"Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last." Those lyrics from The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel are particularly relevant today. • Change has always happened through time, of course, but change is more fast paced than ever. Change is stressful to the human body even when we think it's not. Whenever there's a change, we have to adapt to it physiologically and psychologically until we return to a sort of balance. Imagine changes happening faster and faster with less and less time to adapt and get rid of the stress. What can that do to a person — and a society — over time?
When a certain way of living becomes part of a culture, it can feel normal. People can lose awareness of the change that has occurred. In addition, there are a lot of forces that encourage us to follow that "normal" way of being and discourage us from doing things differently. Too often, I run across people who think there's something wrong if they "don't have anything to do" or if they're not around people all the time.
In reality, humans need time to slow down and have some solitude. Slowing down the pace of life is good physically and mentally, and it's perfectly normal.
The fast pace of life that appears normal today is abnormal. And although technology is supposed to make our lives easier and save time, Americans are more stressed and feel spread thinner than ever. Deep inside people want to slow down. That's why advertisements still show folks calmly and joyfully savoring their lives and activities, especially eating. But the real lives of many people remain too hectic for their own good.
There are many reasons people should be concerned about living at a frenetic pace. It's difficult to constantly rush around and not feel chronically stressed. And chronic stress is destructive to our health in many ways. It can play a part in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, sexual dysfunction, chronic fatigue and obesity. WebMD notes that "75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints." Stress also has been linked to six of the leading causes of death.
Oddly, being "too busy" has almost become a status symbol. The person with the hectic schedule is often admired and viewed as important. But there's something wrong with that picture. The human body isn't wired to function well at a harried pace.
It really hasn't been that long since the pace of life was much slower. And there are people who understand the importance of slowing down. They ignore messages that tell them they should be going faster to keep up with the rest of society. They don't allow themselves to be distracted from the pace they know works best, feels best and is healthier. They make sure they eat calmly, and enjoy the process.
If you find yourself in the hectic-life-pace category, consider these things:
Slowing down helps to …
• Reduce stress and all the negative health problems that come with it.
• Reduce and prevent overeating and weight problems.
• Prevent emotional distress.
• Promote better sleep.
• Feel more in control of your life.
• Let you savor and enjoy life now, rather than putting off pleasure until you accomplish the next task.
It's not easy to slow down when you're caught up in the momentum of a hectic lifestyle, but here are a few simple principles to get you started.
1. Try to catch yourself when you're rushing around. Take a deep breath and consciously slow down your movements. You will feel as if you're going in slow motion, but you're not. With time, you'll adapt to this more normal pace of life.
2. Once you've slowed down, focus on what's going on around you and inside your body at that moment. Notice the beauty of the world around you, and how your body feels more comfortable. Relish that moment.
3. Take note of how you still accomplished most things on the agenda, and how it didn't take as much extra time as you thought. Then appreciate how much more enjoyable the process was.
By learning to follow the beat of your more natural drummer you will be able to better manage your weight, health and life.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.