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Slow down, settle in
Q: In what areas of life do you need to pace yourself?
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“What's going on for you this week?” I asked my husband, a couple of weeks after we had returned from our summer travels.
“I am working on slowing down.” he said. He went on to explain what he meant. “I'm trying to really take things slow. Slow down the way I do things - exercise, eat, walk, and minimize the number of things I am doing. It's to help me get back into rhythm.”
I was reminded of this two weeks ago when I put on my shoes and stepped out for a run. I hadn't run in more than 6 months and was slightly intimidated by it. I decided to really slow down. A passer-by would have walked right past me without the need to even break into a brisk walk. I was able to run 2 miles without stopping which was a big deal for me. Since then I've been on a few runs and a few minutes into my slow runs, I find myself saying “settle in here…settle into this slow pace and go all the way”.
I’m learning to pace myself - starting with my run and taking that into my everyday life. My summer was a mad, post-covid travel dash across several countries. Coming back home, in order to reach balance in my daily life, I had to first take it easy. I had to slowly build my daily practices back up before expecting myself to be back to where things were before the start of the summer.
For the past two weeks I have focused on routines - nailing down my night routine and morning routine. Asleep by 10.30, awake by 6. Starting my morning with meditation followed by exercise. Keeping it simple and slow. Building consistency and self-efficacy day after day. After doing well with it for two weeks, I was tempted to stack on a new habit but my gut knew better. I am not ready yet. It’s too soon to expect my newly established routines to turn into habits. As much as I’d like to believe I’m ready for more, the reality is that it takes time to create a strong foundation that I can build on.
When things are going good, I have a tendency to overcommit myself. As an introvert married to an extrovert with boundless energy, I am often pulled into social engagements that he plans. But years of therapy have shown me that having my pendulum swing too erratically to the other side can burn me out. So this past year I have become more mindful of my time and energy.
Social connection is one of the pillars of my mental well-being. I believe that friendships must be nourished for them to thrive. When I am energized, I have a proclivity to initiate meetings with friends which result in a lot of social engagements. However this year I have adopted a more methodical approach. I plan my schedule a week ahead to ensure that I limit myself to no more than three conversations with friends per week. I take into account other obligations that we have committed to as a family or as a couple as I know they will require my energy. If my husband initiates an impromptu get-together with friends mid-week, I choose to be a part of it for a few hours but exit once it gets close to my bedtime. This sometimes means going to bed when people are in my house, leaving my husband to be the ever-enthusiastic host.
Paying attention to how my body is feeling is key to avoiding burnout from too much social interaction. I have learnt to pause and not respond immediately to asks of my time from friends and family. I have to repeatedly remind myself that it is ok to say no when I notice that I am getting overloaded. As an introvert who cherishes social connection, I recognize that pacing myself means I have more energy for upcoming weeks. And not doing so, could result in digging myself into a hole that takes me months to get out of.
Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant, who wrote a popular NY Times article in 2021 about “languishing” during the pandemic, recently shared a more hopeful observation (video). He noted that despite a tumultuous 2022, people are starting to move towards “post-traumatic growth” - which he describes as “not just bouncing back but bouncing forward”. As we each start to emerge from the mental turmoil of more than two years of the pandemic, let's remember to take the time to emerge slowly and thoughtfully, with a greater sense of meaning and perspective on life.