What I Learned About Slowing Down
Wednesday June 11, 2014see more by jen
Last month I hit a wall and got fed up with our non-stop, busy days and the endless pinging of texts and emails so I called “Uncle!” and decided to take the week “off”. This post is about what I learned from slowing down for a week.
Now, as moms we know, unless you are physically away from your home and children, there really is no such thing as taking a week off. What I wanted even more than that was simply a week to SLOW DOWN, unplug (somewhat) and try to focus on being more relaxed.
I told myself I would check email just once a day and try to stay off my laptop and phone best I could.
The weekend before my Slow Down Week, I wrapped up some work stuff, answered emails I needed to, and closed up shop so to say.
If free time presented itself, I was going to focus on taking time to read and do things that relax me instead of finding ways to run around and be productive.
Sounds good in theory, right?
This is how the week went down…
Day One – Monday morning
When I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone or laptop and check my email and social media. On the first morning of my Slow Down Week, I wake up and resist the temptation to pick up my phone. This is sad to say, but I actually feel anxious not checking my phone.
I attempt to just take some time to do some deep breathing and focus on what I want from the week. But instead of feeling relaxed, I felt anxious.
Not checking in on my device first thing in the morning actually gave me anxiety causing a physical reaction.
This is frightening. Must work on that.
The morning goes on as usual, and after getting both kids out the door and dropped off at school I find myself with options. I am not supposed to be productive, however my car had not been washed for months and it was getting embarrassing, so I decide to get my car washed.
I am sure the guys grimaced when they saw the minivan pull up. I am surprised there is not a minivan carwash surcharge for the extra effort involved in snack crumb cleanup.
As I was waiting, I would normally be on my phone the whole time, but not today. What to do?
Read a magazine? Talk to my neighbor? Wait, everyone is on their phone. Hmmm…journal? Yes, journal!
Another goal for the week – journal my thoughts and feelings.
I pulled out my journal and pen and started to write about my morning, what I had felt and how I was feeling. Turns out putting pen to paper is very therapeutic.
I left with a spotless car and felt, dare I say, more relaxed than I had been in awhile. Having my car completely clean made me feel happy.
Cleaning something clears the mind. Writing with a pen, with no emails dinging, or messages popping up, is relaxing.
Do more of this.
I get home and find myself with 45 free minutes before preschool pick up. I give in and decided to check email “just once” to make sure nothing popped up I needed to see.
Most of my email is junk, but one is a request from a PR contact for high res image copies of some photos I took for a publication. Since I am without kids I feel compelled to take care of this right away because who knows the next time I can get to it.
I rush to the computer to find the images, edit, and upload to send, noticing my heart rate picking up a bit and tension seep into my shoulders.
A few others were things I had to respond to, silly social things, but was out of time and needed to get my butt in the car to do preschool pick up. But the unanswered emails were out there hanging over my head.
Email can stress me out.
Don’t check email unless I have a chunk of free time to respond as needed.
What I don’t know is waiting for me in my email won’t kill me. Will try to check email only when necessary and when I have time to respond and give it my attention.
Rest of the day goes along like my regular days do with my kids. School pick ups, swim lessons, dinner, bath, bedtime, etc.
At one point early evening when I should have been cleaning up the dinner prep dishes, I feel a little tired, so I force myself to take a break. I decide to sit on the patio and read a magazine. Girls were playing nicely, so I told them I was reading for 20 minutes and wouldn’t be getting up out of my chair for anything until the 20 minutes were over.
Little inquisitive eyes studied me and then went about playing.
About 2 minutes in, I am asked to get down a bowl to make a Barbie bath. Nope. 5 minutes in, I am asked to get them something to eat. Nope. Tried a few more requests and they realized I really wasn’t going to get up.
Those 20 minutes were blissful.
20 minutes to force yourself to sit down is helpful. My girls can make it through without me being at their beck and call for a short time.
Do more of this. Especially this summer.
I go to bed feeling good about Day One.
4:00am – Day Two
I wake up to calls from my 7-year-old. We have a barfer on our hands.
The relaxing week lasted 21 hours.
Initially I had that “Seriously?!” reaction. Cleaning up barf was not on the agenda for my Slow Down Week so I was, a tad disappointed. Best laid plans. UGH.
She was home from school for two days, but what could have been miserable, was actually quite lovely.
After the initial middle-of-the-night barf, it was over, and other than being tired and having no appetite, she felt pretty good. Not good enough for school, but she could do stuff.
My 4-year-old went to preschool both mornings she was home sick, so had some great quality time together those two mornings.
We played Yahtzee and read books, made banana bread and colored.
Because she was not 100%, I cleared the afternoon schedules and called her in sick to her activities. We had three school day afternoons with NO plans. It was awesome!
Having three days with no afternoon activities was a great break and forced me truly to slow down more than I would have otherwise. Having quality time alone with one child was the best.
Do more of this.
By Day Three she is better, but still not up for doing much, so we head to the library and check out some movies. One of which is Mary Poppins.
Watching Mary Poppins with my girls on a Thursday afternoon was one of my favorite memories of the past year. They were as enamored with it as I was as a little girl.
Julie Andrews is a goddess.
Day Five – Slow Down Week Conclusion
Although it hadn’t gone exactly as planned, overall I did feel that Slow Down Week was a success. I think somehow those sick days presented themselves to teach me some valuable lessons about not filling every free moment with stuff to do.
By Friday, life was back to the regularly scheduled program.
On that night, my parents brought down dinner for us. It was such a beautiful night, warm and summery. We all sat on the patio and watched the girls play on our swing set. I felt so happy.
My husband was pushing my little one while she was hanging by her arms on the trapeze bar attachment. Like he has done a million times.
Then in a moment, in one of those slow motion, movie moments, I see her hands slip on the backswing, and when she falls, because of the backward momentum, instead of falling and landing on her feet, her body goes horizontal and she lands with her arms down to catch her.
Off to the E.R. we go.
Fractured her forearm. Poor baby.
But she was such a trooper and was so darling had the staff at CHOC smiling because she was so mellow and sweet.
Side note: The staff at CHOC E.R. in Orange is AMAZING. They made a terrible situation tolerable by how good they were with my daughter.
There she is in her cast after her dance recital. Only one more week to go, and we have made it through.
Life as a parent of small children is so unpredictable.
Here I started the week with a stomach flu and ended in the E.R., but even though those hard times, you can find joy and a silver lining.
We want so much to be able to press “Pause” on life at this stage with children. The days all sort of start to run into each other and it sounds cliche, but it goes so fast.
Looking back I think I learned some valuable lessons by taking a week to slow down.
I learned I don’t have to check email every 10 minutes, it can wait until I can get to it at some point during the day, and attend to things at that time instead of having things hang over my head taking me out of the present moment.
Taking the time to clean out something does more than organize, it can clean your head too.
Writing with a pen is amazing. Try it. You will be amazed at how good you feel.
I learned I need to carve out quality time, alone, with both of my girls. As they age, this gets harder to do, but it’s important. Like scheduling date nights with your husband, I am scheduling dates with my girls.
Reserving one weekday afternoon, or weekend day where you clear a schedule and do nothing is so good. So, so good. We run around a lot. Getting off the hamster wheel for a day is a great recharge.
My girls (8 and almost 5) are at an age where they are so capable of being independent. I don’t need to be at their beck and call. This summer I am going to make myself sit down and read for 30 minutes. They are fine. But I have to be clear about not getting up, because they do enjoy asking Mommy for things.
Oh, and yes, watch Mary Poppins with your kids. Practically perfect in every way.