. But I am a work in progress.
Phase one - De-commit: The first major change I made, which was about 14 months ago now ... was to step away from my many, many commitments. I was a stay at home mum with a full calendar of commitments that caused me great stress and anxiety. It was time to take some stuff off my plate and focus back on my family and me. Stepping away was one thing, but learning to say 'no' was another. When you've spent your life being a 'yes girl' ... and deeply trying not to ever let anyone down, saying no when you are asked can be really hard. So it was something I had to learn and a skill I had to develop. I learnt not to jump straight into an answer, but to say 'I'll check my calendar and get back to you'. It gave me time to think and reflect on whether this was actually something I wanted or needed to do. It's something I continue to work on, but the difference it has made to my life is huge, I no longer over commitment myself. I have pockets of time in my week to just 'be'.
Phase two: De-clutter: Secondly, and almost as important, was to de-clutter. With three little girls ... the struggle was real ... it was a sea of pink in toy heaven!! A thousand dolls (only a slight exaggeration), their clothes, bottles, prams and the rest! But it wasn't just the girls 'stuff'. To be fair my kitchen was full of stuff I didn't use ... my wardrobe was full of clothes I didn't wear and a general layer of 'stuff' covered most of the house. It meant a 'pop in' visitor caused a serge of anxiety! There was always so much stuff to pick up and put away! I felt as though I spent all of my time in my home ... just tidying and putting things away. It wasn't fun ... and all it did was cause me stress and make me feel resentful. I started to throw things away! I was on a mission to make a change! Anything that was considered in good condition and could used by someone else was either given away to friends or donated to the local op shop. I started to feel lighter. There was more 'white space' in my home, in my life. My head felt clearer ... I wasn't as stressed at the end of the day ... the benefits were instant. Having less was giving me more. I involved my girls in the decuttering too. I spoke to them about why I was cleaning out our things and what that would mean for us ... more time to spend together, and less time cleaning and tidying. They were happy to pitch in and choose things that they were no longer playing with, and those things would go to the op shop for another little boy or girl to play with. This made them happy.
Phase three: Disengage: Thirdly, I started to factor in some time each day where I would just sit outside. If I sat outside, I wasn't looking at the dishes that needed doing or the washing that needed folding ... or distracted by my phone, computer or any other screen that was determined to grab my gaze. Outside was peaceful, it was calming and it was my time to just 'be'. Sometimes I read, sometimes I write, other times I just lay on the ground, stretch and look up to the clouds. It's not for long, because, well let's be realistic ... the dishes and washing does actually need doing. But for that 20 - 30 minutes I enjoy not having to be anywhere or do anything. Nature has so many health benefits, just simply being outside can boost your immunity and your mental health. It's worth the investment.
I still suffer anxiety and will most likely suffer it for the rest of my life, but it's okay ... it's part of 'my story', of who I am. I take medication for it, which helps, and it has allowed me to step back and make these positive changes to the way I live my life. Living a slower life has given me prospective and sense of gratitude. Things I had no time for in the 'fast lane'.
Thanks for reading,