How To Design a Slow But Steady Life and Reduce Stress

August 24, 2020

Culture and Society

A life of hustle and bustle is the predominant paradigm of modern life, but this does not mean that this is the only option available to us. What if we all pursued an intentionally slow but steady life? What does that even mean? Well, I should give you a brief backstory about how I have arrived at these thoughts.

Back in 2016, I left my cozy one-bedroom apartment in Nashville, TN for good. I uprooted my entire life (and my sweet cat) out to the woods of rural, middle Tennessee to live with my partner and finish my degree in college. That previous city life involved a wonderful job with evenings and weekends open for errands, friends, and family. It was routine and conformed to a strict schedule that did not allow for much deviation.

I was not sure how or if I would adjust to the slower pace of country life. Suddenly, I lived an existence that did not conform to a strict schedule that was dictated by an employer. The country roads in my neighborhood had zero traffic. I did not hear the sounds of cars whizzing by or horns honking. The nearest supermarket was 10 miles away through winding country roads. My cell phone did not get a signal in most of the immediate area. Following a slow tractor on our main road for a couple miles constituted a traffic jam.

It took some time for me to adjust, but now, I love the slower pace that country living comes with. Here’s why:

  • I spend far less time in my car going anywhere because everything is so far from where I live. I used to drive all the time back in the city. These days, I generally consolidate all of my errands into one weekly trip. If I forgot something at the grocery store, then I simply do without it until the next trip. This makes life less stressful and simpler.
  • It is so quiet here in the woods. The lack of noise pollution and all of the busy-ness of city life does a lot to create a sense of peacefulness.
  • Within a local community in which everyone lives at a slower pace, there is a collective feeling of calm. No one is rushing around and impatiently trying to get somewhere all of the time.
  • My home and the places I frequented started to feel more like sanctuaries instead of harbors of stress or stagnation. A slower pace creates time to feel more settled in one’s environment.
  • Whether you are an introvert (like myself) or an extrovert, having time alone with your thoughts is always a good thing. Living in the country grants me special opportunities to be by myself. This can happen out at my deck with our view of the low-lying Tennessee mountains, when I go on my daily walks along our long driveway in the woods, or when I sit on the bridge over our little creek. A slower life grants more opportunities to find healing solitude.

I must now concede that not everyone gets to or wants to live in a peaceful and secluded home deep in the woods, and as such, living a slower-paced lifestyle may not be attainable in the same sense that I enjoy it. However, I believe that it is possible no matter where you dwell.

The underlying force to consider is your intention. how you use your time, and how you design the functions and routines of your day.

Here are some thoughtful suggestions on how to slow down the pace and movement in your daily life regardless of your surroundings:

  • Instead of a to-do list of multiple tasks every day. Consider accomplishing only one to three very important tasks. This would simplify your day and reduce stress significantly.
  • Leave early for every appointment or meeting you have. Leaving early increases the likelihood of getting somewhere on time or earlier. It accounts for traffic problems, trouble finding a parking spot, or simply getting lost on the way. Most of all, it reduces stress. Instead of anxiously rushing to get somewhere, you are enjoying a steady and leisurely drive to your destination.
  • As much as possible, implement cognitive breaks after periods of focused work. For example, after a couple of hours of writing, go for a ten minute walk with a drink of water. Better yet, take a quick nap or simply sit outside for a while to breathe in fresh air. The human brain works far better when it is not going full throttle for extended periods of time and operates much better after a good break.
  • Schedule out your days and weeks. Build daily and weekly routines that align with specific time blocks that address both short and long-term goals. Here’s an example of a morning ritual that can be easily replicated every day:

    6:00am to 6:30am: Freshen up for the day with brushing your teeth while taking a shower.

    6:30am to 7:00am: Moisturize skin and get dressed for the day.

    7:30am to 8:00am: Drink water and your morning coffee with a small breakfast.

8:00am to 9:00am: Drive to work (leaving earlier to account for traffic and not feel rushed). Get to the parking lot early to grab a favorite spot. Before walking into your office five minutes early, you have the option to review your day’s schedule, read a good book, or relax while listing to music as you sit in the car.

Notice how this schedule addresses self-care tasks such as good hygiene and hydration and spaces out all of the tasks within lengthy time blocks. It probably would not take you a half hour to get dressed, but the benefit of giving yourself a half hour of prep time lets you choose the right outfit without feeling flustered. Spacing out your tasks within a timed schedule reduces pressure and anxiety and ensures that important endeavors happen. In case something throws you off like a sudden phone call or missing keys, you have time buffers in place to address any hiccups. Lastly, even as the daily self-care tasks have immediate benefits, they will affect your long-term health and well-being as well. This kind of schedule is so simple that after a few days of doing it you’ll flow through it automatically.

Naturally, every situation is different. Maybe you have young children, a demanding job, or a debilitating health issue. The main takeaway I want to give to you is that you have the ability, even in a small way, to reduce stress in your life by stretching out your time and intentionally designing the ways you go about your day. The trade-offs, like getting up earlier to have a more complete morning ritual or the extra work it takes to write out a schedule, might be difficult at first, but the payoff is worth it in terms of living a slower and steadier lifestyle that is calm and restorative.

I hope some or all of this is helpful.For me, it took moving out to the woods to understand the value of a slow, but steady life. By spacing out your time and strategically scheduling your days and weeks, progress still happens. It just does so more meaningfully and with a lot less stress.

Have a wonderful week ahead!

PS- Here is my latest film release that just came out last Friday. This is a new film that addresses colonialism in my home country of the Philippines.

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