Over the past few months, I’ve found myself incorporating aspects of slow living into my day-to-day life: reading or writing rather than spending time on social media, getting out and into nature everyday, making an effort to cook every meal at home (even when it’s something easy, like a veggie stir fry or a jacket potato with baked beans). These little changes here and there have accumulated and made a tremendous impact on my stress levels and have provided more fulfillment in everyday activities. An effort of living in time with the seasons, too, means time to slow down and savour each moment now that it’s summer. But as life picks up its pace, I’ve found these little acts of intentional and slow living aren’t enough to combat the stress of hectic days and extra responsibilities. Headaches begin to encroach early in the morning and last until evening, my body aches, and I feel exhausted most of the time. I find myself wondering: how can I live slowly when life feels as if, in many instances, it’s flying by?
I once believed days spent baking, curling up with a good book for the afternoon, walking through nature with the sun on my face was a dream. I thought slow living wasn’t for a postgraduate student like me; it was for retired people and enviable Instagram influencers whose lives we can only wish to have. But what I’ve learned is that slow living is a conscious choice. Granted, many of us have commitments (children or older relatives to care for, extended working hours, university assignments, things around the house that need an emergency repair, etc) which make a full day of slow living impossible, but it’s about the little choices that add up. So often, we do make choices (often unconscious, small decisions made into habit) that cut into time to live slowly and intentionally: we scroll online rather than pursue a hobby, we watch TV rather than get outdoors, we consume and shop for things we don’t need rather than spend quality time with family and friends.
For me, the solution to encroaching stress was simple: a day devoted to slow living. Granted, there are times when my Saturdays transform into busy or stressful days; it’s unavoidable. But, on the whole, Saturdays are slow and exactly what I want them to be.
A stricter, although flexible enough that I don’t feel boxed in, schedule during the week allows me to get most of what must be completed checked off my to-do list, leaving me with a weekend for non-work and study-related tasks. For me, Sundays are reserved for a deep clean of the home, as well as planning for the week, writing, editing, and catching up on any last-minute studying and assignments. This leaves sweet, sweet Saturday (clearly my favourite day of the week) to fully embrace a life that is lived slowly and with intention. The joy of the end of the working week lingers and there is more time to savour every moment.
There are two things I do to ensure a slow Saturday before it even begins: I forgo the to-do list and I make a promise to myself that I’ll strictly limit social media to communicate with friends, not waste time browsing online. Even when I have things that I have to accomplish on a Saturday, I won’t write it down. I find it easy enough to remember what needs to be done, and, in fact, I embrace these tasks more willingly without feeling the pressure of having a to-do list staring me down.
Alarm clocks are silenced and I allow myself to wake up naturally (usually around 9:30, two hours later than my usual wake-up time). There is an unspoken wonder about enjoying the present moment. The past is unimportant and the future will come when it’s ready. To bask in the moment of the activity, even if it’s not my favourite task, is freeing.
Time slows down without the need to go, go, go and without the constant time-suck of social media. TV is generally swapped for a book or time spent playing with my sweet (sometimes ferocious) kitten. I make applesauce and bake banana bread or carrot cake, freezing enough for the rest of the week. Assuming it’s not raining, my husband and I go for a walk and breathe in the salty sea air and the earthy smell of the forest not far from our flat. I add pictures to my vision board on Pinterest and remind myself of the goals I’m working towards.
I often find that work I’ve been dreading (like taking notes from a reading or editing a particularly difficult chapter in the novel I’ve been writing and editing for years) feel easier. Without a to-do list staring me down, reminding me that I have to do something, it’s easier to take up the task. Without thinking, I realise I’m sitting down and studying or editing and actually enjoying it. These little discoveries can be transferred to day to day life; for example, I’ve cut back on the number of to-do lists I make and try to allow myself to work with greater flexibility.
The evening comes slowly and I’m relaxed and at ease. A slow day allows you to tune into your body directly. Too often we accept the stress and pain of a fast-paced life, from a fog of fatigue to constant headaches, and slowing down allows us to listen to our bodies. We tend to put ourselves on the backburner, self-care crammed into the last hour of the evenings, and Saturdays allow me to give back to myself fully. Not only do I take more time to listen to what I need on Saturday, but the effects also spill over to my working week and I find myself able to better cope with even the most stressful of tasks.
I can face what used to menial tasks with a clear head and refreshed attitude. I apply the flexibility and ease of a slow Saturday to tasks throughout the week, and I relish the relaxing time I know I will have during the next Saturday, without wishing my week away.