As someone who is in their own head all the time, I am constantly working to find little ways to slow down during the day. If I'm not careful, I lose whole chunks — sometimes I'll get to work and be like, "Wait. How did I get here?" because I was too busy going over a conversation I had with my mom last Tuesday. If the prospect of scheduling free time sounds unappealing, though, you're not alone. Studies have shown that charting time out for yourself can make that time significantly less enjoyable. Researchers conducted a series of 13 studies at Washington University, and they found that, across the board, penciling in leisure time makes that leisure time feel like work. And that is the opposite of leisure time. Ugh.
So how do you relax and take time for yourself if scheduling it out doesn't really work? Find moments throughout your day to slow down. For just a few minutes at a time, focus on the moment and focus on yourself being in the moment. While these kinds of mini-reflections should be spontaneous, arming yourself with some simple tools is the best way to ensure that they'll actually happen. Here are a few ways to slow down. Chill out, dudes. Take a beat.
1. Spend Your First Five Minutes Awake Doing Nothing
Don't check your Instagram. Don't think about your To Do list. Close your eyes and breathe in for a count of five, hold your breath for a count of five, and then exhale for a count of five. Repeat that a few times, and then open your eyes. Ease into consciousness.
2. Do Some Bed Yoga
This is a real thing and I'm so grateful to have found it. Alexa Rae, a YouTube yogi, has an easy, gentle routine that even the most inflexible, yoga-phobic humans can work with. It's five minutes. You have five minutes.
3. Eat Slowly
Honestly, I eat like a troll under a bridge: Very fast and messy, and done while keeping an eye on, like, three other things. The first day that I tried eating a meal without doing anything else — not reading, not watching TV, not scrolling through my phone — it felt like I was eating for an hour. It was actually about 10 minutes.
4. Focus On One Thing You Usually Multitask
It doesn't have to be a big thing or a work-related thing. It can be a purely fun, nice, self-care kind of thing. I used to be watching Netflix and texting my friends while doing my nails. Now I use my at-home manicure time to practice mindfulness. I focus on each brushstroke. I appreciate how beautiful it looks. It helps.
5. Describe An Object Without Judgement
I utilize this activity when I can feel myself slipping deep into my head and my anxieties. Pick something near you — a plant, a chair, a book — and practice describing it to another person. Stay objective. Be detailed. I can feel my heart rate slow down and my breathing return to normal, and I'm brought back to the present moment.
6. Make A Cup Of Tea
Making tea takes time. You have to boil the water, then let the tea steep, then let it cool enough to sip. It's not a huge time commitment, but it forces you to slow down for a little, tiny bit. Relax. Breathe. You can do this at work or at home. Make it a mini-ritual. Chill out.