Lifestyle: Chasing Slow – 9 Tips For Mindfulness & Slowing Down

February 20, 2017

Image: Design Soda

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Good morning friends, if you have dropped along here to find the usual dose of Monday interiors inspiration, or you want to know where these fabulous cushions are from (Murmur, H&M, Also Home and La Redoute, since you ask) then you may just be in the wrong place on this occasion as today’s post is more personal than usual. If any of you reading are real life friends and you’ve seen me in the last six weeks, it’s fairly inevitable I’ve asked you ‘Is it just me, or has this winter been relentlessly f***ing dark?’ (Sorry, I may have mentioned this more than once to some of you!). Well let me tell you, the first signs of spring over the last week have been a real tonic. Those moments of dappled light, the smell of pollen on rain, the increasing light at the start and end of day, there are faint but very welcome signs (even in the garden) that things are changing. It’s been a particularly harsh winter I think and one I’ve found quite stressful at times. I’m taking on lots of varied work at the moment which is pushing me to up my game everywhere, the blog is being featured in lots of great places and I’m currently stripping floors and painting walls in preparation for two photo shoots next month, one for a magazine and the other for a website that has always been my dream feature. Oh and trying to create a fun and educational routine for our amazing little person who I spend most of my time with. But, it is exhausting. I was talking to my good friend Rosy who has a toddler slightly younger than my own about stress levels and juggling endless things to do and we came around to mindfulness and she explained some ideas I found really helpful (more of later). I had always understood mindfulness to be about slowing down and living in the moment, a sort of abbreviation of appreciating what you have and not always chasing the next thing. Whilst I’m pretty on course for appreciating happiness by nature, I do find being in the moment increasingly difficult when there’s always something at the back on my mind warning that it hasn’t been done yet. In fact I think this voice is very counterproductive for me, it weighs me down and if I’m not careful I start to buckle under and loose motivation. I am married to the most laid back person in the world and he has always said that one of my biggest problems is switching off and not busying myself all the time. He has a point, I’m not sure exactly what I’m aiming for as the things to get done never end despite the effort. So, I’m up for some change.

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chasing slow book review, slow living cushions murmur houseology la redoute monochrome and pink interiors .

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I am so lucky with Design Soda that I have a space to express my creativity away from the identity of a nearly full-time stay at home parent. I am truly grateful for its growth, somehow you dear readers have trebled for me since 2017 started and I’m so happy to have you along (please stick around!). But also, like a lot of us that work alone, I can feel quite isolated and stressed at times. Add into the mix feeling slightly exposed when everything is done online and in your name and the dark winter days, and despite the fact that things are going really well on paper I’ve been struggling to find my mojo of late. It’s a bit of a modern malady that we all seem to find that in an age of limitless communication it can be hard to switch off from the online rat race.  I’ve been looking around for tips and reading a bit about what you can do to tackle this (without swallowing a self-help book), so today I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found or put into practice.

One book that I have just started reading is Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow which came out this month. It’s title alone got me thinking a bit, Chasing Slow may be the mantra of my life, slow is the good place I always want to get to so I thought I’d investigate. Now, this is a very specific kind of slow, for one it involves a fair grounding in Erin’s Christian beliefs, but it also involved a whole re-ordering of life. Erin was a very successful L.A based art director and stylist who has worked for countless top name publications before she decided to up sticks for a new life with purpose at its core in the Mid-West. Erin has downscaled her material wants and stopped fretting about a styled life of eucalyptus in the bath (her words) but she still packs a fair amount of achievement into her ‘slow’ days.

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Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Winter, National trust days out Kent

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Daily Routine

The revelation of Erin’s lifestyle changes for me has been her daily routine, it’s the kind of change that forces you to think, as with two young children Erin has formulated a routine that looks very different to the traditional one. She goes to bed with her kids around 8pm and starts work at 4am. I am not a natural pupil for this kind of discipline and tend to work into the night which means I awake feeling exhausted and fuzzy headed the next day. For Erin she starts each day with her creative work and sets emails or social to the bottom of her to-do list for when she’s tired, and it works, she’s a highly successful woman. This routine may be pretty perfect for me, her timetable may seem hard to get your head around at first but I’m up for giving it a try, the only thing that slightly worries me is waking up to darkness, I feel like I’ve been counting down for lighter mornings for so long that I’m not sure I can take a step back until Summer is slightly nearer. In my mind I can hear bird song in the garden whilst all else is still and I get up to work for the first few hours before my son awakes. I don’t know if the reality is like this, but it does sound appealing, I will keep you posted on if it works for me! 

