I recently shared on my Facebook page a three-part series from Anna over at Colour Me Anna all about getting ‘unbusy’ (her cool word for stepping off the frantic loop of modern life). You can catch up here, here and here.
I probably don’t need to tell you the health benefits of slowing down. I’ve written about them here and you can watch Dr Libby Weaver’s TEDTalk and the trailer for the powerful documentary on stress and health ‘The Connection’ within that post. But in a nutshell, as another one of my favourite stress experts, Dr Lissa Rankin, says: “… stress is anything that triggers the amygdala in your primordial limbic system to activate the “fight-or-flight” stress response. And whenever this happens, your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms — the ones that help prevent heart disease, fight cancer, ward off infection, and assist in anti-aging — get flipped off. As far as your body’s health is concerned, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that trigger the stress response may damage your health more than a poor diet, avoiding exercise, bad habits, and sleep deprivation. But the good news is that the opposite is also true! Because your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings are at least partially under your control, you have the power to switch off your body’s stress responses and return the nervous system to the health-inducing relaxation response that activates the body’s natural self repair.”
So obviously Anna’s idea of getting unbusy is a great one.
And it got me thinking about ways I try to get unbusy — things I do to try to approach each day in a more manageable, less frantic way. And I came up with this list.
But first, it’s crucial to realise that living a calmer life starts with a decision and remains a daily practice; it’s not a one-off step from chaos to calm, especially when there’s so much input coming at us from within our own families, friendship circles and the wider world (online and real).
So keeping in mind it’s a practice, and none of us is or can ever be perfect, here are my top tips for getting unbusy. Add them to Anna’s tips in her three articles and you’ll have a bit of a tool box:
- Sit in the sun (safely) for a while everyday. It’s not only hugely healthful to sit and consciously breathe, if you do it outside it’s a great way to get some vital Vitamin D, which Dr Libby Weaver says “plays a big role in everything from bone health to immunity.”
- Make soup on Sundays. Sounds silly, but throwing together some simple soup on a Sunday afternoon means you’ll have something for lunch or dinner if all else fails through the week.
- Look at your week before it begins. There’s nothing more frazzling for a busy parent than getting caught short needing a costume or a form filled out, or missing an important appointment, because you got so busy you didn’t realise the date was already upon you. Go through you calendar at the start of the week so you know what’s coming up (and cull some stuff if you can).
- Clear your bedside table. I have to do this regularly because sleeping beside a pile of unread or half-read books just screams at me: Stress! Hurry! Read me! Now! I wrote about this here. Same goes for social media and the internet: these not only steal time, they steal precious space in your mind.
- Work to threes. I try this when I’m in overwhelm. Write a master list of everything you want to get done, and then choose only three top priorities (or most important tasks, MITs) for your day. You’re far more likely to get through three things than 30, and you’ll feel satisfied you’re making progress. Read more about this from Tsh Oxenrider whose book ‘Organised simplicity’ is a must-read (just don’t leave it on your bedside table!) Marie Forleo also has good tips on managing overwhelm; for example, this.
- Seriously cull your clothes. I have an ongoing goal of culling our wardrobes down to only essentials and much-loved items so that I can halve our laundry load. Less washing is a big one for me. What about you?
- Use a slow cooker. Nothing makes me feel more organised during the week days than throwing a few ingredients in the slow cooker (crockpot) and letting it do its thing. My favourite slow cooker recipes come from Sarah Wilson, and whether you’re on the Quit Sugar train or not, she’s got some seriously good slow cooker ideas in here. You might also like to read newsreader Juanita Phillips’ book, ‘A pressure cooker saved my life’ for her take on slowing down and simplifying.
- Use your words. You’re probably aware that your words (what you say all day long) can be powerful energetic tools for good if you choose them wisely. If we go around affirming ‘I’m so busy, I’m losing my mind’ then that is exactly our experience. If instead we say something like, ‘There’s always enough time for everything’ or ‘There is no rush, I’m doing fine’ we’re likely to keep calm and carry on. Check out Pam Grout’s books for a start.
- Pre-pave your day. Related to the last point is the idea of ‘pre-paving’ which is picturing (visualising) in minute detail your day (or a specific event) going exactly as you want it to. So, before getting up in the morning, picture (and really feel) your ideal outcome: say, a peaceful start, an easy morning (best car park, happy children, being on time and so on), a yummy lunch, a slow pace, moments of joy … whatever you’re hoping for that day. Your day is likely to be far more enjoyable than focusing on rush and stress and deadlines and lost hats. Globally recognised women’s health expert Dr Christian Northrup is a big advocate of pre-paving.
So tell me, how do you get ‘unbusy’?