One of the things that I love the most about summer is that time seems to slow down. Perhaps it’s the heat that drives people to move slower, perhaps it’s the longer days, maybe it’s because there’s generally less to do…whatever the reason, it’s a feeling that I’m always loath to give up when summer winds to a close and September rolls around.
It seems that, as soon as the calendar page turns to August, my mind begins to fast forward, thinking ahead to ‘back to school’ and beginning to compile the lists (many lists!) of things to do, to make, to buy, etc. Most years, I feel as if I cheat myself out of several weeks of summer because of my inability to stay present and to keep myself in “summer mode” for the full duration of the month. Well, this year, I made a vow to do things differently.
I’ve thought long and hard about this and I believe that it is possible to slow down during these last couple of weeks, despite the fact that the media, technology, advertisements and seemingly everyone/everything else is trying to speed up and jump ahead. Here are the strategies that I believe will help us to maintain a sense of calm and ease at this busy time. And while I’ve been speaking specifically about summertime in this post, these practices are helpful at any time, during any season.
Because it’s really all about our thoughts. As we all know, nothing that we do is ever TRULY going to slow the passage of time. However, we most definitely can change our perception of time so that, rather than feeling rushed, stressed, anxious and harried in these last few weeks, we can continue to feel present, relaxed and joyful.
How to Slow Down and Maintain Your Summer “Mellow”
- Limit the items on your daily ‘To Do’ list. Do less and make the things you decide to do really count! I like to identify 3 things each day that I will get done. These are the things I deem most important. By limiting it to 3, I rarely have a day where I feel non-productive. While I may not complete everything I’d like to do, I almost always complete the 3 things that I’ve identified, and because I’m not spreading myself too thin, I do a better job on those 3 things. As with most things, it comes down to quality over quantity.
- Give up multi-tasking (if not long term, at least for the next few weeks). There is no greater myth than the one that tells us that we’ll get more done if we work on multiple things at one time. Our brains are simply not designed to concentrate on more than one thing at a time and, for this reason, multitasking (a) rarely produces as good a result as single-tasking and (b) is exhausting, as it requires quite a lot of mental energy. Stop doing it and you’ll likely be amazed at how much more productive you are and how much better you feel.
- Set limits/parameters around technology use. Technology (and, particularly, social media) can easily become a time-eater and create feelings of inadequacy. In an effort to slow down, seek to control what you feed your mind. The result will be more space and clarity rather than the feeling that we must hurry up and/or do more.
- Get your daily “nature fix.” Nature is a great metaphor for life. Whatever happens in nature happens on its own time and can not be rushed. Furthermore, being in nature encourages us to be present and experience what’s around us with our senses, rather than our intellect. This kind of presence and connection is a great way to slow down and savor our time.
- Truly listen to others. Often, conversations happen so fast and we’re so focused on getting things done that we fail to truly listen to the people we interact with. I’ve been frustrated by others who aren’t great listeners, yet I’ve also been guilty of doing this (many of us are, from time to time). One important way to slow down is to take our time when we’re in conversation. It not only shows the person with whom you’re speaking that you’re interested, attentive and considerate, but you’ll get more out of the conversation, as well.
- Pause throughout the day to take a breather. Literally! Stopping periodically to take a few deep, cleansing breaths will help to relieve stress/anxiety. Those pauses are also helpful when we find ourselves getting swept up in the momentum of what’s going on around us. Just a moment or two to close our eyes, breathe and refocus helps to slow our thoughts and maintain a sense of calm.
- Eat mindfully, sitting down. No wolfing the food down. No eating at the kitchen counter or, worse, on the run. In other words, slow down and savor your food. Consider mealtime as an opportunity to nourish yourself and allow it to be a moment of pleasure. After all, nothing seems to expand time more than the experience of pleasure.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit stimulants like caffeine and sugar. As we all know, what we put into our bodies makes a difference in how we feel. If we’re on a caffeine or sugar high, it stands to reason that we’ll be moving more quickly, probably jumping from task to task and, generally, feeling less of a sense of ease. And besides, with such wonderful, fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s not hard to satisfy ourselves with healthier alternatives.
- Incorporate simple pleasures into each day. Take a moment to buy yourself flowers or indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or make a call to that friend you’ve been thinking about. It may only take 5-10 minutes, but it will make the day seem a little longer (and so much sweeter!).
I hope that these strategies help you hang onto that summer vibe a bit longer and enjoy these last few weeks more fully. Summer is a gift that we’re blessed to receive – a beautiful, bountiful time of year when the rush of life subsides, if only for a while, inviting us to slow down and savor it. Let’s not to miss this golden opportunity!