The pace of the modern world seems to demand that we move at a million miles an hour from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we slide into bed at the end of our long day.
If we look at what life was like even just 75 years ago, we can consider how much the world has changed, and we have tried to adapt. But for many, while we are vastly capable, this pace – the unrelenting to-do lists and our perceptions of pressure and urgency – is driving troubling biochemical processes in our bodies.
You only have to look around you to notice that many people are struggling with achieving a sense of calm in their lives. The reasons are numerous – the pace of life, the responsibilities of full-time work and raising a family, looking after grandchildren, caring for ageing parents, or running a demanding business, to name a few – yet often we bring it on ourselves, although that can be confronting to acknowledge.
The rush starts and finishes with ourselves, in part due to perceptions and also because some of what’s behind the busy-ness are things we’ve said yes to.
If a busy, full life racing around from one thing to the next feels good for you, then by all means keep doing it. But if the pace of life stresses you out, I encourage you to consider what might be driving your rush and take steps to slow down.
It might be useful to ask yourself: are you really happy to give up your health for your lifestyle? To be so caught up in getting everyone out the door on time that you miss your child’s pure delight from playing with the dog? To be so preoccupied with your work that you don’t make time for things that bring you joy?
It’s important, too, to be honest with yourself about the habits you’ve adopted to keep pace with your lifestyle and how they may be impacting on your health. Do you, for example, “need” caffeine to get you going in the morning, or rely on alcohol to calm you in the evening? Has a perceived deficiency of time led to a lack of nourishment in your way of eating as you reach for quick and easy food that you can have on the go?
Too many people have lost touch with just how good they’re supposed to feel. They have accepted as “normal” things such as persistent fatigue, digestive challenges, irritable bowel syndrome, poor sleep, unexplained weight gain, thyroid challenges, anxiousness, recurring headaches, and regular colds and flus. For women, you can add monthly premenstrual syndrome and pain and debilitating peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms to the long list as well.
All these symptoms have become common, yet they’re not normal. The constant and relentless production of stress hormones stemming from the rush is at the heart of so many of these health challenges. Helping women to retire the rush and experience the true health and happiness that come from living in better alignment with their body and values is a key reason I created my online course Overcoming Rushing Woman’s Syndrome.
If you identify with any of the above and know in your heart that rushing is not working for you, here are some suggestions to help you wind down the rush for good:
Engage in practices that help to slow your mind and body, such as tai chi, qi gong, meditation, or walking in nature. Even just 20 long, slow, focused breaths in and out through your nose at intervals across the day can make a difference. There will be times when you need to pick up the pace, but the more you encourage slowness in your day, the more you will realise you can still be busy and mindful at the same time.
Explore your perception of pressure and urgency
Have you made what you do each day full of pressure and urgency? Or is it a busy life, full of opportunity and privilege? Save your perception of pressure and urgency for when you really need it.
Start a gratitude journal
Or simply take a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day to cast your mind over everything in your life that you have to be grateful for. When it comes to your nervous system, it is impossible to be grateful and stressed in the same moment.
Flex your “No” muscle
While there are things that all of us need to do whether we want to or not, there are several that you may be doing out of duty or obligation or to please people. Become discerning about why you’re saying yes and practise being honest about those things that really feel like an internal “no”.
Even if it’s just five minutes each day, take some time to do something that nourishes your soul. Start small and grow it.
Reduce caffeine or take a break from it
While it may feel like you cannot cope without coffee, after a few days you will likely be surprised how much more energy you have when you drink less of it or go without it altogether. Caffeine triggers the production of your stress hormone adrenaline, so if you’re already feeling stressed, it only makes it worse.
How much do you do from the belief that “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done”? While people may have come to rely on you to carry out certain tasks on their behalf, consider what you could hand back to them to complete themselves. It may be, for example, that you have school-aged children who could make their own lunches. You might be surprised who will step up to support you if you give them the opportunity to do so.
Dr Libby Weaver launches her online course Overcoming Rushing Woman’s Syndrome this month. It is designed to teach you how to reduce your stress – and the negative health consequences it can elicit.