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Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot to simplify my life. I’ve decluttered my home, become more intentional with my time, and learned how to prioritise self-care. All of these decisions have gone far to help me slow down and enjoy my life.
Still … if I’m honest, there are days when things feel out of control, time gets away from me, and I feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed.
When this happens, I’ve learned that there are specific, practical steps I can take to slow down a busy day. These simple acts help me shift gears so I can feel calm and more at ease in my everyday life.
1. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I’ve learned that there are three specific changes I can make to my environment in order to slow down and relax: lighting, scent and sound.
For example, around 6pm most evenings, I dim the lights (by turning off overhead lighting and switching to small lamps), put on a calming playlist (my current favourite is the Into the Wild soundtrack), and then put some lavender oil into a diffuser.
Whenever I do this, something instantly changes inside of me.
I still have to clean up dinner, bathe my toddler, put her to bed, etc. but somehow those tasks feel different. It feels less like work and more like I’m “flowing” through my evening. (I know this is a bit vague but this is the best way to describe how my change in environment makes me feel!)
2. GET SOME FRESH AIR
When I used to work in the corporate world, one of my go-to ways of creating ease in my day was to take five minutes to go outside and stare at the clouds.
The fresh air and the sunshine would invigorate me, plus there was something special about looking into the sky and feeling small. It always helped me find perspective; suddenly my inbox and to-do list didn’t have the power over me it once did.
These days, you’re likely to find me leaning out an open window, taking a deep breath, and letting my eyes rest on the city below me (my apartment is on the 17th floor). I take a few minutes to notice the little details—pedestrians crossing the street, the mountains in the distance, the sounds of the city—and again, I find perspective (even with a crying toddler and a basket of laundry to fold!).
3. CHECK-IN WITH YOURSELF
Another way to slow down when life is busy is to check-in with yourself by asking simple questions such as:
- What do I need to feel better?
- In this moment, what matters most?
- What am I feeling right now?
These questions help me step back and look at the big picture, which again gives me the perspective I need to enjoy the present moment.
4. READ FOR A FEW MINUTES
I know that when you’re busy, taking a few minutes to read is probably the last thing on your mind. Instead, most of us tend to view reading for pleasure as a “treat”—something to do after you’ve done everything else on your to-do list.
I’m definitely not immune to falling into this trap BUT I’ve found that if I’m intentional about reading during the day (even if it’s just for a few minutes) it helps me to slow down and relax.
I’m not sure the science behind it but if I had to guess, I’d say that reading forces your brain to focus. It makes it impossible to multitask, so for a few minutes at least, you can truly rest.
5. OBSERVE YOUR BREATH
When it feels like time is slipping away, a quick and easy way to regain control is to observe your breath.
This article goes in depth about the many ways you can practise breath awareness but I’ve found that one of the simplest ways is to take note of how your breath feels on your nostrils. It might sound silly but I highly encourage you to give it a try!
Another technique I really enjoy is alternate nostril breathing, I find it really energises me when I’m feeling drained.
6. WRITE A LIST
Another of my favourite ways to slow down is to take a few minutes to write a list. I love this list journal by Breathe Magazine (affiliate link) or simply try one of these ideas:
- gratitude list
- bucket list
- travel wishlist
- things that bring me joy
I like writing lists because they’re so simple. While I’m a HUGE fan of journaling, I understand that sometimes facing a blank page is overwhelming. List writing, on the other hand, makes it easier to decide what to write about and in turn, it’s easier to get started.
7. MOVE YOUR BODY
Physical movement is another one of those things that we tend to overlook when we’re busy but I think this is because of the expectations we set for ourselves.
It’s easy to get caught up with the belief that moving your body is only valuable if it’s a “proper workout” but in my experience, this is far from the truth.
I’ve found that taking even a quick five minutes to stretch, do a few yoga poses, or to take a short walk can do wonders for your wellbeing. It grounds me; the more I’m aware of my physical body, the easier it is for me to get out of my own head.
8. PRACTICE SIMPLE RITUALS
This is something I really started doing after the birth of my daughter. In the early days, I spent a lot of time at home with her and too often, I felt like the day would slip away without me realising it.
Of course, I was mindful of my limitations as a new mum but still … I craved something to help me feel grounded and more at ease.
The solution I landed on was creating small rituals throughout my day: burning incense while I made coffee, washing my face and apply a nice moisturiser during nap time, stroking her hair while I nursed her.
It might not seem like much but the sum of these little rituals combined added a rhythm to my day, which helped me to slow down and enjoy my time more.
Have you ever noticed that when you spend time online, on your phone, or in front of the TV … that time just slips away? I’m not sure about you but I know that for myself, a few minutes on Facebook can quickly turn into 30.
Now, I’m obviously not against the internet or social media but I do believe that we should be mindful in our approach. If you feel the need to slow down a busy day, one of the quickest and easiest things you can do is make the intentional decision to disconnect for a while.
10. SET BOUNDARIES
Finally, one of the best ways to slow down is by setting boundaries.
In this case, I’m not talking about saying “no” to other people (although that’s often a good idea too!). Instead, I’m talking about creating your own mental boundaries.
For example, one of my biggest challenges is often trying to balance getting work done (either around the house or for this blog) with taking care of my daughter. It’s easy to let these conflicting priorities overwhelm me—but I keep this from happening by setting boundaries.
This means making a conscious decision not to worry or stress about something for a set period of time:
- I’m not going to think about housework or my blog for the next two hours while I play with my daughter.
- I’m going to do housework for the next hour and not feel guilty about encouraging my daughter to play independently.
- Today during naptime, I’m going to focus on my blog and not worry about the dirty dishes in the sink.
I don’t necessarily think this way every day, but whenever I start feeling like time is getting away from me I use this tactic to regain control. The result is I’m usually more productive AND I feel better too.
What do you think? Do you have any tips to help slow down a busy day? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts! x