- Mental Health
Slow Down for Turtles!
Stop the world, I want to get off!
As I spun into the driveway, rushing home from one errand so I could run out the door again to attend two back-to-back meetings, I felt frazzled, overwhelmed. And understandably so.
My to-do list seemed to be growing by the day. The kitchen table was piled with books and papers. My house was a mess. Emails were piling up.
I had no idea how my life had gotten so out of control. Was it really because school was in session again? I teach a news writing course at a community college. I only teach one class and wonder how other teachers manage to teach more than one. Or teach multiple subjects to one grade.
My textbook was updated this year so I’ve been busy rewriting my notes and updating exercises. I’m the adviser for the school paper with a very young, fresh out of high school but enthusiastic new editor-in-chief.
I’m on La Vista’s board and managing a farm – even with the help of several others’ – takes a lot of time. I’m an officer in my Toastmasters club, responsible for scheduling speakers and meeting roles and filling in for the president when he’s out of town (which has been frequent this summer).
I am trying to start a writing business and have managed to snag one client so far. I basically am responsible for keeping up the house, inside and out. Yard work, painting rooms, cleaning the birdcage – I do it all.
And of course there’s writing on Hub Pages.
I would never give less than 110% of myself – it just isn’t in my make up. But I knew – know – that I have to slow down. Barreling through life isn’t doing anything positive for my physical or mental health.
In fact, I’ve been finding myself having a hard time taking a deep, complete breath. I grew up in a very stressful and chaotic household and I had those same kinds of feelings then. I would struggle to exhale all the air from my lungs – even pounding my chest a couple times - just so I could inhale deeply.
And barreling along isn’t allowing me to fully experience life as I rush from one task to another.
Slow down for turtles!
My dad passed away several years ago but I still remember a story he told me. Shortly after he retired, he began to play golf with several other men. One day, late to the links, he was speeding down the road to make the tee time.
One thing to know about my dad is that he loved nature and animals. I remember asking him one day why his brothers always came home from hunting with a deer and he never did.
“I could never shoot one,” he told me. “They’re too beautiful. I just go out to be in the woods.”
As he raced down the road on his way to his golf game, he passed a turtle trying to make its way across the road. Normally my dad would have stopped and moved the creature off the road. Not today. Too much in a hurry, he sped past it.
If the turtle wasn’t able to slow down my dad, flashing lights and sirens sure did. The cop nailed him coming around a curve and handed him a hefty fine.
The moral, my dad told me, is “Slow down for turtles!”
Tips for slowing down
If you find yourself rushing headlong through life, unable to enjoy a single moment because you are always thinking of the next thing you have to get done, then try these tips:
1. Learn to say NO! Literally sit on your hands if you must so you aren't tempted to raise them to volunteer for yet another project. If you have a hard time with this, try to look at it this way: you are depriving someone else of the opportunity to learn skills you may already have, whether that is managing time, people or projects.
2. Find a balance in your life. You don't have to do it all and you most certainly don't have to do it perfectly. Take a hard look at your schedule and decide what you can drop from your list. Resist the temptation to fill the hole with another activity, even if it's "supposed" to be a fun one. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing is the best thing to do.
3. Don't be proud. It's ok to show your vulnerability and to ask for help. No one will think less of you for that but they'll have a different thought if you start dropping all the balls you are trying to keep in the air in an effort to prove you can do it all.
4. Have fun! Laugh a little! Children have a natural joy for life so take a cue from them. Rent a comedy that is guaranteed to give belly laughs. Find a pond or stream to wade in or lie on the grass and watch the clouds drift by.
5. Be nice to your spouse, your kids, your coworkers. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, the baggage they carry around with them through life, even you. Perfection doesn't exist in the real world.
6. Breathe! Shallow breathing can be triggered by stress and anxiety. When you find yourself in this position, pause and focus on your breath. Inhale, counting until your lungs are as full as you can make them. Exhale but make it twice as long as the inhale. If you inhale for a count of 8, exhale for a count of 16.
No one is asking you to ditch your obligations - that's unreasonable to expect from anyone. But give at least one of these tips a try and you should soon be managing your time a little better and enjoying your life in the process.