Setting boundaries — everyone needs an off switch. I highly recommend airplane mode on your phone. So for those clients I have that literally feel lost without their phone being with them at all times, it’s one of the easiest ways to disconnect, whilst still being connected. I recommend using the airplane mode at times when they absolutely must focus on work, at mealtimes, when they are with the family and at night so that they can avoid the temptation to look and check emails and social channels, but also so that they won’t be bothered by notifications and distracted from being in the moment, or asleep.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Tracy Richardson.
Tracy Richardson is a Therapist (MSc.), Wellness Consultant and Author at Serendipity Wellness® based in Warwickshire, UK. Tracy she takes a whole person centred approach to facilitate healing and optimising wellness with actionable solutions that simultaneously enhance health, performance & business life. She has been helping to inspire and educate others to care for and value themselves through positive behavioural changes since 2018 — because ‘wellness makes you a well-being’.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
All my life I’ve known my purpose has been to help others who wanted to be helped, but I’ve taken a roundabout route to get to where I needed to be. I started out in the fitness industry 25 years ago, and my journey has taken me through healthcare and education, and I am now fully immersed into supporting the wellness of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
I’ve come to realise that there is never a one size fits all solution. Through gaining knowledge, interpreting it and sharing it in an accessible and understandable way, my clients become less reliant upon me and more trustful of themselves and their abilities to heal and optimise their wellness. So I see myself as a facilitator, because wellness makes you a well-being, and I can support clients along the way and make their progress more straightforward, but I can’t do it for them.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
I can imagine that in 2023 those figures are now a little higher as we live in such a fast paced I can imagine that in 2023 those figures are now a little higher as we live in such a fast paced and dopamine driven society.
As human beings we are programmed to work hard and give it 100% all of the time to ensure that we’re being productive and performing well. However, now that society is 24–7, the demand for our attention is at an all-time high, making it even harder to switch off and create boundaries around when we’re ‘on’ and when we’re unavailable. Everything is available on tap and the more we consume, whether that is food, content or ‘the buzz’, the more we need that dopamine hit, and we find we are always hurrying along to the next ‘thing’.
As a small business owner/ entrepreneur no one ever tells you when you start out that you won’t simply be doing the thing you love to do. You know — the thing you’re in business for and the reason you began the journey.
I mean, you’re busy managing your home, navigating relationships, scheduling children and ferrying them around, aiming for some semblance of a social life, all on top of running a business. And, this doesn’t take into account the things you actually have to do whilst working on your business and not just in it.
Sometimes it feels like there should be another 24 hours in the day, just to fit it all in. So it can all feel like a constant juggle.
In a way you have been trained to believe that this is ‘normal’, but actually it couldn’t be further from what you need, which is to be in the moment and be present, not thinking about ‘what’s next?’. After all you are a human being, not human doing.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
Rushing all the time is why many business owners reach burnout, where they are physically and/or mentally exhausted from chronic stress exposure. A Capital One survey in May 2022 found 24% of people were currently experiencing burnout and 42% of small business owners had experienced burnout in the past month. As a consequence, stress, anxiety and mental health concerns are on the rise, often resulting in burnout and enforced time out.
So, making time for you and creating opportunities to slow down prior to reaching this stage is of paramount importance in 2023. If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that without your wellness, the rest of the ‘stuff’ is insignificant anyway.
Your body’s natural state is to be in one of flow and being at ease. Being frequently rushed and frantically moving though modern life can trigger you into a constant state of alertness and feeling on edge, which leaves you unable to relax. Being a ‘Rushaholic’ may get you there more quickly, but it is unsustainable for long periods and has a huge impact upon your wellness.
For you to be able to relax your nervous system needs to feel safe and to return from ‘survival mode’ into a state of equilibrium and turn on the relaxatory response.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
Being caught up in the ‘busyness’ of business is often not working smarter- if you could be present in the moment and actually savour what you were experiencing, this helps to lay down neural pathways and helpful programs that you can utilise in the future as a frame of reference. If you are in that rushed state, the body experiences this as stress and ramps up that survival response, so you miss out on many parts of the experience.
By slowing down your body moves into that state of ease, where creativity and ideas stem from. This is often where you have your ‘eureka’ moments. So anytime you are feeling ‘stuck’ or overwhelmed, it may be an idea to press pause.
How does taking some you time help take your business forward?
Taking time to step away creates a positive shift in your mental and physical wellness. By purposefully factoring in activity that enables you to relax, means that your energy can be recharged and then you feel ready for you to utilise this in your business life.
Hence slowing down in the short term promotes increased productivity, positive mindset, sustainability and profitability in the longer term.
If nothing changes, then nothing changes, so it is about recognising the need to make changes and then implementing something super simple and starting with something small that is repeatable.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers five strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
When it’s time to take time out, implementing strategies that simultaneously enhance your wellness, performance and business life is a no brainer.
My go to strategies to slow down in order to do more are:
- Setting boundaries — everyone needs an off switch. I highly recommend airplane mode on your phone. So for those clients I have that literally feel lost without their phone being with them at all times, it’s one of the easiest ways to disconnect, whilst still being connected. I recommend using the airplane mode at times when they absolutely must focus on work, at mealtimes, when they are with the family and at night so that they can avoid the temptation to look and check emails and social channels, but also so that they won’t be bothered by notifications and distracted from being in the moment, or asleep.
