7 ways to slow down and bring more joy into your life

Hi love,

Do you remember when you were a kid and time wasn't even a concept yet?

I really like thinking about how I spent hours picking daisies in my backyard and turned them into flower crowns or necklaces for me and the other women in my house -and sometimes even my dog, who, to my huge disappointment, always managed to break it within seconds... so unthankful;). 

Then, I also remember a time in my mid-to-late 20s in particular when the idea of slowing down felt almost unthinkable. Slowing down meant doing not-enough, achieving less, wasting time and giving up on my passions.

Wasn’t I in my prime right now?

Wasn’t now the time to push things forward and work my butt off so I could be safe, comfortable, and not so busy later?

Wasn’t everything I ever achieved a direct result of my willingness to exhaust myself?

These are examples of thoughts that kept me running, pushing, and exhausting myself, eventually resulting in a totally confused and run-down state that had nothing to do with the life I actually wanted to live.

Back then, my adrenals were running on over time -without getting paid “time and a ½” in return!- and I am certain that all of this physical stress and emotional pressure I put on myself led to my herniated disks, paralyzing pain down my leg, and surgery in 2009 as well as to my unhappiness and confusion about love, career, my desires in life, and my purpose on this planet.

My pain and unhappiness were my bodies way to force me to stop and slow down!

Here is a secret I learned as a result:

You cannot force, push, or bully yourself into a life that feels joyful, fulfilling, and balanced.

These means will only further estrange you from who you are; leading you astray.

It took me a little while to not only understand, but believe that doing less and slowing down didn’t mean being less productive, less driven, less passionate, and less successful.

It just meant spending my energy more wisely, holistically, and with clear focus and intention.

Knowing how many of you feel too busy, unbalanced, and like your life is ruled by never ending, daunting to-do lists, I sat down today in my favorite new coffee shop find, Devocion in Williamsburg NYC, and put together 7 steps you can take to slow down your life and bring more joy into it.

  1. PRIORITIZE. 
    Not everything on your to-do list can be categorized as “urgent.”
    You have to be clear about what your key to-do’s are for each day and everything else should go on a “would be nice” or “if I have extra time” list.
    Your daily action steps should challenge you, but must be achievable, otherwise you set yourself up for feeling like you didn’t succeed even if you accomplished a ton. I recommend having 2-3 major to-do’s per day max.

  2. GET CLEAR ON WHAT ACTUALLY MATTERS TO YOU.
    How many times do you catch yourself thinking or saying “I should really go to this event/ get up earlier/ lose weight....”
    'Should' isn’t a very strong motivator and it often insinuates that you think you have to do something not because you want to, but because the world expects you to.
    Of course, there are annoying things all of us have to get done that we maybe don’t exactly want to do, but those are actually “I must ____” scenarios not “should” scenarios.
    'Musts' will happen, 'shoulds' often just occupy your mind burning energy without leading to real results.
    If something truly matters to you, make it a must and prioritize it.

  3. LET GO OF OVER-ANALYZING (yup, you read correctly!)
    Slowing down isn’t just about doing less physically, it’s also about calming down your mind. Over-analyzing seems to be one of the biggest culprits that keep women’s minds in the hamster wheel. 
    Personally, I was a champ at over-analyzing everything. I could come up with 100 reasons why a guy I went on a date with wasn’t responding; my favorite analysis was “maybe my text didn’t go through.” Really? How many times are my friends not getting my messages?! 
    But for some reason, in my desperate state of wanting to be desired, this possibility seemed totally legit. 
    Over-analyzing cost me a lot of mental energy that was poured into no positive outcomes whatsoever. The only thing it did was make me feel like a crazy person. 
    If you catch yourself over-analyzing something give yourself a reality check and ask yourself “is there anything I can do right now to create more clarity for myself?” If the answer is yes, get going on that task. If the answer is no, focus your energy on something pleasant reminding yourself to trust that the process will unfold the way it needs to.