 

Having a new perspective on negative cycles

We all have an Achilles heel, right? If you have just the one then you’re lucky.  I guess at the heart of dealing with stress is mastering whatever your Achilles heel may be. Mine is putting myself out there, to be judged. The online world has opened up a wealth of possibilities for the amateur enthusiast and I have loved blogging about interiors as a hobby since way before Ted was born. Since having a child, like many new mums, I’ve been lucky to be able to turn what I love into part-time work, but one thing I want to work on is my feeling of imposter syndrome. As someone with a BA & MA in History, I know where I stand within my academic field, I’ve gone past undergrad spoon-fed research but only taken the first tentative steps on my own path. With interiors, I have no such reference point, I know that I love design and that it is my passion, I’m pretty pleased with my home and know that both readers and friends seem to enjoy it, but to some extent I wonder how much of my output is worthy. Whilst I think I’ve taken quite a few leaps in the last year saying yes to things that scare me, committing to regular content, meeting up with people who are strangers, I think my attitude needs to catch up a little with all of these commitments. I am reframing my insecurities by letting go a little, by accepting the dynamic of classic little fish in a big pond but taking part rather than giving in to the fear as is my default setting, it’s working so far.

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chasing slow book review, slow living pastel pink teapot

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Nutrition and Hydration:

I’m obviously not going to recommend a particular healthy eating plan to you (there are people much better qualified than me for this) but when life is hectic we all know that we need to up the intake of healthy wholesome foods just to keep going. Having said this, if you feel stressed or unmotivated it can be the hardest time to psyche yourself up for the effort, but as of 2017 I’ve been trying really hard to cut back refined sugar and make my diet more nutrient rich and I think my body is thanking me for it. But above food, water is key to well being, and I say this as a complete Diet Coke addict, having a glass of water to hand at all times will pay dividends to your productivity. On work from home days I’m filling a pitcher with water and a few slices of citrus fruits and then refrigerating it so I always have something as cold as Coke to hand. 

 

Staying in the moment during the mundane:

So, in fact one of the tricks of mindfulness is to concentrate on the moment of what you’re actually doing, whatever it is, so if you’re brushing your teeth think only of brushing your teeth and not the tasks awaiting you on the other side. I have found this simple rupture of habit really liberating. It can be hard to break the cycle of constantly thinking a dialogue of productivity but your brain needs time to recharge and switch off.

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Kew Gardens Georgian blue gate architecture

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Breathing (and time out)

Deep breathing excersizes are so useful for quashing stress and centring you back. Sometimes we are all so busy rushing around chasing our tails that we forget to breath properly. Time your breaths over a minute, you shouldn’t need to intake your breath more than eight times in a minute. The simple action of taking three really deep breaths during stressful moments is often a really effective way of tuning your mind back into your body and refreshing. Movement is also good, if breathing hasn’t worked then move to somewhere new, preferably with fresh air, for a few minutes forbidding yourself to think about what needs doing. Come back refreshed and make a list that is do-able.

 

Find a challenging Hobby

I was reading a piece on active rest and the modern obstacles to finding true downtime. There is much research that suggests working, working and then crashing in front of a box set is far from restorative.  Setting aside time to unwind in an engaged way sounds like it requires more energy but in fact produces more mental energy than it takes.  This sounds like a magic chimera, right? But, if you actually set aside downtime in your day and force yourself to do something that is actively motivating (painting, exercising, a hobby etc), instead of stealing time from a hectic schedule this time will pay dividends in allowing the brain to re-charge. There’s a ton of research that supports this theory, and It’s certainly something I’m willing to give a try, so I am going to aim for small slots of downtime that work within my evening routine, possibly to do some of the handweaving I was taught over the summer, and I am most definitely going to shut off blue light technology work for at least 30 minutes before bed even if I can’t manage a full hour.