- Creating space — when you really are busy, you will need to create the space for you to step away and unwind. Actually blocking space out in your diary so that it is scheduled really helps with accountability and actually completing it. If your days are crammed full, putting the empty space at the start or the end of the day as non negotiable time can work. Colour coding it in the diary and scheduling this regularly or placing it on repeat means that it will stand out and that you cannot overbook yourself.
- Gratitude practice — Being thankful and actively practising gratitude is an often overlooked way to supporting your wellness. It makes you mindful of the things that are actually going right for you, rather than confirming that negative bias — your body’s cells are always listening. Ending the day on a high and practising this last thing at night helps to set the stage for restful sleep, but you can pause and do this at any point during the day. You can always think of one thing to be grateful for, even if it is this moment right now that you are alive, that is enough.
- Positive affirmations — as the great Louise Hay was quoted- “You have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens”. This isn’t about ‘toxic positivity’ and everything having to be amazing all the time, as frankly that would be too exhausting to maintain. However, telling yourself good things and framing your inner dialogue in a positive way helps to elevate your mood, which helps you to feel happier. You know that feeling good about things motivates you and helps you to do more, so tell yourself a good story. Be proud of your accomplishments, whether that is managing to fold the laundry or completing a business deal, they are both wins for you.
- Meditation — this means different things to different people, whether this is using an app, going to a class, listening to music or simply lying on the grass and cloud watching. Taking time out and slowing down, even if only for a few minutes, can be enough to relax your nervous system. I would suggest finding a quiet space where you can sit or lay comfortably, and begin focussing on your breathing. Breathe in and out through the nose and focus on how the breath feels as it moves in and out of the nostrils. If your mind wanders, come back to focussing on your breath. Try it for a few minutes and feel the sense of calm.
Find what works for you, start small and if it works, then repeat it.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
I describe mindfulness as a deliberate practice to help you to regulate your attention by being in tune with your thoughts, emotions and body.
As an example, if I asked you how does your right big toe feel to you? You are probably now thinking about your right big toe and whether there is any pain or pressure, whether it is warm or cold, how the floor or your footwear feels against it. This is a simple example of you checking on with your body, shifting your attentional focus to notice the different sensations and being mindful of it. You can do this in a simple body scan starting at the top of the head and working through each area of the body all the way down to your toes.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
A great way that everyone can integrate mindfulness into their everyday is last thing at night when you are laying in bed; check in with yourself and what you are grateful for. Think of three things that you are grateful about from your day — it could be the smile a stranger gave you as they held open a door, it could be that your kids went to bed with no fuss, it could be that you are able to pay your bills. By being grateful for the things that you have and feeling the gratitude evokes an emotional response within, that makes this an experience that strengthens your connection with yourself and helps you to be present with your thoughts.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
Yes! Breathing is something super simple you can practise to help become more mindful and aware, and no one will know you are doing it whilst you are working.
Obviously we all breathe, but being able to regulate your breathing in a non-stressful way can change your experience and help you to become more mindful. In fact it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve your health!!!
A fundamental element of breathing is the nasal breath. Although mouth breathing has its place, when you’re exerting yourself, in the longer term it’s not an effective or efficient strategy, and can even lead to problems. The nose acts to filter, warm and moisten the air you breathe in — the mouth doesn’t do this.
When you breathe through your mouth, it alerts the brain that the body is under stress and stimulates ‘fight or flight’ response mode. If you breathe through your mouth regularly, your brain thinks it’s under threat and your innate survival instincts kick in, your nervous system is over sensitised and it can lead to exhaustion of the body’s systems. Mouth breathing can lead to you over breathing (yes it’s a thing), upper thoracic breathing (stress breathing), snoring and sleep apnea. It also gives off 43% more water vapour- so you become more dehydrated.
Becoming aware of your breath and breathing mindfully can help you to optimise your breath and promote health. So a simple practice of 10 breaths in and out through the nose will help. If you can do this in an upright position or standing so that your lungs have space to expand, all the better.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
I absolutely adore Bruce Lipton’s ‘The Biology of Belief’, it is an eye opener and an amazing starting point for anyone looking for an alternative take on how the mind influences the body. Although this is not strictly about mindfulness, everything is interconnected and so it helps to look at the body through a wider lens.
The Calm app is a great tool that I utilise to help unwind with a timed meditation or the stories for adults to help slow the mind down when you need to place your focus elsewhere.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘Light is Life’ Dr. Jack Kruse
When considering our biological processes, your circadian rhythm or light-dark cycles are super important to your overall wellness. Learning about how you respond to light and dark was invaluable learning for me, as when I became mindful of my light environment I used it to support my wellness and that of my clients.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Honestly, I would try and get people out in nature and away from technology. There is an app and a tracker for just about everything now, but when was the last time you were out in the middle of a forest and listened to the breeze rustling the leaves and the birds singing? Nature therapy or green therapy truly is one of the most undervalued aspects of being human- it has an amazing calming effect upon the nervous system when you can switch off and unplug.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!