I just recovered from 2 weeks of an intense summer flu that kicked my butt! As day after day went by and I was not improving, I found that my level of frustration and anger continued to rise. After finally taking myself to the doctor, I realized I had no choice but to STOP.
I didn’t necessarily want to stop, but I was forced to stop. This period of forced stopping was a kick-in-the-pants reminder of the importance and benefits of slowing down, and even stopping periodically. For many of us this is a tough nut to swallow and counter to so many success philosophies of ‘more is more’, ‘the early bird gets the worm’, ‘a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest’, etc. But, in actuality, stopping propels us forward.
Stopping provides us with the opportunity to:
Pause and Reflect – Are your values and priorities in alignment with your personal and professional goals? Values are our principles or standards of behavior, what we judge as important in life. Our priorities should be based on our values. It’s important to periodically check in and ask yourself:
- Are my actions and behaviors still serving my values and priorities?
- What do I need to adjust and why?
- What do I need to continue doing, what do I need to stop doing?
Ask for feedback – Ongoing and informal feedback is something that often gets overlooked and many times we shy away from asking for fear of what we will hear. But feedback is a powerful tool in helping us understand how we are tracking and the quality of our relationships. It helps us to understand how we are perceived by others and how we are impacting others.
Start with this list of questions and ask them of those you work with – peers, direct reports, managers – as well as friends and loved ones:
- What am I doing well?
- What are areas I can improve upon?
- What should I be doing more or less of?
BREATHE – Oxygen powers our brains and bodies. When we are breathing deeply, mindfully, and in the proper form, we are primed to perform at our best. Proper breathing increases clarity and focus, impacts our ability to speak with confidence and power, and delivers us calm and relaxation.
The way most of us breathe in day-to-day life is shallow. In increased stressful situations, breathing can become rapid and primarily from the chest, making you feel short of breath. The proper way to breathe is by expanding and contracting the abdomen, not the chest.
Try these breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil, also found on DrWeil.com. One is for energy and increased alertness, the other for relaxation.
Exercise 1: The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
- Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.
Exercise 2:The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Not only are periods of slowing down or stopping beneficial for restoring physical health and vibrancy, they are also good for the health of our personal and professional lives. I encourage you to try this every so often, even when things are humming along just fine, and see how it propels you forward.
What else does slowing down or stopping enable you to do? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
*image courtesy of purpleapple428