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Image: Design Soda

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Gratitude 

This is my biggest lesson of life so far, I have known many people in my life who have very enviable lives from the outside but who lack joy because of perspective. Now positive thinking isn’t always possible but trying to cultivate it is never a bad thing. For me, life is about appreciating the things that make you smile. I used to keep a daily log in my early twenties of things that made me smile that day, or that I had found interesting. I am grateful for many things in life, it’s not perfect and I’m not at all smug about it, but I am thankful for all the things that bring me joy and I don’t take them for granted or as guaranteed. If you can appreciate what you have you won’t fall prey to this comparison game on Facebook & Instagram that so many column inches are devoted to. Instagram endlessly inspires me, I see things that I love, I envy them for their beauty but not in a way that has any negative impact on me. I’m not sad that my living space is less perfect at all (possibly because I also know from experience that if I’m shooting my own space little white lies of cleanliness and order are told, well, not many people want to see an un-artfully arranged hoard of toy cars and biscuit crumbs after all!).

 

Find your Hygge:

Has this word been over-saturated now? My husband said disparagingly recently ‘isn’t Hygge basically just lovely things are lovely?’ to which we had a lengthy discussion. No, no its not, its as much about lovely things as it is about conviviality and communitarianism, fika and food are tied to sociability and pulling together through winter, candles are indeed lovely but as I touched on in my article in early Autumn, they are used in Denmark in the front windows of houses to spread joy across the community. All of this loveliness has caught on exactly because it speaks to many well rooted philosophical desires that are necessary for mental health (especially in Winter). Most people these days won’t have time to embrace the full hygge routine. But thinking about which parts of it most speak to you and making time to incorporate them into your week are a great plan. If you need indulgence, why not use a candle scent that you love whilst unwinding, or bake if that de stresses you, or read for solitude, or if you are like me and spend a lot of time alone with a child, how about making regular time to see friends who will uplift your spirit and refresh your mind. 

So, those are my thoughts, do you have any tips on staying productive and not loosing your mind? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Lifestyle: Chasing Slow – 9 Tips For Mindfulness & Slowing Down

  1. Melanie

    Looking forward to your mag and website feature! Turning off before bed is my major thing. When the toddler is asleep and you can get stuff done is so tempting, but then I can’t sleep and feel dreadful the next day and completely unproductive!

    Reply
    1. Design_Soda_Ruthie Post author

      Thanks Melanie, yes I do loads in the evenings too, you’re right it’s so tempting! I was a bit thrown by the idea of early night and early morning as its such a dramatic shift to the ways I’ve always worked but actually it makes perfect sense, I’m up for trying it out to see if I’m able to stick to it. I’ll let you know how I get on! Xx

      Reply
  2. Lins @ Boo & Maddie

    This is such a good and timely piece. Like you, I struggle in the darker months and am yearning for spring. I’ve found the last couple of weeks that following the mantra ‘don’t leave for tomorrow what can be done today’ is really helping me to keep up and be productive. I’m the worlds worst procrastinator – as examples, the tumble dryer will remain unempties for days, the Hoover is never put away, dinners don’t get made so we waste money on buying convenience all the time. I’ve made an effort since Feb to keep on top of this and am feeling 100 times better for it. You’re brilliant and you just need to believe it more xx

    Reply
    1. Design_Soda_Ruthie Post author

      Ah, that’s Lins that’s really sweet of you, same to you! Yes! That’s a great one, I’m trying exactly that too, I think it’s all too easy to put things off when you’re under a cloud and the more you put things off the bigger the soup gets, but actually just tackling these things off the bat gives you a sense of achievement (until it all starts piling up again), it seems to me I’m on top of one part of my life always to the cost of the rest. Still, Spring is finally coming and I think we can both say hooray to that, maybe focused motivation will follow xxx

      Reply

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