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The numerous benefits of slowing down and taking a break

The pace of the modern world seems to demand that we move at a million miles an hour from the moment we crack our eyes open in the morning to the moment we slide into bed at the end of our day. If we look at what life was like even just 75 years ago, we can consider how much the world has changed—and we have attempted to adapt. The trouble is that human evolution cannot keep up with the pace of change and our bodies and brains are still running on ancient wiring.

We cannot fight our biology. The human body is not designed to go at such an intense pace day in day out. If we do not factor in adequate rest and down time—if we do not allow ourselves to stop and take a quality break from it all along the way—the wheels can begin to fall off when it comes to our health at some point in the future. While we are vastly capable, this pace—the unrelenting to-do lists and our perceptions of pressure and urgency—drives troubling biochemical processes in our bodies. 

Too many people have lost touch with just how good they’re supposed to feel. They have accepted things like persistent fatigue, digestive challenges, IBS, poor sleep, unexplained weight gain, thyroid challenges, anxiousness, recurring headaches and regular colds and flus as “normal”. For women, you can add monthly menstrual PMS and pain along with debilitating peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms to the long list as well. All of these symptoms have become common, yet they’re not normal. The constant and relentless production of stress hormones stemming from the pace we push ourselves to live at, is at the heart of so many of these health challenges.

Yet it is not just our health that benefits from slowing down the pace or pausing every so often to take stock of where we are and how we are feeling. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and find ourselves years down the track feeling unhappy and unfulfilled by life. In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the iconic book by palliative carer and inspiring author Bronnie Ware (highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already), the most common regrets are not accumulating more wealth, things or status. They are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life people expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Often it is not until we slow down or take a break that we allow ourselves the opportunity to reflect on what is most important to us. It might be useful to ask yourself: are you really happy to give up your health for your lifestyle? To be so caught up in getting everyone out the door on time that you miss your child’s pure delight from playing with the dog? To be so preoccupied with your work that you don’t make time for things that bring you joy? 

It’s important to be honest with yourself about the habits you’ve adopted to help you keep pace with your lifestyle and how they may be impacting on your health and your enjoyment of life. Life, after all, is so much richer when we have energy, good health and more time to enjoy the things that we love—and no one but you can give you these things.

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