Step away from the rat race


Do you find that you have trouble slowing down? After the introspection and renewal of the high holidays, do you launch back into your schedule with the vigor of a speeding train?

I know I do. After a period of forced downtime in October, I looked at the calendar and suddenly realized that there was a paper to put out, and there weren’t many days left to get all the work done. But first, there was a newsletter to create. And regularly scheduled meetings that had been on hold were now back on the calendar, with the accompanying preparations and work involved for each one.

For me, all this served to get my heart and head racing into a state of near chaos.

I’m not alone. I’ve talked to friends and colleagues in the last week who have had similar feelings.

This return to the rat race somewhat negates the hopes of calm and renewal from the High Holy Days, when we spend a lot of time thinking about the coming year, praying for a renewed spirit, looking toward a clean slate.

Perhaps we all need to slow down a little. Why are we speeding through life? What is getting lost in the rush?

Shabbat serves as a weekly reminder to slow down. There are many levels of Shabbat observance. Is your level right for sustaining you through the week? 

Maybe we should consider how we can slow down on an ongoing basis, whether from Shabbat to Shabbat or just a couple of days during the week. Set new goals – and make them attainable. Consider how you might step back from the rat race, even for just a little while:

Go for a walk, unplugged. Have your wife/husband/significant other join you – he or she probably needs to slow down, too.  Walking is good for everyone. So is visiting a quiet place – a park or the seashore, or better yet, a wilderness area.

Read a printed newspaper. It’s a nice change of pace from staring at a screen. Yes, you can read the news online, but studies show we read more when reading the print version; readers online are less likely to finish an article. We also see articles in print that we would never come across online; there is a serendipity to what we might discover. 

Cook something. Cookies. Breakfast. A dinner that is much nicer than takeout. Cooking is relaxing, and eating should be, too – remember to slow down and savor your food.

Exercise. Ride a bike. Play a sport. Work up a sweat. My husband plays tennis weekly. He complains that his back hurts, or his shoulder hurts, or that he doesn’t have time, but the group commitment obliges him to go – and he always comes home feeling better.

Spend quality time with children, especially younger ones. If you have kids, stop rushing and overscheduling, and plan an afternoon to play a game, or talk, or share some other simple activity. Grandchildren can be energizing, too, especially if you take the time to enjoy the wonder of them learning to walk, or talk, or master a new skill.

Reconnect with a hobby or a passion. It might be a book club or a travel group, swimming or volleyball. It could be something from your youth, like coin collecting or comic books. Why not?

Meet new people. Join a group, or start one. Many of us freelance now or run small businesses on our own, which can be satisfying but also lonely. There are more of us out there now than ever before, so try to find a way to get together with people in your field.

You can also expand your social circle in lots of other ways. Get involved with the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center. Invite people over to watch the game. Have an open house and invite the neighbors.

Learn something new. Always wanted to learn to sew or scuba dive or speak Spanish? Just do it!

If you find a way to slow down that works for you, let me know. We’re all happier when we have something to enjoy!

slow down, editor