In last Saturday's Irish Independent, I invited readers to slow down as the first step in understanding and managing stress.
I referred to the poet, WH Davis, who was forced to slow down when his foot was crushed by a moving train. Sometimes it takes something drastic, or even tragic, to get us to slow down. But it doesn't have to be like that. We can slow down. It might not be easy, but we can do it. We may need to. If we don't, we are possibly heading for trouble. Constantly living at a very fast pace means we leave ourselves open to having accidents, making mistakes and becoming sick.
So we slow down. What do we do next? Human nature is interesting. We might think we would congratulate ourselves on living life at a more manageable pace. The chances are we don't and instead blame ourselves for having gone so fast.
We might worry about what we did or didn't do, should or shouldn't have done. We may find the slowing down thing just too difficult and quickly dive into speeding up.
How about slowing down enough to notice what is causing you most stress at this moment in time? Does anyone else know about this? If so, are they supportive to you? If not, is there anyone you would like to know?
Slow down even more to consider what supports you have right now. Is it possible for you to ask for more support? Is it possible for you to take more support? Notice how you feel as you notice. Notice what you are thinking as you notice. Notice what you are doing as you notice.
You may feel tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, embarrassed and/or hopeless. You may think that there is nothing that you or anyone can do to ease this stressor.
You may, right now, be attacking yourself for not being able to manage all of this better.
Maybe slowing down has helped you to become a little more compassionate towards yourself. You may recognise just how fast you were moving, without judging yourself harshly. You may give yourself some credit for having slowed down. You may think that having done this, you can slow down a little, a little more often. You may feel rested, at peace and/or hopeful.
Notice. Take time to notice. Make time to notice.
Dr Claire Hayes is clinical director with mental health charity Aware, which provides nationwide support, education and information services around depression and bipolar disorder. Register online now at fitmagazine.ie for the 11th Annual Aware Christmas Run which takes place on Saturday, December 10 in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.