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On slowing down and finding fulfilment in the quieter moments of life

Slow Living Home With Plants and Ikea Kallax Storage

Being 27 for me so far has mostly been about feeling like I'm stuck. I've done most of the stuff I spent my early twenties working towards. I bought a house, took on new responsibilities at work, gained an extra qualification, and even brought home a puppy. All of that brought with it some stress and threw plenty of hurdles my way, but I always felt like I was working towards some clear milestones. Now all of that is over, everything's lost momentum. Half the time I don't know whether I'm coming or going, and as much as I'm trying to work out what the next 'thing' is for me. That 'thing' made itself vary apparent a few weeks ago.

My Constantly Active Brain

I'm well aware that in always-on culture it might be seen as unhealthy for me to always be seeking the next goal. Us millennials are definitely known for our chronic sense of unfulfillment. But without something important to work towards, I'm not sure I know who I am. Since I was a kid I've always been achievement-oriented. I may not have been the class genius but I was always willing to put in the work. It gave me structure. It gave me self-esteem.

I've been no different in my career or my free time as an adult, from completing a post-grad diploma to taking online photography courses, blogging and even trying to perfect my chaturanga on the yoga mat. Productivity has always been the aim of the game. But lately, most of my extra-curricular activities have come to a natural halt, my energy levels are low, and I've no idea what to do next.

Always having something on the backburner has fuelled me through life so far, and if I'm honest, has probably been the one thing that's stopped me from going over the edge when my anxiety disorder strikes. When I give myself too much time to think I get into a rut and start to worry. I've always been unsettled by the idea of doing absolutely nothing in my spare time (unless it's by a pool, that's different!).

Battling Burnout

Recently it's gotten a bit ridiculous. On my weekends I'll fill every hour I can with mindless tasks. There are only so many times you can de-clutter the wardrobe or re-arrange the bookcase. I've even said no to some social occasions recently because they don't feel like productive ways to spend my time, which on reflection is really a surefire way of isolating myself and ending up feeling drained.

But I now: I just can't handle being bored. If I allow my brain to be freer, horrible thoughts creep in. Thoughts that I'm not spending my time wisely, that if I'm not careful I'll fall behind in life, that I'm good enough. I become so restless in my need to divert or distract from those feelings. But I've been so tired lately that my body can't catch up. I have to slow my brain down and learn to enjoy the 'space in-between'. I need to learn to just 'be'. In this modern life, we are rarely satisfied with what we have and where we are. If we're always chasing some perfect ideal or far-off goal, how can we possibly enjoy the present?

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Small Steps

Over the last couple of weeks, I made some subtle changes at home. I've been scheduling in time to play Sims 4 in my pyjamas, taking hour-long baths, ignoring the odd household task I've placed so much importance on being completed perfectly, been out for leisurely brunches, gotten ready for bed at 6pm, pottered around in the garden with the dog in the sun - basically just existing like a normal human being who needs a bit of a rest and some breathing space. This might all sound really silly to some of you - I bet this is how you spend most weekends! But for someone who creates lengthy 'to do' lists out of nothing and then stresses about being able to complete them, lest I waste too much time sitting around stewing, it was actually hard to do.

Choosing Slowness

Once I got going though, it got easier. I found a more chilled out wavelength and elected to stay there. My inner critic tried to force me to be busy, but my inner friend told me I needed this. My partner said he'd found me much easier to live with, our dog seemed to think I was much more fun, nothing catastrophic happened. I felt less stressed (and more productive) at work. I felt lighter, brighter and happier to go with the flow. For anyone who feels like they're always half-way down an endless list of obligations, let me tell you that the only person you have an obligation to is yourself. Everything else will fall into place if you prioritise your own joy.

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