  4. SINGLE-TASK.
    Halleluja. Are we ever going to learn this? I know that I still fall into the multi-tasking trap where I write an email, jot down some notes about a future project and google something I thought about 3 days ago.
    The practice of single-tasking requires consistency and a bit of discipline, but I swear it pays off. Start with putting your phone on silent, closing your email while working on a project, and blocking out unnecessary noise.

  5. TAKE AH-MAZING CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST!
    I am not suggesting for you to turn into selfish horrendous person, I am suggesting for you to think in the long run. If you completely exhaust and deplete yourself you won’t be able to support those you love in the long run.
    Taking care of YOU means slowing down and spending time with yourself, in your body and in your mind, without rushing.
    In order for this to happen I suggest planning ahead a bit: sign up for the yoga classes you want to go to in advance, keep your fridge stocked with nutrient-dense and fresh foods, carve out at least 2 hours per week of “nothing time” - time where you are just free to do whatever you feel like in that moment.  

  6. SET BOUNDARIES; EVEN WITH YOURSELF. 
    Ask yourself what drains your energy and what fuels your energy. If your day is filled up with energy draining activities, something needs to shift asap. Maybe you are working in an extroverted environment, when your nature is really introverted. Maybe you commit to things because you are afraid of disappointing others, not because you passionately want to participate. Maybe you point out your flaws every time you look into the mirror, instead of spending time celebrating your chocolate sides.
    You need to set boundaries with others and yourself that help you ditch negativity and create space for you to thrive, so that you can float through your day with mental and physical ease.

  7. LET GO OF FEELINGS OF GUILT.
    This one is big and I can sympathize with it well!
    Many of us feel guilty if we slow down, take our time, and set boundaries for no other reason but to not over-burden ourselves.
    Being busy has become such a normal way of life in our society. It’s almost like a status symbol of a successful person. If you are not über-busy and kind of tired, how important can you be?
    This is clearly not a healthy way to live for anyone and I believe that we need to change this attitude collectively.
    Nobody should ever feel guilty about having time, abundance, joy, freedom, ease, and calmness in their life. And this change starts with you: give yourself permission to release guilt and remind yourself that if you stop feeling guilty you give others permission to release their guilt as well. Be the light!

In the comments below, I’d love to hear from you: Are you in the overly busy trap and would like to slow down? Why has this been hard for you? Which one of the above suggestions do you want to work on first -pick one or two at a time.

with all my love,

Caroline

Caroline Zwickson

Caroline Zwickson has a M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is a Certified Women’s Health Coach focusing on natural pregnancy preparation, hormone balance & postpartum recovery for women who want to feel amazing in their own skin and birth happy babies.

Caroline integrates functional nutrition, life & wellness coaching, as well as positive psychology to guide her clients in creating joyful lives and fertile bodies. She skillfully helps her clients adapt to new food & lifestyle habits that are grounded in establishing physical and emotional balance and health so that they can make decisions that are truly based on their goals, desires and intentions in life, especially at the onset of a new era: motherhood. Knowing how to nourish yourself in a way that promotes hormonal balance and having a close, loving relationship with yourself is the best possible preparation for pregnancy and motherhood.

Through her own experience navigating hormonal imbalances after coming off birth control in her 20s, Caroline experienced first hand that the most important factor in achieving a healthy and fun pregnancy is how women prepare their bodies and lives before they conceive. Her approach to women’s fertility and motherhood is based on positivity and the firm belief that women have an immense capacity for creation and bringing joy and beauty to the world.

Caroline has been featured in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Your Bella Life, The Beauty Bean and Cafe Truth. She has spoken at companies like Martha Stewart Living, Yelp, AMEX, Twitter, and Charity Water. You can find out more about her at www.carolinezwickson.com and you can download her FREE workbook guiding you through her top 5 tools to help you conceive naturally.