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8 Easy Ways to Slow Down When Life Gets Overwhelming

The entrepreneurial life has no shortage of distractions, and the world feels like it's spinning faster than ever these days. Here's what you can do to slow it all down.

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To get the most out of both business and pleasure, it’s important to find ways to slow down. No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, it’s in down time that you have a chance to reflect, form new ideas, or just enjoy yourself. 

You've probably heard stories of people who came up with successful business ideas when they slowed down and stopped thinking too hard. But on a more practical level the question is, with so many things you need to do each day to keep your business on track, how do you slow down but keep the ability to respond quickly to competitors and market conditions?

Related: Why Playing Video Games is Good for Your Business and your Employees

An answer you may have heard before is to simply be present and focus on each moment of your life as it comes. But, that’s much easier said than done when your phone or laptop puts the office at your fingertips. 

Here are eight things you can do right away to be more present and slow down time. Each of them is sure to make you feel refreshed, and just might lead to your next big idea.

1. Take a deep breath (or 10)

Taking time to focus on breathing helps you slow down your mind and body. It's well-documented that the practice of meditative breathing exercises helps reduce anxiety, but you don’t need to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown to reap the benefits of deep breathing. In fact, making your breathing a priority, even for just a minute or two a day, can help you clear your head, focus your thoughts and be more confident and efficient as a result. If you can, make sure you take deep breaths even while working at your laptop or on your phone.

2. Spend time in nature 

This one might be easier said than done, especially if you live in a city, but the truth is that nature is everywhere. You just have to notice it. If you live in a tall building, see if it’s possible to spend 30 minutes on the roof at night staring at the stars (or just look out your window). Take a five- or 10-minute walk to your local park, and look up at the trees. This can be just as grounding (or more) as a hike in the mountains with the right mindset. 

Like anything else that keeps you present, the trick is to focus on the sensory experience: Breathe in and smell the fresh air. Feel the wind on your skin, hear it blow and rustle the leaves on the ground. 

3. Put your phone away

The benefits of unplugging are well documented, so why do we still spend so much time glued to our phones? For many of us, it is the need to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the world. The "world" can be any information that technology puts at our fingertips, like that new law that passed, what’s going on in the Middle East, or social media pictures of a friend’s baby. These minute-by-minute updates, whether they be significant or silly, keep us in constant motion and make the world move a bit too fast at times. 

That’s why one of the most effective ways you can slow down your life is to put down your phone. Whether you dedicate an hour or two each day to totally unplug, or resolve not to check your phone until you’ve had your morning coffee, incorporate moments into your day when you’re not fixated on the world of your phone. This will help you truly spend time alone with yourself and slow things down.

Related: How to Keep Work and Home Life Separate as You Work Remotely

4. Fall in love with food 

This is my favorite. While you’ve got your phone put away, one easy and delicious way to slow down is to let yourself revel in the experience of cooking and eating. A quick sandwich at your desk might fill your stomach, but it won’t fill your heart with the joy that food can bring when you take the time to make and eat it. 

Learn recipes through a friend, family member or class. You’ll be amazed that you can spend 30-45 minutes creating a meal and don’t even have to look at your phone. Also, whenever you can throughout the day, spend 10 minutes focused on your food without any other stimulation. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly, noticing the tastes. Scrolling through Instagram can wait.

5. Listen

Taking the time to listen is one of the most rewarding ways to slow down. It can be to music, conversation or the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. The important thing is that you give listening your undivided attention. 

One fun way to do this with music is to get a turntable and listen the old fashioned way. You can also take a walk with a friend and dedicate yourself completely to listening to what they have to say. Not only will this work as a much needed distraction from everything going on in your head, but it can help you build emotional intelligence and strengthen a relationship with the friend by making them feel heard. 

6. Move your body

Sometimes the best way to slow down your life is to speed up your heart. Going for a run or getting a vigorous workout gives you a chance to focus on nothing but yourself and your body. I had one colleague who would put on her headphones, go to the break room and dance for 10 minutes. She didn’t care if anyone walked in on her, which always impressed me. She said it was worth it because it built her endurance, preparing her for going out dancing on Friday or Saturday night. If you try one of these practices, your future self will thank you for the lasting energy and extra endorphins. 

Related: Why Empathy Is a Crucial Entrepreneurial Skill (and How to Develop Yours)

7. Read a book

Reading has many benefits, including improving brain function and strengthening your imagination. For decades now I’ve escaped into the worlds of epic sci-fi or fantasy books when stress builds up. This goes beyond helping you slow down and can actually bring the worries of the real world to a complete halt, at least for a little while. 

8. Capture moments that matter

One of my old managers bought an old film camera so that he could take pictures without looking at them immediately afterwards. He said he enjoyed the process of developing the film afterwards. This will keep you focusing on the here and now and will (with a little patience) produce memories that will last a lifetime. 

Related: 9 Simple Ways to Transform Your Morning Routine and Boost Productivity

John Boitnott

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Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.