Episode 125 How To Slow Down & Embrace The Present Moment: Solo Episode By Chris McDonald

Jun 16, 2023

What is the importance of slowing down and embracing the present moment? How can you integrate practical strategies and mindfulness techniques into your everyday life?


  • Why do we need to slow down and embrace the present moment? 2:44

Why Do We Need To Slow Down And Embrace The Present Moment?

  • What is a Type-A personality?
  • The importance of keeping track of our physical response to moving too quickly through our daily routines
  • What are the negative impacts of not slowing down?
  • What are the benefits of slowing down and embracing the present moment
  • Techniques for slowing down and being mindful
  • Overcoming obstacles when making ourselves a priority

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Chris McDonald: In a world that often moves at a relentless pace, finding moments of stillness can be a precious gift. Join me as we embark on how to slow down, quiet the mind, and fully embrace the present moment. So get comfortable, take a deep breath, and let's embark on a journey of mindfulness together. Welcome to Living in the Now.

This is Holistic Counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence. I'm your host, Chris McDonald, licensed therapist. I am so glad you're here for the journey.

Hi, and welcome to today's solo episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. I created this episode today for other people who are like me, type A people. People who keep moving, have trouble slowing down and being more mindful. We all hear about that. Oh, you need to slow down and connect to the present moment.

To me, that's a beautiful insight. But how do we do it? That's when we talking about today to me, when we have a lot to do, I think that that triggers most of us to keep going, going, going, I wanna get things done, gotta get it done. Can't take a break. Right? But then, You know, by the end of the day comes, you're so exhausted, you just flop on the couch and pass out.

That is not a way to live. So for me, I have found some ways to keep a daily practice in mind every day, not just weekdays or just weekends. Every day so I don't burn myself out and feel that disconnection out of balance, exhaustion that can happen when we're always on the go. So in this episode, I'm gonna dive into various techniques, practices that allow us to reconnect with the essence of each moment.

Just some mindfulness exercises. Some are simple, but they're just so powerful to uncover the keys to releasing that grip of busyness and embrace the richness that lies in the here and now. I'll also talk about the benefits of slowing down, such as that reduced stress, increased clarity, so much great things that we can find with that,


Chris McDonald: also the negative consequences if we don't.

Cuz that's something to think about as a motivator. To keep us rolling with connecting back to the present moment and what are the obstacles that hinder us from doing this. You probably already know that. That's why you're listening today. I hear you easily. We can get away from these practices. We know they're good, but how do we maintain it?

So without further ado, let's get to it. So how do we slow down and embrace the present moment? Before we get to that, the question is, Why slow down? Why does it matter? Why not keep going, going. I call it the Energizer Bunny, if you remember all those old commercials, Duracell just keep going and moving, especially if you fall more of the type A person who keeps going, what can happen, right?

What could possibly go wrong. So remember, type A means you have that extreme sense of time, urgency, gotta get it done. You walk fast, move fast, talk fast. I'm from New York State, so that's kind of in me, but a lot of you may understand that. Impatience. Hurry up, let's get it done. I think that's recognizable in our society.

Driving. If you're very impatient, that can be a definite sign that you're more type A competitiveness, wanting to be the best, the most successful. Not always a bad thing, but when it gets into overdrive can be a problem. And of course, more aggression, hostility, because you ha don't have the patience, have too much urgency, so why slow down?

What are the consequences of staying this way? Well, we miss out on a lot. I know many years ago when I worked in the school system, this was even worse for me because for all those school counselors out there, I feel you, it's, it's hard. You're, every minute of your day is taken. It's really difficult and.

Even when you set time aside to take a break, somebody's gonna be knocking on your door interrupting. I remember seeing my principal at that little window in my door. I'd be in the middle of a session with a client or a student or in a group, and she'd be waving in my window. Or if I'm just like, I'm gonna whew, I'm gonna take a breath or catch up on some paperwork, the phone rings.

So you may notice this too, no matter where you work, that sometimes it is hard to find these moments, these magic mindfulness moments. So we miss a lot because we get stuck in our heads too. We lose track of what's going on in our bodies. And you might notice this in clients you see, but this is a trauma response to keep going, to keep busy overworking.

And you may notice if you slow down. That's when you start to feel some negative emotions that you've not been paying attention to. And if you never slow down, you're in that sympathetic activation of the nervous system, that stress response, fight or flight. Keep going. The heart gets racing. Racing thoughts, anxiety can be contributing.

