I caught one heck of a flu bug this time two weeks ago.
You know the kind: a truly knock-down, stay-down kind of virus that had me crawling on my hands & knees to get from my bed to the couch where I would collapse & whimper entire days away.
To say this bug was a zinger would be the understatement of the year. I was felled & absolutely miserable. Usually active at work, at home, in the community – I had to stop. Not slow down. Not bring things down a notch. STOP.
Like running headlong into a brick wall, I was left with a wicked headache from the blunt force & found myself splayed out on the floor – unable to move, forced to concentrate on simply breathing & healing.
Simple, basic survival became seemingly complex. And, at times, mustering enough strength to sip some water drained me completely. I was so sick that I couldn’t even rage at silly people on Facebook who misdiagnosed me with a common-cold instead of a mountain-of-a-virus-that-would-crush-any-man-flu-known-to-humanity.
Gah! I can be a wimp at times, but this was the real deal.
If there’s anything I am, it’s constantly in motion.
Being so ill, I couldn’t do anything. Literally. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Definitely couldn’t do anything I’d typically class as ‘productive.’ Which meant I wasn’t just unwell, I was also frustrated to the point of tears.
Most days I’m up before the dawn (between 3am – 5am). I read, write, gym, & plan for the day ahead. I find I’m most productive early on as I greet each new day. Plus, sorting through things early in the morning leaves time for the ‘meeting culture’ of modern corporate world where there seems to be little time for actual ‘doing’ in between all of the planning for the doing (there’s an entirely different post on meeting cultures coming!)
So, being home for a week without being able to muster the energy to do anything other than get better, was a wake-up call that I needed heading into a busy summer season ahead.
For the first two days of groaning on the couch, I tried to will myself well enough to do something. Laundry? It needed doing. Writing? Blank pages weren’t going to fill themselves. Work emails? They were calling my name. Wedding planning? Only a month to go, Cass… do something!
But I couldn’t. I played mental war with myself. Judged my own ability to heal quicker that I was. Talked myself into at least trying to do something. But, nope. Body says “STOP!”
So I did. I stopped. And, it was awesome. Oh hindsight, you’re a funny & illuminating gift. In stopping for a week to heal & in slowing down for the next two weeks – allowing myself to truly physically get better’ – I’ve been able to recharge & become more efficient with my time at work & at home.
I concentrate on specific tasks more readily, & I listen to my body more. When I’m tired, I slow right on down instead of pushing myself past the point of exhaustion.
I honestly think that the universe had something bigger in mind in choosing to give our household this gross virus. What was that something? I reckon it was learning a well needed lesson.
What did I learn? Mostly, I learned to quiet my own inner-voice of self doubt.
The world didn’t stop just because I did. Funny that. So, in the spirit of sharing life lessons & wisdom, below are some ways that I’ve found help me to embrace a slow-down (self-imposed, or otherwise).
Cracking the corporate world (or life in general) isn’t about burning out or burning up… it’s about those sprints & rest periods. Both are as essential to success as the other.
Slowing down to speed up? That’s the ticket!
It’s okay to feel weird when you slow down
Slowing down is weird for a lot of us – for so many reasons. We’re taught that, to be successful in corporate environments, we must always be busy. Busy in meetings. Busy with reports. Busy looking back. Busy forward-planning. I call this our collective ‘Glorification of Busy’ & have made an earnest effort to not use the word ‘busy’ when people ask me how I am. So it’s only natural that, when we are forced to slow down or stop, we feel somehow not worthy enough. Not productive. Not at the top of our game (which, if you’re ill – you’re not meant to be! You’re meant to be resting.) I think we need to start spending more time slowing down on purpose. We need to get comfortable with bucking the trend & shake off our collective burden of busyness. I personally am much more efficient, engaged, & creative at work when I slow down & take time out to think, create, & prepare. Even the fittest sprinters on earth can’t sprint all of the time – they perform in magical bursts of amazing athleticism, & then rest & recover. We need to work this into corporate life, too. Here’s an idea: let’s all feel weird together more often & revel in slowing down so that we can really hit the ground running when we need to.
