10 Ways Families Can Slow Down & Savor Life, Even When You're Busy

06/18/2015 11:15 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016


Do you feel like you don't have enough time? When someone asks how you are, is your answer, "busy?"

Too many of us are feeling overwhelmed. Especially mamas.

Do you remember all the time we had as kids? Wandering, exploring, playing and checking out the world was just a way of life. Just remembering, I can get that feeling of the magic spaciousness of childhood.

But now many children don't have that kind of time & space.

Families are moving at a frantic pace. Kids don't get home from school until 4:30. Then there are lessons, activities, and the biggest time-sink of all, organized sports. Mamas are running around town. Scheduling is a nightmare. Time and space for wonder? Hah!

And with this pace, kids are having the same stress-related problems that adults have.

For adults the pace of life is overwhelming. We are working, playing, and consuming at a frenetic pace. Employers expect total devotion and squeeze every ounce out of workers. I hear it from everyone- from my friends in corporate jobs to my mom, a hospice nurse.

Women especially are feeling scattered and exhausted.

To put it plainly, the pace of our culture is harmful.

The good news is that we don't have to buy into this hectic pace. We can make choices to slow down. Simplifying your schedule enhances not only your health and well being - but also your kid's.

Plus, we can cultivate a super-power that reduces stress, anxiety, worry, and distraction.

What is it? Mindfulness.

Life may be busy, but it doesn't have to feel crazy if we can focus our distracted and cluttered minds.

Beyond the volumes of anecdotal evidence of this, there's some hard science on the effectiveness of mindfulness. While Neuroscientists have found that overwhelm can physically shrink that brain, they've shown that slowing down and learning to pause actually grows our brain bigger! As the brain grows, so does your ability to observe the feelings of overwhelm and not get pulled under by it.

Changing our perspective changes our whole experience of life.

Which leads right to theses ten tips:

1. Do what you are doing. When Lin Chi said, "When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. But above all don't wobble," he was right. This is mindfulness of the present moment. This is easier said than done. It takes practice and a good dose of self-compassion, but the fruits are life-changing. It is the planning, worrying, anxious mind that makes us feel overwhelmed. How do we focus on what we are doing? Sometimes I practice narrating to myself: "I am walking to the car." Or, "I am in the shower feeling the water on my head." Notice when you are in the past or the future, then label it without judgment - "remembering," or "thinking." As a mindfulness coach, I help women practice these tools and stay accountable for real change.

2. Say "No" without guilt. Stop going to events because of obligation. If it adds too much to your day, or if you don't want to be there, don't go! Better to be there with your whole heart. Don't volunteer for stuff because you think you "should." Leave that space for someone who wants to be there. Don't "should" on yourself.

3. Aim for one class or activity at a time. Let's stop over-scheduling our kids. Choose only one thing: gymnastics or music. Swimming or lego camp. With only one thing, we aren't running around town like taxi drivers. Plus it allows children to focus on and appreciate each activity. Too much leads to less sleep, stress, and burnout.

4. Balance busy days with calm days. We all want to have some big, fun, exciting days! But too many back-to-back events leaves us unable to appreciate them. Children, especially, need that down time to relax, recoup and process. Schedule in a calm day for every busy day.

5. Allow time for play. This goes for adults too! An attitude of play brings a lightness, curiosity, and wonder to any situation. All human beings deserve and need time for play. Do not put it off after the never-ending to-do list is done! For children, free, unstructured play is the #1 builder of innovative, self-motivated, creative brains. For all of us, play releases stress, heals and makes life joyful.

6. Repeat after me: "I shall not squeeze." Like many, I want to get things done. I have had a tendency to try to squeeze one more thing in. Don't do it! It leads to stress and exhaustion. Yes, sometimes we need to, but more often than not, it can wait.

7. Check email only twice a day. Plan when these times are and resist checking your phone all the time. You will get more done, be more focused, and clear the mental clutter.

8. Write down to-dos right away. Get that list out of your brain! No more ruminating on the mental list. Write it down. Don't worry about even getting to everything. Writing it down frees up valuable mental real estate.

9. Schedule in lazy days. Non-doing sounds sacrilege in our achievement-oriented culture. But rest and relaxation soothe the soul. Plus it leaves you fresher when you return. It's okay to be slow and leisurely. Lie in a hammock and read a book. Go for a slow walk in the woods. Be an example of how to enjoy life.

10. Embrace where you are. Yes, this is like #1, but it bears repeating. You are exactly where you need to be. Be here fully. Stop questioning and doubting. You are in the perfect place to enjoy your breath, notice what's around, or maybe learn a valuable lesson.

Now it's your turn.

Is your life too busy right now? Share the steps you'd like to take to simplify your schedule in the comments below.