Let’s start thinking outside of the box: The power of slowing down this holiday season

Coffee and Book

By Leah Persky, PhD & CFLE • Manager of Family Life Education

The holidays are here and they bring so much excitement; so many events, shopping, cooking, and planning. It may be hard to find time between all of these responsibilities to take time to slow down. However, slowing down is a gift we can give ourselves during this time of the year.

I was thinking about the challenge of trying to “find’ time in my day as I was rushing between getting the kids ready for school, getting ready for work, and planning the evening’s activities. I noticed my breath was shallow and I was not being mindful or enjoying the experience of the morning. I was hurried and rushing – this is my default mode. It made me think that I often feel like I have only two possible modes – being busy and rushing and feeling tired or exhausted afterwards. I don’t know about you, but I want to have space and time in my day to experience more than two ways of interacting in the world. This got me to thinking:

So much of the time we feel pressured to choose between two different sides or two different options. Our world is so often organized as a binary of one or the other, of right and wrong. This is an oversimplification of the world and might make us feel we must pick one side. The categories of man or woman, Republican or Democrat, religious or not religious, Chanukah or Christmas, vaccine proponent or anti-vaxxer, are just a few powerful examples that shape our world and our thinking. We even apply this category to food; it is either healthy or unhealthy.

The political landscape and ongoing and uncertain nature of the pandemic have created a space where nuance can be hard to find. This is only made more intense by the increasing polarized social media landscape where sound bites, dramatization and scare tactics continue to grab our ever-shortening attention spans.

This really limits the way we think about the world and our place in it. It limits our potential. This type of thinking plays upon our human nature and inflames the polarized rhetoric we see in our news, hateful behaviors, and existing negative stereotypes. At the most basic level, I think the busyness and exhaustion that so many of us experience limits our ability to think deeply and really care for ourselves and our communities.

How can we maintain our well-being in the face of this limiting binary thinking? 

Part of getting out of this oversimplification of the world involves slowing down and reflecting upon the world around us. It involves taking care of ourselves as we would for another loved one. To reflect, we must slow down and listen.

My goal this holiday season is to slow down; to carve out some time to do nothing, turn off the distractions and the phone and just have no plan for a bit. I believe that slowing down will allow me to move beyond the binary thinking, to take more time to think deeply, make space for mindfulness, and better care for myself and those around me. Some days that may be just 15 minutes of sitting quietly, and that is perfect. While this sounds simple, I think it will be a challenge for me to do. The slowing down is often the hardest part for me. If you plan to do something similar, what challenges do you think you might face? Having a plan and realistic expectations will help set you up for success.

Some may call this time self-care; it is more than that. It is time we need to feed ourselves and give ourselves the attention and care we require. Noticing, reflecting, and realizing how we are doing and what we need is not a choice, it is a way that we can each work to fill ourselves up, be a better parent or caregiver and friend/family member, and make a positive impact on our communities. It will also help us to feel our best. I hope you have time this season to slow down, avoid the tendency to rush, care for yourself and explore and embrace the nuance and uncertainty that can make our lives richer, more interesting, and more expansive.