You don’t have to fill every moment – let every moment fill you
I know, I know. Talk about a syrupy-sweet bullet point. That said, I believe in this so very much. We get caught up in so many moments of stress, & tiny detail, & workplace politics that we forget to stop, look up, & really appreciate the amazing people around us. If you’re like me & head away from home each day to spend most of your waking hours in an office building, then you’ll know what it’s like to be thrust into a goldfish bowl of strangers from different ponds – suddenly working towards a shared objective or common goal by rights of working for the same organisation. So often we get lost in our own little moments by trying to fill them up, that we forget to look up, take a deep breath, and simply enjoy the presence & unique expertise of our colleagues. My personal brand at work is one I’ve chosen with my eyes wide open – I believe in heartcounts, not headcounts. I believe we’re all in this together, & because of that, should treat each other with kindness, respect, & allow ourselves to be vulnerable, genuine, & have fun while we’re at it. Filling moments isn’t key to success in life & work – allowing moments to fill you is. Finding joy in the mundane. Celebrating wins with gratitude. And slowing down to get to know each other & build trust are fundamental to balance.
Enjoy the small details (dew drops on blades of grass, laughter of colleagues, hugs from family & friends)
I love getting lost in a moment & really honing in on the beauty of small details that, all added together, paint the bigger picture of the world we’re all living in. As a mother, I’ve been able to watch the joy of discovery for so many ‘firsts’ on my daughter’s face – and her joy has consistently reminded me to look for awe in the minutia of our daily routines. Some of my fondest memories of work over the past 15yrs have been when colleagues and I have fallen to the floor in fits of laughter – exhausted from project work, but in it together & therefore able to enjoy time together literally ROFLing. On the weekends I desperately search out time to spend walking outdoors. There’s absolute magic in how the colors of the leaves on tress don’t change at all, but then seemingly do so all at once. Slowing down can simply be reveling in a long hug with a bestie, or complimenting a colleague. Little moments of awareness make up a life fully lived.
Read actual books (tactile)
Yep. The kind with pages & no instant notifications (AKA distractions.) I’ve always loved reading, but have drifted towards e-books over the past wee while. I can’t tell you how amazing having a physical book in my hands – & making the time to read it uninterrupted – is. Sometimes I can only steal away 15 minutes or so, but even a little bite of the bigger pie in a world of being time-poor is a sweet-fix for the mind & soul. I’ll also bring my books along to the gym & read them whilst on the elliptical or stationary bike. Books are magical portals into other worlds, realities, thought-patterns, & emotions. If you’re keen to slow down more & still do something, my advice is turn off your device & pick up a good book.
Drive to the beach
This is my absolute, go-to, zinger-of-a-remedy when I know I’m burning out. Going a million miles a minute isn’t something you can do forever. It’s also not something that most people do at the beach. But, deep thinking, meditation, & getting lost in daydreams is. There’s something soothing in the rhythm of the waves that slows the body & soul at once. Sand underfoot, salty air being breathed in. It’s like a big ‘ol RESET button for busy urbanites. I love how powerful & grounding it is to feel small next to the ocean. When problems & worries add up & feel bigger than Ben Hur, sitting on the shoreline helps me feel tiny & reminds me that the stresses & problem of now aren’t as big as we all think. Sitting next to a living, breathing entity that is ruled by the pull of the moon is a salve for even the weariest hearts. When a re-set is needed, find your place.
So, there you have it! Some tried-and-true advice on slowing down in order to speed up. We all have to feel as though our proverbial cups are full – full of passion, purpose, love, energy – and when they start to drain, it’s up to all of us individually to take the time (and the responsibility) to slowly refill & refuel.
Resist the urge to glorify the state of busyness. Spend time on slowing down.