• Jolene Roehlkepartain

Embracing Your Inner Tortoise

As the news creates a sense of panic and urgency (with many of us feeling helpless about what to do), what if we slowed down and embraced our inner tortoise?

That doesn’t mean we shut out the world or we don’t respond to an emergency when we need to. It means that living in a state of fast-faster-fastest doesn’t serve anyone well, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.

In fact, the times I have truly been in an emergency situation, I’ve noted that emergency responders know when to move fast and when to slow down. Even in an emergency room, there are different levels of emergencies.

Right now, the world feels like one large emergency room that’s understaffed, undersupplied, and overwhelmed. In any emergency room, the question is: Should we be in the room or can we be more effective elsewhere? That’s where embracing our inner tortoise can help us discern where we can make the most impact.

1. Discover why slow works well. A tortoise moves thoughtfully, methodically, slowly. That’s why the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, one of Aesop’s Fables, often is read to children because most children move fast. Too fast. Even as teenagers and adults, we see what happens when people move fast all the time. They burnout. They get sick. They end up spinning and not making any progress. Or they become highly anxious and depressed.

2. Downshift to a slower speed. A couple of helpful resources include Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee and In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré. Learn about the international slow movement: https://www.slowmovement.com.

3. Discern what kind of slowness fills you up. Some slow actions bore people. Skip those. Keep exploring until you find the slow activities that relax you and eventually give you energy. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon reading a book—slowly. By the end of the afternoon, I felt much better, more grounded in who I am, and more willing to deal with the overwhelming world. My other favorite slow activities include going for a slow, meandering walk; hanging out with a favorite family member or friend; brushing and petting my cat; taking a short nap; doing meditation; and rocking in a rocking chair.

We’re often so busy hurrying through our lives that we end up missing actually living our lives. Or it can feel like that we’re not accomplishing much except for frantically worrying about everything.

Learn from the tortoise. Slow down. Look around. See where it’s best to spend your energy and then take a step—slowly.

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