A Simple Way to Reduce Stress: Get Less Done in More Time

Adrenaline causes physical changes, some of which are to make you capable of moving quickly and to motivate you to move quickly. Moving fast goes with anxiety. Fast, jerky movements are one of the things adrenaline produces. But here's another feedback loop. You can actually make yourself feel more nervous by moving quickly. You see and feel how you're moving and what the tension in your muscles feels like and it has a psychological effect on you.

So when you feel tense, or when you want to feel more relaxed, try moving deliberately slowly and calmly. It tends to make you feel calmer and more confident, sometimes dramatically so. I have noticed myself many times doing something quickly when I have no reason to be moving that fast. It is merely a habit. I might be taking a walk and suddenly I notice I'm marching along at a furious pace, especially if I'm feeling tense. When I deliberately slow down, it has an immediate and noticeable effect on my state of mind.

I sometimes find myself driving quickly or doing the dishes as quickly and efficiently as I can — even walking down the hall from the living room to the bedroom like the house is on fire. When I notice it and consciously slow down I'm often surprised at how much calmer it makes me feel.

The surprising thing is that sometimes when you move slower, the task gets done almost as quickly. Which means your striving for efficiency isn't doing any good and actually does harm because it creates an unhealthy feeling of pressure.

This is such a simple method. All it requires is for you to notice yourself hurrying and change your speed to something slower, calmer, and more deliberate.

A related principle — kind of an assistant principle — is to give yourself extra time. If it takes twenty minutes to drive to work, give yourself half an hour and take your time. Go to bed a little earlier if you have to, and get up a little earlier. It doesn't take much extra time to give you a feeling of calm control. The night before you may need to watch a little less television, but watching television tends to increase feelings of tension anyway, so that's a good thing.

Do the dishes or yard work while deliberately avoiding efficiency. We forget how efficient we try to be. Go at your own pace and do only one thing (or less) at a time. It is very calming.

This method goes against the grain of modern Western culture. You don't have to make this your lifetime modus operandi, but try it once in awhile on a task. Try this method on a different task until you've tried them all. You'll discover something about how you stress yourself out. You'll find out you normally eat faster than you really want to, you try to do several things at once, you try to be efficient with your time, and you try to cram as much into your day as you can and you wonder why you feel stressed!?

It's not your fault. It's the culture we live in and the times we live in. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything about it. You sure can. Consider this technique as a kind of training. Think of it as a one-day vacation or even a one-hour vacation and deliberately get less done and take your sweet time doing whatever you're doing. It is surprisingly relaxing.

Notice when you are moving quickly and slow your speed. It's a technique you can use just about any time, and it's easy.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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