The last two weeks have been a nasty reminder for both of us about the effects of moving too fast. We’ve hardly connected with each other, which is unusual for us. We’ve also avoided contact with people except when necessary, had restless sleep, eaten less than nutritious meals, had emotional outburst, and the list goes on.
Personally, when I’ve used THE four-letter word too much and in succession as a chant, I know life is getting out of hand. For Mary, witnessing an accident last week was her reminder that moving too fast was leading to a potential crash, literally and metaphorically.
The Effects and Solutions
All of us at one point have made more commitments than we can realistically handle. Wanting to live up to our promises, we will work faster, multi-task, stay up late, speed through traffic lights, and incessantly think about all the things we still have to get done. Short term we seem to handle it. Make it a long term habit and we’ll see the consequences.
There are a number of health risks we may take living a hectic, fast paced life when this lifestyle becomes a norm and not an exception. Consider these:
The frenetic pace may lead to our experiencing a level of stress that stimulates our ‘fight or flight’ response. This state elevates the hormone cortisol which in turn builds up in our bloodstream and wrecks havoc as it travels through our body and to our brain.
As described by Harvard Mental Health Letter (March 2011), ““Research suggests that prolonged stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.”
What’s your go-to meal when you’re short on time? Probably processed food of some type like pizza, burgers, packaged dinners. With less time on our hands, we tend to skip making homemade meals and opt for prepared foods or simply eating out. Our bodies need nutritious food to function effectively. Garbage in, garbage out! The Harvard Mental Health Letter goes on to say, “More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise).”
Another part of life that gets cut short during hectic times is exercise. It is especially important when experiencing stress since exercise is one of the mechanisms that can help reduce the cortisol levels in our system. Exercise can also help you maintain your weight and motivate you to eat more nutritiously.
How many of you get stuff done before the kids wake up and/or after they go to bed? These might be good times for little distraction, but they also cut into your own sleep time. As we discussed in our blog post, Sleeping Your Way to Health, sleep is an important component of healthy living. If you are watching your weight, it may be a particularly important factor to consider.
Hectic times and long ‘to do’ lists can leave you wondering where you left your keys or whether you locked the front door. In a more dangerous scenario, you could be driving distracted by your thoughts and not noticing the red light. I admit that it has happened to me a couple of times, and the experience has jolted me back to reality as the blood pumped through my body making me feel physically ill.
Having so much to do and in such a short period of time can also put you in panic mode making it difficult to concentrate. When you’ve got so much to do, it’s not helpful that your brain’s capacity is diminished.
We know you understand the risks of a hectic, fast paced life. What can you do to slow it down, even just a little, or compensate for the effects?
- As we discussed earlier, as a minimum eat nutritious meals, make time to exercise, and get good sleep.
- Write a list of what you need to do, prioritize it, delegate some tasks, delete stuff that’s not important. It’s hard to do but your health depends on it. At the very least, the written list will be out of your mind and hopefully allow your brain to be more alert to the immediate task at hand.
- Meditate. Even 5 minutes of quiet meditation time can help to calm down emotions and thoughts. Read more in 10% Happier about Dan Harris, an anchor for Nightline, and his true story about how meditation helped him.
We leave you with Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Feelin’ Groovy” as a simple reminder to Slow Down: