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Lately, I have come across many people who keep complaining of how hectic and stressed their lives are. This includes people from all walks of life – Employers, Employees, Professionals, Home-makers, students et al. And this article aims to put down a few thoughts, to help “reclaim the calmness and peace” that is every person’s birthright. And yes, like the title says “Hurry slowly!” some of these suggestions might sound like oxymora (I learnt today that the plural of oxymoron is oxymora and not oxymorons!) and counter-intuitive – and I urge you to check them out, and to experiment with them, and then tweak them to make them work for you. You have a right to be happy, calm and therefore healthy.
1. Slow down, make time to take stock, think & prioritize
While it might be tempting to jump into one situation after another, it actually is useful to slow down, especially when there are too many demands on one’s time. And slowing down means, “making time” available to sit down and take stock. If one is pressed for time (from the word press, it is apparent there is pressure), all the more reason to ration out both the time and energy for things that really matter. And to do that, one needs a clear mind to be able to prioritise. So, counter-intuitive as it may seem, especially when pressurized, make time to slow down and think.
2. Be Aware, Accept & Acknowledge
Being aware is the beginning of any solution. If a person is not aware that they have a problem, there is no way they are going to find a solution. So, once one slows down, focuses on becoming aware, accepts the situation as it really is, then a solution is possible. And then acknowledge that one needs to find a different way to act, other than the one that got them in the troubled space in the first place. As Einstein remarked, “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result!” And as Brian Tracy says, “If I want something I have never had, then I must do something I have never done!” Awareness, Acceptance and Acknowledgment prepare the ground for a solution.
3. Practice the SILSA
SILSA is “Scan thoughts – Identify thoughts that trouble – Label the emotion – Set aside – Affirm.” I have written an article on this which can be found here: Do the SILSA, Stay resourced, Stay focused!
Doing the SILSA helps with both “staying resourced” and “staying focused” which help in handling the situation that causes stress. The human brain is a neural network which functions at extremely high speeds. One neuron fires up 20,000 other neurons, which fire up 20,000 neurons each, which in turn fire up 20,000 neurons instantly. And before one knows, one is side-tracked from the main issue. So, staying focused is very important.
Well, this might sound silly and mostly repeated. Alan Watkins, in his book “Coherence” gives this acronym “BREATHE” as an antidote for almost all ills that might plague the thinking. If you are already practicing a form of meditation that includes focus on breathing, GREAT! BREATHE stands for “Breathe Rhythmically, Evenly, And Through the Heart Every day!” Studies have found that the most important thing is to have a focus on the Rhythm and Evenness of breathing. And while breathing, if one can focus on their heart (which also has its own neural network and controls the chemical composition of the body) chances are that they are likely to be calmer. Which leads to clearer thinking, and helps handling whatever situation they are in, a little better.
5. Practice Gratitude and Positive thinking
Again, counter-intuitive as it might seem, when one is pressed for time, energy and resources, it might seem downright foolish to focus on being positive and the like. And to some, this might sound like the standard “self-help, motivational” nonsense. Far from it – there is enough data to support that practicing gratitude actually alters the chemical composition of the body to a more “resourced” state. Sitting down, thinking about all the positives in one’s life can be greatly helpful. At home, I have a “Gratitude Jar” into which I deposit slips that have things that I am grateful for. And especially when I do this when I feel negative and stressed, it helps most! Take time to actually savour the feelings of gratitude, and thankfulness. Incidentally, the picture used for this article is the “gratitude jar” I have at home! And take time to thank those who help you through these times. Gratitude is extremely powerful and ensures that both the person who is thankful and the person being thanked, benefit!
6. Counterintuitively, think about things other than the problem
Funny as it may seem, great ideas and solutions arise when one is relaxed and really not focusing “on the problem.” Studies using fMRI have shown that the brain actually works better and finds solutions much better when one is relaxed, and really not “consciously” thinking about the problem. The solutions almost always seem to come from deep within the unconscious brain. And removing the clutter and the noise that can be produced by the conscious brain might be very useful.
7. Know the environment
The environment has a big role in all of this. Be aware of the environment and make changes that might be useful. For example, a simple 5 minutes of being “in nature” can make a huge difference to one’s ability to think clearly, ideate and solve for the problems.
And the list could go on! However, these are probably the key aspects that might help. And I am sure that there are more ways and methods to handle the strife and stress that seems to exist in everyday life today. However, “Hurrying slowly” might be the answer to finding some peace, happiness and health!