30 Mar 2020
Practicing Slow Living in the Time of Coronavirus
Whilst here at BAME Recruitment we are continuing work much as normal from our improvised home offices, there has definitely been a change of pace for us all to come to terms with. Our PA, Cressida encourages an acceptance of this change of routine, and advocates for a slowing down in this turbulent time. Her piece below offers an alternative view to the many calls to productivity.
Speed, schedules and commitments dictate a lot of our lives, particularly our working week. There is a feeling that one must always keep up with an increasing pace, with a persistent pressure to do more and achieve more. Slow living as a concept has been around for a long time, but now I would argue, is more relevant than ever. Amidst social distancing and a nationwide lockdown, what speed are you living your life at? Are you determinedly ploughing on in the spirit of 'resilience', maybe even peaking in your productivity levels? Or are you struggling through suddenly empty, idle days?
In this novel time, we are all navigating through a new way of living, centred around our homes. As a generation of 'rushers', it can be disconcerting there suddenly being no place to go. One response to this vacuum is to fill it up with a new wave of productivity. To start that project, to write the next great novel, to sculpt your body, to do more. This added pressure we instinctively put on ourselves and on others is unhelpful and unrealistic for most in our current climate. Quarantining gives us a chance to slow down, not speed up. Whether you are still working from home or you are faced with an expanse of free time, find joy in the smaller things in your life. Set yourself small goals that are beneficial to your well-being.
If you are practicing remote working for the first time, you likely have a space of time that used to be taken up by your commute which has now been gifted back to you. Try and appreciate this new block of time instead of it seeping into your sleeping or working time; be present, in whatever form this may take. Maybe it's taking the time to make a cup of coffee in the morning and enjoying it slowly; maybe it's taking a step outside and noticing your surroundings; maybe it's a meditation time, but maybe it's not. Slow living is not traditionally linked to the yogi lifestyle although the mindsets can go hand in hand. In fact, slow living has its roots in the concept of slow eating, a movement in 1980s Italy that placed importance on mindful eating practices, opposing the 'grab-and-go' mentality that was taking hold of our hyperactive Western culture. We can understand slow living in the same way as slow eating, essentially, being present in the moment rather than hurrying through it.
Incorporating some of this mindfulness into our everyday life is very important, especially in this moment of time. With the sudden lack of stimuli from our external surroundings, a kind of quiet and slowness has encroached on many of our lives, and I would implore you to take advantage of this change of pace rather than scramble to fill it up with more things. Whilst it may be true that Shakespeare wrote King Lear in his own quarantine days, to hold yourself to a similar standard of achievement would be ludicrous – we do not compare ourselves to Shakespeare in our normal lives, why in this particularly anxiety-inducing time would we begin to now? Indeed, if you find yourself able to get out of bed, make some food and have a break from the news for a couple hours, I would say that is a considerable achievement in itself.
Some ways that I have been practising slow living personally have included being more mindful of the changing seasons outside my window, the springing of a new season and the slow emergence of blossom on the bare trees. I am appreciating slow cooking and slow eating with those around me. A small task I have set myself to work on daily is learning to do a head stand. Staying active is good but try not to put too much pressure on yourself, you don't need to track your progress minutely or reach some abstract state of perfection. Little things to focus on every day can be grounding.
I appreciate that your life may have conversely got a lot busier if you have been confronted with constant childcare and home-schooling responsibilities. As hectic as things may feel, even a moment of being present with oneself, perhaps connecting with one’s breathing in a brief moment of calm, can be beneficial. If you can, try and incorporate slow parenting into your days. Try and schedule some unstructured free time into your child's day and explore creative, open-ended activities. Remember that your kids are very likely stressed too and keeping to a rigid schedule may be unattainable for the both of you.
In this unsettling time of massive change and disruption, ultimately, I encourage you to cope in the way that comes easiest to you. Unrealistic expectations of yourself in this time, including a perfect adherence to slow living, are not useful to us. However, there is a general feeling that this is your opportunity to embark on a mammoth project or creative feat. I don't believe this is the time for added self-pressure, but the time to look after yourself and be mindful of your mental health more than ever. Wendy Cope’s poem, Oranges, pictured above, encapsulates this sentiment well through the narrator’s appreciation of the ordinary and contentment with simplicity.