When did life get so busy? The constant go, go, go cycle many of us experience means it’s become very hard to relax, to shut down our minds when we need some peace and calm. Our heads are always full of lists, tasks, thoughts of what we haven’t done and what we need to do… when does it end? Are we needlessly complicating our lives with being so busy? Do we end up avoiding and procrastinating as we attempt to escape, even for a short time, our endless busyness?

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We seem to be trapped in the age of being busy. This is fueled by our constant connectivity to devices that offer never-ending amounts of information and distraction via the Almighty Internet. Being too busy ongoingly leads to feelings of stress and overwhelm — we feel there is never enough time to do what we need to do. Over the longterm, this can cause anxiety and even depression. Constant busyness affects our physical and mental health, our relationships with our partner and children, our ability to be productive and creative at work, and our self esteem.

Many times, it takes a major event for us to wake up from the vicious cycle we find ourselves in. A health crisis whether physical or emotional, a relationship betrayal or infidelity, our children falling ill or acting out, a serious accident that renders us immobile for a while — eventually something has to give and force us to address the stress and accompanying feelings of resentment, exhaustion, anger, and unhappiness.

So, what can we do to help ourselves start to shift the busy cycle we find ourselves caught up in? Begin by writing out what your day typically looks like so you can see when you wake up, what you spend your time on, and how you feel during the day. The way we start our day has a major impact on the pace of our day. The way we end our day affects our quality of sleep/rest time, which is equally important. Eliminate low priority items in your schedule to free up time and ensure you have some open time slots daily.

Take time to wake up earlier so that you have a few minutes for quiet gratitude and meditation in the morning. Doing this with your partner can be very helpful and makes it more likely you will commit to it. There are apps that you can download for free that can assist by reminding you to meditate and tracking it so you can see your progress.

Another option it to meditate in the shower — water is a wonderful energetic conductor and cleanser and taking a few minutes in the shower can be an amazing way to start off your day.

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If you have children, you may want to try doing a few minutes of family meditation during the day, which is a great way to calm and ground.

Simple method to meditate: Sit quietly and focus on the breath, in and out, in and out, in and out, at a normal pace for a few moments. Set a timer for 1-2 minutes to begin with, slowly working up to 5 or 10 minutes — whatever you can manage and feels right for you. Do not put pressure on yourself. Keep it light — I promise, you can’t get it wrong. The fact that you are taking a minute or more to SLOW DOWN is a big step toward shifting the busy mindset. You can do this anytime in the day.

Reviewing how you spend your time during the day is key as well — are you wasting time online, distracting yourself from difficult situations or feelings in your life? Be aware of how often you reach for your phone or get off task by browsing or researching. Limit time on your devices and set a timer when you are online — when the timer goes off, make sure you get up and walk away from your laptop or device. Taking a break from the internet/email is key to slowing down.

If you are at home, get outside or take a break to go do something completely different — perhaps some cleaning or meal preparation. Savour the time you have to clean or eat, and be aware and grateful for the simple things. Step out on your balcony, deck, or yard (or to the bathroom if you are at work) and practice gratitude and a few breaths of meditation to bring you back to the present moment. You can use phrases like “I activate the present moment” and “I activate higher self” to assist you, before you start focusing on your breath, in and out for a few relaxed cycles. Again, keep it light — you can’t get it wrong, and the fact you are creating awareness is key to creating change. It is a slow, gradual process that takes time and patience. It’s taken years to get to where you currently are, and it will take time to shift, too.

You can use this practice anytime during the day when you feel overwhelmed — even while driving. Pull over in your car to a safe spot and focus on your breath for a few moments, taking time to SLOW DOWN and Connect. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your feelings of overwhelm dissipate. And if your kids are feeling overwhelmed, you can do the same thing, whether in the car, at home, or out somewhere. Including them is an amazing way to teach them this powerful, yet simple tool of focusing on the breath. There are countless CDs, MP3s, and apps that you can use. A small portable speaker (for the family) or earphones (if it’s just yourself) are helpful too.

Doing this before bed is a wonderful way to calm your mind and help you sleep. Leave your phone charging in another room overnight so you are not tempted to reach for it if you can’t sleep or first thing in the morning. This is key to creating the space for slowing down.

The more time you set aside for fun, nature, being active, alone or with friends or family, the more you will shift your busy energy. Get your children involved in cleaning and meal prep with an attitude of gratitude. Savouring whatever we are doing slows things down. Less IS more.

Simplify what you can. Clear out clutter and excess material items — donate, share, pay it forward, give it away. Right-sizing feels lighter. It may feel challenging at the start to break the busy addiction, but nothing will change unless you take action and create the space for yourself and your family to SLOW DOWN. Play frisbee in the backyard with the kids, go to the park, go for a walk, get on your bike, hit the gym, try a local meditation or yoga class, play with your cat, get your dog out for a walk (or borrow a friend’s dog), and GET MOVING. Have fun, breathe, be present, and live more in the slow lane. What can you do to slow down and feel more present?

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