5 subtle signs your body is telling you to slow down

During COVID, Hollywood actress Margot Robbie–of Barbie fame—talked about the importance of slowing down in an interview with British Vogue.

She said that the pandemic compelled her to “sit still at home”—something she never did. She realized how important it was to take a break and slow the pace of her life down. 

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m in my thirties now, or because life took a very strange turn. Over COVID, I was home for longer than I’ve ever stayed anywhere. I’ve been moving at a million an hour for as long as I can remember.”

She added: “It can feel a little scary at times. But now I finally feel like it’s okay to…sit still? Or even sit this one out. That’s a feeling I haven’t had before.”

You don’t have to be a Hollywood A-list star to have a hectic lifestyle. While most of us were forced to slow down over the pandemic, many have gotten back into the throes of hustle culture. 

So how do we know that our body is trying to tell us to slow the heck down? Here are some clues. 

1) You have a habit of being late 

I have been guilty of this as recently as last week. 

I received a high profile assignment that had to have a quick turn around and because otherwise it would miss the news peg. As journalists who are often up against a deadline, this can be a common thing.

Not only did I need to do the interview, but I also had to transcribe it, write the story, and do any edits required. 

I had under two days to do this, which would have been fine…except that I had a pre-wedding party that I couldn’t miss because it was a family wedding. This meant I also needed to get my hair and nails done.

Did I forgo even one of these things to make it easier on myself? Nope. I felt like I could handle it. 

Except I ended up being over an hour late to the party and felt a bit frazzled. 

“Often we miss the signs that we’re moving too fast or that we’ve got too much on our plates,” says Laurie Leinwand from Good Therapy

“Sometimes our tendency is to switch to autopilot, and we may become suddenly unaware of what we’re doing in a given moment.”

Leinwand says that if you’re telling yourself things like…

“I simply can’t keep this pace up for much longer.”

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

..then your life may be going at a frantic pace. 

“You might think that slowing down will only cause you to be later,” explains Leinwand. “However, if you take a few moments to check your schedule and budget the amount of time to get from place to place, you won’t constantly be racing and apologizing for being tardy.”

Point taken. 

2) You feel tired all the time

This is another one that’s pretty universal. If you find that you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s time to slow down and pack less into your schedule for one thing. 

For another, it’s vital to go to bed at a decent time that ensures at least seven or eight hours of good quality sleep. 

It could be that you’re so wound up from your day that your body finds it difficult to settle down and go into quality sleep mode. 

This is why I tend to take showers in the late evening. The warm (okay, hot) water is very soothing and I believe that it sends a signal to my brain to unwind and relax. In the winter, I even have a hot water bottle in bed to feel more relaxed. 

Make a ritual out of it. Your evenings should be about slowing down, and this includes putting the phone away by a certain point. 

3) Your memory isn’t as sharp as it should be 

independent thinker 5 subtle signs your body is telling you to slow down

Are you always forgetting things because you’re too busy feeling like a hamster on a treadmill? 

When you have too many things happening at once, it can be very difficult—if not impossible—to keep track of everything. 

Couple that with not getting enough sleep and you could have a recipe for disaster. 

It could start with innocent things like forgetting to pay a bill but it could easily devolve into forgetting to attend your child’s school play. Before you know it, people will stop asking you to do things because you’ll be branded as unreliable. 

This one is important to nip this one in the bud. Take on only the things you can realistically handle. Then if you have more time, do something else as a bonus.

Write a to-do list to help you remember but have fewer, more manageable things on it. Also prioritize what needs to be done and in what order. 

It’s better to do fewer things well, than a whole bunch of things haphazardly. 

4) You’re getting pressure headaches pretty regularly 

Headaches can happen for a host of reasons. 

If you’re not slowing down to eat well and regularly, that can easily bring on a headache.

Not having enough food is one of the most common causes of migraine attacks, says the team at Migraine Trust.  “It is therefore important that you eat regularly. Having small nutritious snacks regularly may help to control your migraine attacks.

I find that meal planning ahead of time takes a lot of the stress out of deciding what to eat. Have healthy pre-made snacks on hand. Doing this on a Sunday can make your week flow a lot better because you don’t have to waste time driving to pick up something. 

Also, it might be advisable to have a timer on your phone to remind yourself to have lunch or a snack, for example. 

In addition to not eating properly, I tend to get headaches when I think too much about what I have to do. When I take care of things that can be done ahead of time, things are so much easier on my mood and my mind. 

5) You can easily feel on edge 

Speaking of moods, when we’re always on the go and constantly rushing from one thing to the next, we aren’t really enjoying life. This, in turn, can make us easily annoyed at the slightest thing that sets us off. 

Say you’re rushing to work because you’re late (as usual), and then someone cuts you off while you’re driving. Something like this can make us spiral because we’re already feeling frantic. 

When one negative thing happens, we might automatically assume that the rest of the day is going to be one aggravation after another. 

It doesn’t even have to be something that happens per se, but a negative thought that pops into your head. And then another and another. 

This kind of thought spiral is referred to as catastrophic thinking, says the team at MasterClass. “[It’s] a series of negative thoughts that can feel overwhelming. Once you are in a negative headspace because of the first thought, it’s easier to think more negative thoughts.”

They say that this anxiety spiral may leave you overthinking and running worst-case scenarios.

Chronic stress coupled with catastrophic thinking can make us feel like everyday is a bad day and it is a sure sign that we need to slow down and take stock in some way. 

Some ways to slow down

The team at Ramsay Solutions say that some ways to slow down can be:

  • Being present
  • Paying attention to what gets your attention (in other words, don’t multitask if you don’t have to)
  • Putting the cell phone away whenever you can
  • Focusing on the people in front on you
  • Accepting your limitations
  • Practicing silence (this could be through meditation on breathing exercises)
  • Journaling (to get the chaos out of your mind and body)
  • Making time to relax and have fun!
  • Focusing on what’s truly important to you
  • Taking care of your physical and mental health
Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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