5 Things I've Learned about Slowing Down

There was a point in my college career that I was scheduling showers.  No, I don’t mean bridal showers or baby showers. I mean actual showers. And no, that’s not because I’m an over-the-top planner (but that might also be true).  It was because I was completely overcommitted. So, if I didn’t schedule daily hygiene ahead of time, everyone had to face the stinky consequences.

To be honest, I thrive in seasons of busyness.  I love the rush of having a long to-do list and checking off each item as I work my way through it.  In fact, if I complete something that isn’t on my list, I have a tendency to add it just so I can experience the utter satisfaction of crossing it off. I have my evening getting-ready-for-bed routine and sometimes, I even time myself to see how fast I can get through it. Please leave your judgments on your side of the computer screen. But also please tell me there is at least one other soul on this planet that does this.

I am an efficiency queen, a multi-tasking superwoman.  Or at least that’s what I like to think.

So when I met my sweet, slow-paced, introverted husband, I was a bit overwhelmed by his underwhelming calendar. You mean to tell me you only have ONE nightly activity scheduled a week?!  You don’t have any plans for this weekend?! I had no idea people even lived like this.

But after stepping away from a job in ministry that involved long days, longer nights and packed weekends, I was on the verge of a complete meltdown.  I was physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally spent. So, I started to explore this idea of “slowing down” - more out of necessity than desire.

This looks different for everyone.  But for me, it involved things like, saying no to leadership roles for awhile, seeing a counselor, getting regular exercise, stopping work at 5 p.m. and gradually letting go of the guilt that had somehow developed around rest.

Millennials (still not sure if I’m technically part of that generation) would probably call this “self-care.” And before any of you start rolling your eyes and calling Millennials things like “snowflakes,” let me just stop and remind you that this world we live in now is a very different world. It is full of messages to never stop working, sharing, pursuing, fighting, trying, scrolling. Is it any surprise to us that cases of anxiety and depression for high school and college students have nearly doubled?

So here are a few things I’ve picked up on along the way towards this “slowing down.”

#1 - Resting is Hard Work

Yes, I know this seems like a paradox, but let me explain. It is hard work undoing the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed, because here’s the reality: busyness is a habit and possibly even an addiction. And habits and addictions are not easy to get rid of.  Just think about this the next time you’re tempted to say “yes” to just one more thing.

#2 - “Busy” is Not an Emotion

Ok, be honest. How many times have you had someone ask, “How are you?” and your answer is something along the lines of “Good…busy.”  Guilty? Don’t worry, me too. But our answers do tend to reveal what’s going on below the surface. When we barely have time to pause long enough to take a shower, you can bet we haven’t had time to stop and let ourselves really understand how we’re feeling - anxious, lonely, sad, even excited!

#3 - The Guilt is Real

When your Instagram feed is filled with moms doubling as CEOs, friends frolicking around the world and colleagues declaring they’ve written yet another book, “slowing down” can feel like the last thing we should be doing. How will we ever keep up with these never-tired, always-productive, million-dollar-making humans?! And then comes the guilt: “I should be doing more.” “I should be making more money.” “I should be making a difference in the world.” “I should…(fill in the blank).

#4 - Stop at Lazy

I hate that I have to admit this, but there was a certain point when my rest turned into laziness. I started to use my need for “rest” as an excuse for apathy, saying no to friends in need, isolating myself from new friends, avoiding involvement in the church.  That, my friends, is not rest.  Yes, I am all about taking breaks, recharging and sabbaticals.  But when we’ve said no for so long, it can become our default.  We can still be selective about what we say yes to, but we can’t say no to everything forever.  That life might be comfortable, but I promise you, it will not be rewarding and it is not what God has in mind for you.

#5 - Ease Back In

If you’ve slowed down to heal, to recover or to recharge, don’t jump straight back into your busy, non-stop life.  Sit down, pray, pick your priorities and decide what to say yes to first.  And make it small - a Bible study, coffee with a new friend, a yoga class.

Now, I’m kind of obsessed with the slow life.  My husband and I spend a lot of nights at home relaxing. And while I once felt guilty about this, I don’t anymore. I know when I need time with people and when I need a night of rest. I weigh my yes and my no carefully. I fill a good amount of my time with things that are life-giving and enjoyable rather than what I feel like I “should” be doing. And I let God use those life-giving moments to fuel me through the things that are a little harder to say yes to, the things that are outside of my comfort zone or require a bit more effort.

And let me just tell you, this has been a years-long process. I said no to a lot of things for a long time. I drifted in and out of laziness and fear and isolation along the way. But as I look back, I see how God slowly and graciously moved me forward, transforming and healing my heart along the way and giving me space and strength to say yes to the good (not necessarily easy) things He has planned for me.  

Yes, our life is about to be turned upside down in the form of a tiny, needy human.  Yes, I know that life will look very different and “slowing down” may seem impossible.  But one of my prayers has been that our sweet little girl would be brought into a house filled with God’s peace, rest and grace.  In a world that makes us think that busyness is synonymous with success, I want our home to be a place of refuge.

Peace, rest and grace, God. Fill our lives with more of this.