Finding the Blessings in Slowing

Prior to March 2020, many of us lived a life of hurry. Moving from one activity to another--work, sports, shopping, worship, gatherings with friends and family, and so it went. “Busy” described the typical week. In fact, we viewed busyness as an achievement, a sign of importance, a good thing. But is over-scheduling really something to embrace? Is a full calendar really a good thing, or is that a lie our culture believes? Could the hurried life be something that hinders our mental and physical health?

When the new corona virus hit, many people began to slow down, shelter-in-place, work from home, or cease working because of closures and layoffs. Unless your work was deemed “essential” or you were scrambling to transition to working from home, life slowed down. No matter what your circumstances, life changed in some way. We have been limited in where we can go and what we can do. We have had a pause imposed upon us. Even the earth has been given a pause. So many are home and driving less, pollution of all sorts has decreased!

Although stressful in all its uncertainty, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink our priorities and consider a change. As social distancing and the absence of large gatherings continue, and as things reopen, we have some choices to make as to how we will live. While we have this pause, let’s consider how two lies impact our mental health by leading to anxiety and depression.

Lie #1 More is better

More activities, more stuff, more space, more responsibilities, more demands are better. Culture normalizes and justifies that more to consume, more to do, more to take care of, and more bills to pay is a better life. We easily get caught up doing what everybody does. And the busier we are, the more likely hurry will creep in.

Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, said, “Hurry is not of the devil: it is the devil.” Hurry is an inner state of panic. If I’ve crammed too much into my morning and I’m running late for work it leads to hurrying. My shoulders tighten and my mind races as fear ensues. My foot is heavier on the gas pedal! I don’t want to be late! I must rush! I must rush! I must rush!

Being over-extended causes us to be less aware of ourselves and our surroundings. In our adrenaline rushing, we become numb to ourselves and others. I don't know what I want because I'm in a hurry. I don't know what I'm missing because I'm in a hurry. I don't know what you need because I'm in a hurry.

But how much better would it be for us, physically and emotionally, if we plan less, rush less, and leave margin? Eliminating hurry eliminates panic. Eliminating hurry allows me to be in the moment and notice the beauty around me, the fragrance of lilac bushes and a bird’s song. It allows me to notice other people and offer kindness. Eliminating hurry allows me a healthier mind, body, and spirit.

Jesus is our example. We repeatedly read in the gospels how Jesus slipped away from the crowd to be with his father. He didn’t leave because there was no more to do. He left because he needed time with his father and time to rest. We are created with limitations and we need time with God and time for rest. Psalm 46:10 tells us to, “Be still and know that I am God.” To be “still” means to cease movement.

The truth is we all need balance, we need margin. The drive for more leaves us overworked, stressed out and exhausted. Being over extended interferes with:

  • Good self-care
  • Adequate sleep, which is 7-9 hours for adults
  • Mindfulness; to be aware of self and surroundings, time to reflect, process emotions
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Exercise, which helps us de-stress and elevates our mood
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Focused quality time with loved ones
  • Time to tune in and connect on a deeper level
  • Spiritual Health
  • Time to pray, read God’s word, hear God speak, show God’s love

So, what might you eliminate? What can you walk away from, still un-done? The word “no” can be your friend. Saying no to some activities and to our culture’s expectations can lessen anxiety. Simplifying where possible can free up time.

Lie #2 Your value is based on what you have and what you do

The truth is that you are valuable because God made you in his image. David writes in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The belief that your value is based on having a beautiful house, or fancy car, or good grades, or athletic ability, or some other achievement is a prevalent lie. You are valuable because you are you. The key to our mental health is what we focus on and what we believe. So, if you believe your value is based on what you have or do, thoughts of not being or having enough produce anxiety, motivating you to be caught up in performance and striving to acquire things to impress others.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The pandemic has brought so much fear and trouble, but also a chance to slow down, re-evaluate, and learn some new things about calm. What parts of this experience would you like to carry forward? Catch yourself when these lies creep in to tempt you back into numbness. Choose to renew your mind by filling your time only with life-giving activities. Replacing cultural lies with the truth that can set you free to live a happier, healthier life.

About the author — Joy Bocanegra, MA, LCPC

Joy Bocanegra is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and works at Chicago Christian Counseling Center in their Orland Park location. She enjoys helping people work through various issues particularly anxiety, grief, codependency, relational difficulties, divorce recovery, and stepfamily concerns. Joy has a holistic approach to helping clients find healing and wholeness. Passionate about group work, she has facilitated groups on several topics including depression, body image, caring for aging parents, spiritual growth, and help for women whose partners have a sex addiction.

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