Whether you own your own business or not, we all experience overwhelm sometimes. Our culture is constantly applying the pressure for us to ramp up, do more, work harder, and optimize every minute of our lives. And to be completely honest, most of that pressure comes straight from our own heads.
We're constantly telling ourselves that we're not doing enough—that we're not enough. I'm just as guilty of these feelings as anyone else. There are definitely times when I let stress, anxiety, and expectations—my own and those of others—get the best of me. But over the last few months, I've been really trying to take my own advice and slow down.
Creating Space for Renewal
For those moments when you're feeling tired, uninspired, and drained the solution isn't always to keep pushing on and grinding yourself down. Sometimes the best way to get back on the right track is to slow down and create some margin from your usual routine. How will that help? These 6 steps to slowing down will show you just that and more.
1. Step Away.
Whether you just got an undesirable email or you just can't seem to focus, don't force yourself to push through it and cope. This happens to me almost every week when writing these posts. At some point I hit a writing block and can't seem to get myself back on track. Forcing myself on gets me to my goal... eventually—although it's usually pretty painful. I've found that stepping away is a much more productive and pleasant alternative.
I know. You tell yourself that you've just got too much on your plate to take a break. You're already behind and can't possibly step away. Come on. we both know that's just not true. Even if you can spare 5 minutes, that's something. Taking a break and turning your attention to something else can do a world of good for you and for your productivity.
2. I mean it. Really, step away.
When you step away, make sure it isn't just to scroll through a feed of other people in your industry that do what you do. Occasionally that can be inspiring, but more often than not it's overwhelming to see what others are up to and just leads to all those same thoughts of how you're not measuring up.
One unfortunate thing about social media is that it's like air. Whatever amount of free time you have it will easily expand to fill, but it often leaves you feeling unsatisfied and like you have nothing to show for that time. So when you step away, I recommend leaving your phone behind.
3. Nourish your body & mind.
Try doing something restorative rather than the usual depleting routine. And I'm not talking about what other people tell you should be restorative for you. You know yourself, so check in with your body to see what you need.
Personally, hot yoga and a shower usually does wonders for my mental clarity. That's not always what I need though. Sometimes I need a lunch with a friend or family member. Earlier I really wasn't in my writing groove and couldn't figure out what I even wanted to say, so I took a nap. True story. It was only 30 minutes, but I came back to my desk rested and full of ideas.
4. Look closer & practice gratitude.
It's easy to take things for granted when you see and experience them every day. When I find myself in a funk for no particular reason, it helps to stop and look closer at my surroundings. I try to surround myself with items that mean something to me or have some kind of story attached to them, and it makes me happy to remember those sentiments.
Take the time to look closer at the things you look past every day. Try to see them in a new way, and find the bright side in your surroundings. Counting your blessings and making time for gratitude does wonders for you inside and out.
Try creating some extra white space in your days.
5. Think big.
Just as there's a time to look closer, there's also a time to zoom out. Our daily routines often have us so tangled in the details of the moment that it's impossible to see the big picture. I've found that stepping away also helps me to step back and evaluate where I'm at and where I'm heading. That kind of objectivity makes all the difference.
6. Gain clarity.
Slowing down and stepping away will do a world of good for your mental clarity. Lots of times when I'm starting a new branding project, I'll do a complete review of everything I've learned so far. Then I'll step away and let all that information marinate. In the background, my brain is making connections and working things out. That way, when I come back to it later that day or the next, I've got a fresh perspective and a jump-start on the work ahead.
Granted, I realize not everyone's process works this way. I know sometimes it's just a matter of getting in the right mindset to do the work. But the next time you're struggling with a decision, I'd recommend this method. Review all the facts. Make a list of pros and cons if you'd like. Then step away. The clarity that time and space will bring is truly amazing.
Embrace the White Space
Each of these 6 is reason enough to try slowing down. What I've found is the more regularly I create white space for myself, the smarter I'm able to hustle and the more I benefit. When I return to my routine, I'm refreshed and ready to tackle the task ahead. Most times, I end up accomplishing my work much more efficiently than if I had tried to force myself to grind through it in the first place.
Try creating some extra white space in your days. Give yourself permission to take a break every once in a while and step away. Leave your phone behind and know that no matter what you get done, you've got lots to be grateful for and you are enough.