A Lesson in Slowing Down

Vase with flowers and photo collage.

I am an extremely goal-oriented person. Part of this is due to how success is celebrated in our culture, where productivity and “busyness” are virtues. Part of it is just how I’m wired. For those of you familiar with the Enneagram test, I’m a type 3 (known as the achiever). I’ve never been great at slowing down and relaxing. I have always kept my schedule pretty packed. I strive to live life to the fullest.

At the end of February, I was debating whether or not to still go to the SXSW conference in Austin amidst the rise of COVID-19. This had been on my bucket list ever since I started my career in marketing. I was so excited to finally be able to attend. Other conferences and events were getting canceled, but it was just the flu, right? The conference was canceled on March 6th. My company mandated travel restrictions around the same time. I was disappointed but knew that it was for the best.

With business and personal travel canceled for the foreseeable future, my mind immediately jumped to thinking about how I could use the time to be productive.

  • I wanted to write a blog post (or two!) every week
  • I wanted to go full on Marie Kondo and clean out all of my closets and drawers
  • I ordered books about marketing and leadership to read to progress my professional development
  • I ordered new cleaning supplies online to deep clean my entire apartment
  • I signed up for various online fitness subscriptions and was going to get in the best shape of my life

I had big plans. With the state of the world being so out of my control, I felt like I could still control how I spent my time within the confines of my own home.

What I didn’t expect was the persistent stress that I’d feel in the coming weeks. While I am so grateful for my job, the workload rose significantly. Hot yoga has been the key to keeping me balanced. However, doing yoga in my living room with my boyfriend playing video games in the background doesn’t quite fill the void. Many of us are significantly changing the way we live. I’ve felt a lot of anxiety about friends and family losing their jobs and uncertainty about the future. As an extrovert, it has been challenging for me to not be in social settings.

It’s okay to be overwhelmed right now. It’s okay to worry for ourselves and the ones we love. We are all just figuring this out as we go.

Despite all of my initial goals, this shelter in place order has forced me to slow down. Without external places to be or things to do, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my own life. It is a time to re-evaluate values and priorities, and to rethink how I want to live. Slowing down has given me headspace to question the status quo of my life.

Slowing down with yoga. Woman doing yoga (tree pose) on a rooftop with Los Angeles skyline in the background.

We live in a culture where our value is so often tied to our productivity. This pandemic has been really uncomfortable, making us think about what really matters in life. I don’t know who else needs to hear this, but taking your foot off the gas pedal and slowing down is okay. Self care is productive. It has also helped me so much to develop a consistent gratitude practice (read more in my post Practice Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving). I have also been taking yoga classes online. During one of the classes I took this week, the instructor shared an intention that really resonated with me – “focus on doing the next 24 hours well.” What can you do today to keep yourself grounded? How can you show up for your community? How can you support your colleagues? Take this time to slow down. We’re all in this together.

Want to read more about intentionally slowing down? I recommend the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.

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