Often at times, it’s easy to dismiss the phrase ‘slow down a little’ as being told to stop entirely or negate the successes you might achieve in being constantly productive and on-the-go. However, in so doing, we might just be preventing ourselves from reaching our true potentials. It seems that a major side effect of the 21st century technological age is that we, as a society, feel compelled to always be busy. Any time spent doing nothing is time wasted. Thus, it is in our nature to go full pelt at just about everything, from our work to our personal commitments. Whilst this does not at first seem like an inefficient or indefensible approach, it does have its ramifications on our mental (and physical) health. Nowadays, a lack of productivity equates to inactivity, and stopping – resting and reflecting – is almost criminal. The ubiquity of busyness makes those of us taking a break feel guilty for doing so.
Yet, I find myself pondering the world around us: take animals for example. The average adult human, is supposed to get around 8 hours of sleep per day, give or take, whilst committing to a job, education, family and day- to- day life. And yet, upon researching, I discovered that tigers (the largest of the cat species and able to swim up to 18 miles per day) have been found to sleep for almost double this length of time: at 15.8 hours on average!
Nowadays, a lack of productivity equates to inactivity, and stopping – resting and reflecting – is almost criminal.
So, despite being on the go, racing and pacing about, with the stress of deadlines, work and the ongoing balancing act of finances and well-being, it is usually our sleep and rest that is thrown out of the window in favour of work. However, this kind of budgeting of time is actually doing us more harm than good. ‘Some people claim they can happily survive on less sleep than others, but on the whole we’re sleeping less than we used to – according to the latest figures from the Sleep Council, 74 per cent of Brits sleep for less than seven hours a night, and the number of people who say they get less than five hours has grown from seven to 12 per cent. What’s more, sleep deprivation costs the UK economy £40 billion a year, due to our reduced productivity and health.’
In essence, we are neglecting a basic necessity for optimal human function: recharging our batteries. By running on empty and rushing for more, whether that be a promotion, pay-rise or greater sense of accomplishment, we are really just burning ourselves out. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, ‘workers who operate at a feverish pace tend to have higher stress levels, which may lead to heart disease and headaches, and also may cause their colleagues to feel stressed. When the entire workforce feels job strain, employers may see more employees use sick days, lack motivation and make mistakes, which may lead to additional problems. In essence, rushing around the workplace increases the risks of work-related injuries and illnesses as well as potentially decreasing the entire workforce’s productivity and performance.’
We might just be able to slow down enough to appreciate a selfie-less, caption-less moment.
We are not robots, programmed to resist our emotions and stress. We are not immune to the implications of pressure to succeed. Although, we do have the capacity to change our habits; to tune into ourselves every once in a while. How often do you ask yourself the following questions: how am I feeling right now? Do I feel well rested and ready to take on the day? Or do I feel drained and dulled by the desire to never appear idle? Even just 20 minutes of relaxation set aside at the end of the day, such as a hot bath, snuggling up in a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book, or refreshing your airways with a stroll outdoors; this can rejuvenate you both mentally and spiritually. And, if we all allowed ourselves to switch off from the whirlwind of work, for those few solitary minutes, we might find ourselves more productive than ever before. Moreover, if we were to resist our nomophobic tendency to carry our smartphones everywhere we go, we might just be able to slow down enough to appreciate a selfie-less, caption-less moment. We might just be present.
In slowing down and capitalising on our deserved downtime, we might just be able to achieve greater things than we ever expected.