When Slowing Down Is The Only Option

These days the pace of life always seems to be speeding up, making it feel nearly impossible to slow down. The to-do lists are long, demands are high and expectations are even higher. Especially the ones we put on ourselves. How can I stay on top of things? Am I doing enough? Should I do more? These are the questions that run through my mind regularly.

I wrote this post slightly hunched over, being careful not to move too much so as not to aggravate the excruciating pain in my lower back. I’m beginning to think I am asking the wrong questions.

After hurting my back a couple weeks ago, I came to a full and complete stop. I ignored the warning signs – my lower back had been aching for some time now but I pushed the pain aside to focus on everything else I had to do.

I should have listened to my body.

On the day of the incident, I was frantically running around trying to get my daughters ready for daycare while preparing for an interview later in the day. I quickly bent down to pick up a hair tie off the floor and couldn’t get back up. I was lucky – my husband hadn’t left for work yet and took over while I made an emergency appointment at my chiropractor. After the appointment, I went shopping for a back brace where I hobbled along completely hunched over while the elderly customers at the medical supply store gave me questioning stares.

It shouldn’t have come to this. But it did.

I was forced to slow down and here’s what I learned.

  1. Just breathe – It’s day two of my back injury and my girls are screaming over one taking the other’s socks, my back is aching and my husband is late for work. I pause and take a few long deep breaths (pranayama – thanks 10 years of yoga). The pain is still there, the girls are still screaming, and my husband is still late, but I got this. One step at a time.
  2. Prioritize – On day one of being hurt, after barely being able to warm up leftovers, I take pain relievers and decide to lie down for a bit. I end up napping for three hours. I had no other choice but to take care of myself. What if I made myself a priority before this happened?
  3. Let go – After my three-hour nap I asked my husband if we should make pasta or stir-fry for dinner. His response was to keep it simple – chicken fingers and fries it is. Easy to make, easy to clean up. I let go of my need to do too much.
  4. Be present – On day two, my girls are late for daycare and will miss the morning snack, so I slowly grab bananas and crackers and we eat on the kitchen floor because sitting on the floor is all I can manage. My four-year-old says, “Mom, we are having a picnic.” I realize how rarely I just sit with my girls at breakfast. I’m usually hounding them to finish their food while I make a smoothie and throw on some clothes. I need to just be.
  5. Stretch it out – Before having my little ones, I would stretch every night before bed and at work throughout the day. Now stretching was a rare activity. The only thing that helped the pain was child’s pose so here I was stretching again. Note to self,  stretching matters.

The biggest lesson of all was being grateful. As I grabbed on to counters and banisters around the house for support and found myself not being to reach the top shelf in the pantry, I realized how much I took for granted – going up and down the stairs multiple times a day, picking up my two-year-old, putting on clothes, taking a shower, washing the dishes, walking upright and the list goes on. Yesterday this was so easy and today it wasn’t. Before I reserved being grateful for the bigger things – my family, food and health to name a few – but I realized being grateful for the smaller things matters just as much.

It took a back injury for me to realize I’m not the Energizer Bunny, but I know now, and I won’t forget it.

It’s time to go slowly.

The demands of small children are many and relentless at times, but mamas we matter too. Take steps however big or small to make sure you’re slowing down and taking care of yourself. Start now by sharing with me what has helped you slow down.

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