Health And Wellness

10 Worrisome Signs You Seriously Need To Slow Down

Photo: Julia Pomodoro, Jacob Lund, Ziga Plahutar | Canva
Woman eating in car, as life speed by her. Friends eating together while she's eating alone and on the go

We're a society that glorifies GOing. More, faster, higher. We wear "workaholic" like a badge of honor; we flaunt our busy schedules as if to show how accomplished we are.

We climb up proverbial career ladders, pushing through sleepless nights and caffeine-fueled days, all in the name of getting ahead, attaining goals, and getting ... someplace. Someplace where we can find true happiness ... eventually. Someplace where we can slow down ... one day.

Except we're killing ourselves to get there.

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And here's the truth: If you zoom out from the rat race — if you step away from the ladder — you're likely to find yourself circling a never-ending track of empty promises. We'll end up in a hospital bed, aching from stress-related illness, before we reach our happy place.

Why? Because your happy place is already here, right around you, right this very minute; we're just too busy with our to-do lists and jam-packed schedules to notice the life slipping through.

We're trained to think, "What's next?" We get caught up in the momentum, always looking two steps ahead, pushing ourselves just a little further.

We brag about our stress levels, and about how little sleep we get. Stress is the root of inflammation and chronic illness. Sleep deprivation is thought to cause lasting brain damage. And for what?

I used to be that way. Who needs sleep? Not this girl! That was before an unexpected pregnancy stopped me in my tracks, forcing me to step to the side and reassess what I actually wanted.

For the very first time, I had to listen to my body and take care of my needs.

I had to stop putting myself, my life, underneath a stack of to-dos designed to help me be a more celebrated and accomplished person. I'm a person, period. I'm a human being with biological realities, not a worker bee. And I have a life to live.

If we all take a minute to look up from our desks, from our phones, and from our incessant mind chatter, we just might realize we need to slow down. Our life depends on it.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "There's more to life than increasing its speed." Here are some signs you're gunning it way too fast.

Here are 10 worrisome signs you seriously need to slow down:

1. You wake up with an aching jaw and a headache

When you're stressed in your sleep — if you can get to sleep at all — then you know it's time to take a breather.

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2. The first thing you do each morning is scroll through your phone

I know how checking email and scanning through Instagram can become compulsive itches that we can't stop scratching, but it's a terrible way to start the day. We jump into the day already behind; we look at all the status updates, the accomplishments, and braggy Instagram posts ... and it's barely 8 a.m.

We can at least start our mornings in the real world, not whatever edited world is reflected on our screens.

3. You live in an "if only" frame of mind

If only you made 30K more a year, then you could relax. If only you had this job title, or that boat, or a new house, then you would be happy.

Every once in a while it's important to stop and realize that everything we have right now, right this very minute, is enough.

4. You often skip meals, ignoring your body's cues

The day flew by and you totally forgot to eat. I used to do it all the time — living too much in my head, not enough in my body.

5. You scarf down food in moving vehicles while staring at a computer screen or standing over the sink

Pull up a chair and SIT DOWN. Pay attention to the food going into your body. Chew slowly, deliberately. Taste!

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6. Your friends stopped texting and calling because you never answered anyway

Until one day you finally realize that it's the people in your life who really matter, not the busy work, not even the money.

7. You're often described as cynical, negative, or restless

Is there a burnout brewing? According to Dr. David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, cynicism, and perpetual frustration are a sign of burnout that can "wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships, and job performance," he told Forbes.

When we go too hard for too long — exposing ourselves to prolonged chronic stress — our bodies give out. So, check your defeated, disillusioned, jaded attitude. Maybe you just need to slow it down and regroup.

8. Your kids hear, "Let's go!" and "We're late!" more than "Take your time," or even, "I love you."

Our go-go-go mode can affect everyone around us, especially the smallest people. When we're constantly moving, thinking, plotting, or going, we can't possibly be connected at the moment with our kids.

If we're always rushing from one activity to the next with barely enough time to find the lost shoes and missing toys (which are inevitable), with barely enough time to just be with them, then we've taken on too much. We need to slow down for our kids' sake.

9. You waste paid vacation/sick time because you can't be away from your work

Clearly, our society doesn't value taking time off, considering that 43 million U.S. workers have no paid sick leave in 2023 — a stark difference from every other advanced country in the world.

But for those of us lucky enough to be afforded paid time away from our desks, almost half of U.S. workers don't use their paid time. Take the vacation, paid leave or not, and enjoy it. Feel the salt-water wind on your skin; taste an exotic meal; go experience the world.

10. You spend your free time binge-watching Netflix on the couch and calling it a date

Mostly because you have zero energy for anything that requires movement. A little binge-watching never hurts anyone — we all want/need to turn off our brains and zone out at times — but if you're full-on shutting down each night? That's a pretty big sign that you need to slow down.

There's a life you're not living.

RELATED: The 7 'Golden Rules' For A Happy Life

Michelle Horton is a freelance writer and social media specialist who founded the website Early Mama. She writes about advocacy, motherhood, and relationships.