We live in an incredibly frenetic world, and it’s been getting steadily more hectic for the last century or so. With every new decade comes increased levels of activity and intensity in our everyday lives. To keep pace with society, we are made to feel like there is constant urgency to respond to others and get things done under limited time constraints.

We’ve become more comfortable with doing than being. Therefore, we are constantly in performance mode and therefore have little or no time to think, reflect on our behavior, and feel like we are present. Many of us have become so conditioned to racing through our day, that we’ve become blind to the rhythms and patterns of life. It doesn’t feel like we have time to notice the little things, sometimes even the most important things in our lives. As a result, we often push aside empathy and deep connection and personal well-being in favor of results.

Behavioral health guidance and counseling is becoming a critical feature of delivering holistic, human-centered care. This integration of behavioral and physical health services is likely to continue, especially in the wake of the tremendous emotional distress caused by COVID-19. As strategic leaders in healthcare, how can we continue to facilitate this important integration while overcoming the perceptions and realities associated with the need to accomplish more, with less time? The answer might lie in educating patients about the benefits of slowing down.

The pandemic has encouraged a slower and simpler existence

One of the most noticeable impacts to our day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic has been how we’ve been forced to curtail our activity and cut back on our mobility. This has in a sense, slowed down and simplified our existence. A simpler approach allows us to hone in on what’s emotionally essential (e.g., taking care of children and loved ones, maintaining and strengthening relationships, pursuing passions, leisure activities, continued productivity in work-life).

Isolated to various extents for weeks, many have been compelled to reassess their priorities. This strange time has provided us with the time and space to think and reflect on the importance of our physical and emotional health and happiness. While certainly not ideal, this period of drastic change and upheaval has allowed us to take a deeper look at our own lives, see a new perspective, and prepare ourselves for a fresh start in this new normal.

When we slow down, we focus on what’s most important

People want to maintain their health to enjoy life now and long into the future. For many, this means realigning their lifestyle priorities, simplifying routines, and focusing on the things that are most important. The lockdown has provided us with an opportunity to sit and talk, not just about what we did that day, but about our feelings and opinions and how we view the world. The loss of our “normal” life to the pandemic has made us reflect on the values we tend to overlook in modern life and remember what truly matters most. When you’re in a frenzied state of hyperactivity, it’s very difficult to notice what matters most.

When we slow down, we develop and deepen our relationships

During the quarantine, time at home has offered us a chance to unplug, if only temporarily, from the hustle and bustle of our personal and professional lives. This has been an unprecedented opportunity to reinvest in our bonds with others. Many of us have been reminded that you can’t have a quality relationship with your spouse, your child or any other human being unless you take the time to get below the surface and really understand that person and take the time to listen to them.

When we slow down, we are more mindful

In this moment in time, perhaps more than ever, we have to be mindful of what is happening around us. With lots to digest and make sense of, many of us have been pushed extra hard in the last few months to really dig in and to reflect on our thoughts and behaviors, examine our opinions, and learn as much as we can in order to remain vigilant and safe. We have also been forced to examine our world views, our notions of truth, our beliefs about the world.

When we slow down, we put things into perspective

The time we’ve had to reflect and think has helped us put things into perspective. Sometimes we don’t appreciate things until they’ve been taken away. Many of us tend to become wasteful and neglectful because we are so used to getting what we want when we want it. When we go without, we reflect on just how important those things are to our daily existence. In this time of restricted activity and mobility, commonplace things now have become much more appreciated.

When we slow down, we relax the body and mind

When we’re rushing all the time, we often forget to feed our souls. In quarantine, many have had more time to sit in silence and read, meditate, exercise, pray or just relax and rest. Life in isolation has allowed time for simple observation and also deep reflection – and for that we are grateful because many of us have learned something about ourselves that we didn’t know or see before the time spent in lockdown. When we slow down, we allow our bodies and minds to relax. And when we are in a relaxed state, we tend to be more present.

Slowing down & escaping time

“I would, but I just don’t have enough time.” It’s the oldest excuse in the book. In some ways, we are prisoners of time, held captive by our calendars, phones, watches, alarm clocks and other time-tracking devices. The ticking clock is an ever-present, looming reality (or illusion depending on who you talk to) in our lives that we can’t seem to escape. Or can we? We’re beginning to see a shift in thinking around the practicalities of time-related issues and challenges. This shift in thinking has, in turn, shifted priorities, which has led to real behavioral change for some individuals.

What’s this shift you ask? More and more people, especially with the arrival of COVID-19, are making a conscious effort to slow down, to take their time and to dispose of the false urgency that we create for ourselves by framing everything we do in terms of time. The result for those choosing to do so is, in many cases, a happier, healthier, and more productive lifestyle.

As such, it will be critical in the days and months ahead that we stay plugged-in to the evolving needs, attitudes, and behaviors of our diverse patient populations. As strategic leaders in healthcare, the successful delivery of relevant and meaningful healthcare services and marketing strategies demands this of us. And as we slow down and take inventory of our own lives, perhaps we can glean important insight into the needs of the individuals and communities we serve.

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