Many people arrive at my office after living the fast-paced life. They have done exactly what our culture has told them to do—work hard, be successful, plow through long hours, get a lot done, but whatever you do—don’t be slow. They may arrive in my office burnt out, sick, and left with no choice now but to rest and recover because their bodies will simply not let them keep going at that pace. Asking people to rest is one of the most challenging recommendations I make for a lot of people. There is an old concept called convalescence, and it refers to the time spent recovering from an illness and returning to health.
In the past, people actually rested in bed, enjoyed sitting outside on a nice day, and didn’t work during their convalescence. It seems to me this concept has fallen out of fashion. I have seen many people be asked to return to work (or simply did so on their own) as soon as they could crawl out of bed and drag themselves into the office. The wonders of modern medicine have enabled us to do this. Simply look at Dayquil advertisements which refer to it as the “no sick days” medicine. It breaks my heart when patients tell me they have to go back to work sick otherwise they would lose their job. Simple illnesses that may have taken 3-5 days to heal turn into month long smoldering illnesses. While modern medicine has allowed us to get back to work faster, it can mean that we actually heal slower because the important ingredient of rest is neglected. I have found that it is much better to go home and go to straight to bed as soon as I begin to feel even a little under the weather. Lots of extra sleep right at the beginning can work wonders.
I find I am in a dance with the timing of life. The faster and harder I work, the more I can count on the phone to ring and e-mail requests to pile in. The days I slowed down and worked in that restorative yoga class were days that my more difficult situations seemed to resolve themselves. I found myself with less work to do that day. How strange! The pace with which I approach the day seems to control the types of phone calls and e-mails I get, the projects that come in, and the situations I am confronted with. It all seems too odd to believe, but I am not the only one noticing this phenomenon. People who are slowing down are also noticing that they are more efficient and that their slower pace in life is accommodated synchronistically. This idea that moving faster means we get more done may not be correct after all.
Why is slower better? Interestingly enough, I can look to my own naturopathic consults to answer this. My appointments are 45-90 minutes in length. It’s amazing what taking the time to listen can turn up in a medical history. Having done five and ten minute consults in the past, I know a lot of mistakes can be made from missed information. Quick consults also take the joy out of getting to know someone. They are risky and people can be harmed. Sometimes what might seem to be the problem on the surface is actually not the underlying problem. It’s why I have never been a fan of quick “hallway” consults. As a practitioner, I really enjoy the block of time when I can sit back and listen to a person’s story, piecing the parts of the puzzle together. I feel privileged to practice “slow paced” healthcare, which is not driven by high volume demands.
One of my favorite books to recommend for weight loss is a book called “The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David. In this book, David discusses how we eat can be just as important as what we eat. When is the last time you really sat down to fully enjoy the smells, tastes, and textures of your food with good company and no other distractions? When was the last time you fully chewed your food? (My professor Dr. Thom always recommended chewing each bite 31 times.)
I’ll admit these are not easy concepts. I was raised with expectations to stay busy and productive because this equaled successful. I grew up inhaling my food, not chewing it. Now, life challenges me to live more slowly, fully, and deeply. I find myself stumbling through this process of slowing down; sometimes getting it right, but often re-learning the lessons. I recently watched a TED talk called “In Praise of Slowness.” Again, I was reminded to slow down. Please follow this TED talk below for more ideas on how to slow down and prevent or heal illness that results from the fast paced life.
Katrina Bogdon, ND, FABNO, provides naturopathic health care services at 2BWell in Springfield, MO. She received her naturopathic medical doctorate at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, OR, in 2007. She is licensed as a naturopathic physician in the state of Washington. She lives on a small farm in Nixa, Missouri.