Slowing Down Is the Ultimate Skill

Your Mental health depends on the delicate balance of letting go and staying productive

Slowing down is harder than I ever thought.
Image by kewl from Pixabay

You know, depression can have many faces. In my case, productivity is one of them. So, as I am once again going toe-to-toe with an old foe, I have had to learn a new, valuable lesson. Slowing down and letting go. It sounds simple, but it is not. Especially not, if you have formed your entire identity on going at a fast pace. You know, staying productive and taking responsibility for everything around you. The political situation. Your relationship. The well-being of others. Your household. At the outset, this seems commendable. But the question is not whether you should take responsibility. You also need to ask yourself if you can do so in every situation.

Taking responsibility can be a mask for avoidance

These days, I had to come to terms with this fact. That my will and desire to be there for others is not only a noble act. It was also a mask. I took on project after project, optimizing everything, and crafting solutions. That way, I avoided asking for what I felt. What do I need? What do I want? Who am I? Why do I feel lonely? Acting towards the outside and being there for others was masking my low self-worth.

If I am there for others, nobody will see, what I am really feeling. It is a strategy, that worked well for me. Until my fragile construction of myself collapsed. I admire my qualities and my helpfulness. I love that I am not untouched by the misery of others. But it is time to grow to a new level. To find a new center ground between responsibility for others and for my inner self.

Slowing down is harder than I ever thought

To do so, I have to learn the hardest skill I ever had to learn in my life. The life lesson of slowing down and letting go. To give space for others to take responsibility as well. Especially for things surrounding their own circumstances. And to accept, that even if you want to be productive and solve problems, some things take time. Yes, there are still a bunch of unpacked boxes in my apartment. But they will take time to unpack. It is a challenge to create a new life, in a new city. So what, if some of these boxes are still around in a few months?

So what, if the dishes stay until a day later? The funny thing is, there is a paradox in the situation. The more I learn to slow down, the more productive I become. It is easier to manage my hyperactivity. It is also more likely, that the projects I decide to touch succeed. I follow through on more commitments by committing to less.

But there is little doubt. Deliberately slowing down is hard. Much harder than I thought. By pulling the brakes, I am feeling things I never felt before. It is like a volcano, that erupts, with all my suppressed emotions and thoughts. I stored them as magma inside. Now, the lid is blowing off from time to time. When it does, that lava runs its course, and cleaning up is a big job. But I need to do it nonetheless. Over time, that volcano might go dormant again.

Not slowing down was masking my depression

When I sat in the emergency room, I was a broken man. I was not sure if I agreed with the diagnosis of depression. After all, I did the opposite of lying in bed all day. Today, I understand that I was powering through. With all the side effects that come with it. Anger is one of them. The solution to feeling bad was to bury myself in projects and commitments. That way, I never had to feel how sad I was. How lonely I felt.

I do not know if I will ever perfect the skill of slowing down. But I know I need to keep practicing. My mental health and well-being depends on it. Part of slowing down also means reevaluating a lot of components in my life. Job, finances, relationships, friendships. Even family and my commitment to them. It means consciously deciding who and what should be part of your life and to what extent. And it means being on the lookout for circumstances that you can change. So they can fit your needs, rather than the other way around. It also means balancing things in a new way. It is a hard process, that will never quite finish.

I am curious to know, what you, my readers think about slowing down and balancing your life.



I am from Germany but have spent more than half of my life in Denmark, and other places abroad. I have a background in teaching, both youngsters and adults. I am interested in a wide field of things, which I love to teach and write about. Sustainability, technology, politics, social change, and mental health are just some examples.

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