In this fast paced world, we can find difficulty in slowing down. We may feel the pressure of needing to achieve, to always be “on”, to push through things that may be bothering us, to get to the final goal. The final goal of what, you ask……that really is the question. For a large number of people, that final goal is unachievable. Why? Because we keep moving the goal post. We achieve something and then immediately look for the next checkbox, the next task to fill the hours in the day in the hope that it will provide us with fulfilment.
We seem to have this inherent need to continuously seek something……..be it love, acceptance, companionship, a new job, more money, a better life (whatever that would look like), worthiness, just something different.
What if we spend all of our time seeking, and never see what is happening right in front of us?
What if we stopped seeking and simply just “be”?
We can be so focused on going after what we believe we want, that life just runs right past us. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with going after something that you want or setting goals (and it can actually be really good for us), but our goals need to be manageable and achievable so that we do not miss out on what is happening in the now.
I know for myself, that whenever I started to look too far forward, and sought out things that I thought I needed, it increased my state anxiety. There became too many “what ifs”, too many hypothetical situations that I had no control over. I got to a point where I really needed to pause, and breathe.
For 20 years of my life I worked, hardly took time off, either for sick leave or a holiday (and I know as a teacher we get “school holidays” but speak to the majority of us and we are working through these times too), sought out and achieved promotions, and did what I thought was required of me as part of a society. I stayed in relationships that weren’t right for me as I tried to seek out what I thought I needed. It wasn’t until I found myself dealing with depression that I really started to look at my life and start the healing process. Part of this ongoing process had me taking time to just “be”. Be in the moment (I started to explicitly practice mindfulness and gratitude), take more time for myself (not doing things to please others), and just really start to slow down and notice what was happening around me. Self-care became a key focus and I began to not spend all my time focusing on work.
All of these things, and months of healing work (which is still ongoing and that is ok), has led me to being 3 months into a 12 month break from work (a sabbatical you might say – I call it extended or long service leave). It is really interesting how, when you give yourself permission to pause and breathe, that you can start to see yourself in a different light. For me, I have gone from a focus on work, to traveling alone without a plan. Just going with the flow. I have been able to take strolls in nature, observe what is happening around me, take notice of the little things and reconnect with who I am as a person and where my priorities might lie (a lot of self-discovery is happening). Slowing down has opened my mind and allowed me to completely reduce any negative stress (my current roommate has commented on how relaxed I am). My mental health is thriving.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should go to the extremes that I have (I am lucky that I have the ability to take this leave), but the benefits of taking a pause, and just breathing, are numerous. Maybe you can start with an afternoon, a weekend where you don’t have many commitments, or even just a couple of hours where you can just be. Think about what your goals are and see whether they need to change. Try not to be swept up in what we think society asks of us.
NB: I just wanted to add that I do not look back on any of my time and regret the decisions I’ve made and what I have focused on. They were all parts of my life that have led me to where I am today.