Slowing down the anxious brain when all it wants to do is buzz, buzz, buzz and remind you of the 1,456 things you need to do tomorrow is like telling someone to not think about white polar bears when you are putting a picture of white polar bears in front of their face.
This time last year when I was going through the thick of my break-up I remember being so preoccupied with my heartache that I was literally forced to slow down and focus on the minutiae of my everyday life or I honestly thought I might end up hurting myself. Suddenly everything I did was methodical — driving required me to look three times before switching lanes. Walking into my house from the car took twice as long because I was liable to forget a bag of groceries if I didn’t painstakingly look in the backseat twice.
By nature, I am a rusher. I think two steps ahead. And while this definitely has it’s benefits, this trait isn’t always an asset. Sometimes when I’m teaching BootCamp I have been known to nearly allow my class to skip the last set of three because I have already mentally moved on to their next set <– luckily, they often notice and end up begrudgingly do that third set due to their own honesty ;).
I have tried so many things to slow down my busy-body brain — yoga, meditation — and probably the only thing that has truly worked in my day to day life is the occasional walk with my dog or cooking (not every walk or cooking sesh mind you, most I am rushing to get through), but I will tell you that the slowing down I did because of my break-up was the most genuine slowing down I have ever experienced. It felt like my brain was moving through the world in a puddle of molasses. It was a plus-side to my break-up: it made me slow down to truly see what I was experiencing. To breathe for what felt the first time in two years. To move unencumbered. To truly slow down time and simply exist for awhile is a humbling and powerful experience. You see things that you don’t always see: I saw the people around me: the ones that said, “I will bring you frozen yogurt and wine.”. I saw my dog curling up next to my leg at night. I saw a birdhouse in a tree in front of my house that I had lived in for 2 years. I saw the start of a smile line on the left side of my mouth. At the Radiance Retreat a week after my break-up, I saw my future.
I thought of this time last weekend as I was finishing up in my garage gym after working on Bottoms-Up Presses. I have been working on these the past few months off and on to help increase my pressing ability which has felt more difficult than I’d like. The thing about Bottoms Up is that you have to slow *way* down. You have to go backwards in terms of weights — I started with 8 and 10 pound kettlebells last summer for this movement — weights I haven’t used in what feels like years. It’s an incredibly slow lift — you watch it go up, up and up and then you watch it come down, down, down, all while attempting to keep your dental work intact.
Post-workout, I thought about how good this was for me, this slowing of movement, this focusing, this concentration. I took the same thoughtfulness to my Turkish Get-Ups during this workout and considered how I was truly practicing something. I was making this a practice, not just a workout. I was practicing slowing down. I wasn’t thinking about anything else, but what I was doing. I was living in the moment.
And that is exactly the elusive thing that I strive for all the time — to be present. To focus on what I am doing and to be not be worried about the other things I need to, should be, could be doing. This is what I want for myself. This is what we all want, right?
If you’d like to attempt to experience this slowing down, even it’s just for 20-minutes, I have a strength workout to help you focus on the present. To slow down.
These are technique driven exercises that require patience, time and a little bit of skill. They will inherently slow you down. This workout written as above is not recommended for a beginner! Here’s how they look:
And from some others around the Interwebz:
3. Jumping Pull-Up with Negative (note that the demo begins at 1:40)
Even if you don’t try this workout, what is one thing you can do this week to slow down and focus on what you are doing? Here are 3 quick ideas:
1. Turn the radio off in your car while driving. Look around. Focus on the act of driving.
2. Take a walk without your cell phone or any music.
3. Whatever workout you do, do it without music.
Tell me how it goes!