Factors in this as well. Blood pressure goes up, breathing. So our neurologically in our brains, our body's getting ready to fight, right or run. But if we stay this way, day in, day out, it can lead to longer term issues like heart disease, stomach issues, headaches, migraines. I know for me, if I'm in this mode for too long without breaks, I'm more likely to have a migraine cause I'm prone to those.

So whatever health conditions you may have, if you keep going and don't take breaks for restful downtime, you're more likely to have more episodes. With your health condition, even back pain. For me, if I'm too busy and too stressed, I feel it in my back, or you may feel it in your shoulders, even if you don't have a health condition.

Sometimes it can show up as tension, and I found some interesting research. I'll put that in the show notes as well, that type a's are more likely to have accidents to die from accidents or violence. And to have strokes, I was like, oh wow, this is actually research based. So there's a little motivation for you.

So there are potential downsides to, to this that can impact. Think about every single part of your life if you're constantly going and moving, can be impacted and not just physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We're disconnected probably spiritually as well. Disconnected from our bodies.

Perhaps disconnected from what's important to us. And if you're an overachiever, you may be doing work on the weekend as well and just keep going on the weekend or overburdening yourself with chores and things to get done. Constantly finding things to do instead of. Just being now, I found in my experience, clients that are more type A and have this response, have that difficulty with that state of being they wanna do, do, do.

To just sit and take a moment is extremely difficult for them because they're not used to it. And you may not be used to it either, but that brings me to the benefits. Why do this? Why slow down? Because it can help you to actually be. More productive. I know you might have that little voice inside you that says, gotta keep going, plugging along.

Take your time. Don't take your time. Go, go, go. And that's gonna cause more stress. Make it harder to think, but you can be more productive if you're taking your time taking these breaks. It's just so important. So that can reduce stress and anxiety. It can also make you appreciate the small things in life.

Like I know for me in the morning, just the quiet, just watching the sunrise. If I'm up early enough, I see it through the trees in my backyard. Just noticing the weather, the birds, just the simple things. Savoring that instead of. Jump outta bed, shower, get ready, sit down on my laptop, start on email. That is a more type A behavior to jump right in or on your phone.

So you can also be


Chris McDonald: connected with friends and family cuz you're more connected to yourself. You're more likely to stay connected with friends and family and make that a priority during the day, whether that's just a text message or short dm, that's so beneficial and it allows you by slowing down to savor moments with family, even holidays or just.

Doing something you enjoy like art or reading a good book, having a little spa for yourself where you can do your nails or a mask, anything like that. For me, people that I've known in my life who don't slow down, who all their lives, they continue to just go, go, go. I always hear them saying things like, oh man, time goes by so fast.

Before you know it, it's 10 years later. I'm like, really? So if you take this intention to slow down, this isn't research based, but I feel like it's my opinion, but I think it's true. Your perception at least of time slows down cause you're really engaged in it, enjoying it, feeling it being a part of things instead of zooming through life where you miss everything along the way.

I think you also miss a lot of your intuition. That may be speaking to you cuz you're too busy to listen. And I, and I hate when people say that, oh, I'm too busy. It's been busy. What are you busy doing? We must make each other a priority. I think that's so important. Those connections, right? You also have more energy cuz you are spending an exponential amount of energy providing counseling, therapy, or whatever support role you're in.

Our jobs are hard, they're great, but they are. It can be draining a lot of energy, but if you slow down, just think of it as tipping off your gas tank, putting a little bit more in there to help you get through the day. So every time you take a break, slow down or just move slower. You're keeping yourself fuller in your energy levels, but how do you do it?

This is the hard part. I know a lot of people talk about it, taking your time, slowing down, but it's hard, especially when we have multiple demands on us. If you work from home, that can be a challenge because you're constantly looking at your laundry or other things around the house. Many things calling your name.

What if you work in an office? There's other problems with that, isn't there than other people interrupting? Or all of a sudden if, if you don't have. Control of your tasks. If someone's your boss, they might give you extra work you didn't intend. Maybe you got three more clients on your caseload that's already full and your schedule is already stretched.

So that's what makes it challenging because I think every day it has to be adapted differently cuz every day is different. We may have more time and luxuriate in it a little bit more, but some days give yourself some grace and find. A way to do it and how do we do it? Make the intention. In yoga, we always start practices with an intention.

What do you wanna get out of it? At the beginning of the day, asking yourself, what do I need today? What would be some ways I could slow down? And take my time. And it is that awareness of that rushing energy. I notice if I'm walking too fast, like going up the stairs, kind of running or down the stairs or through my house cuz I work from home.

That kind of gives me a clue cuz for me, if I, I start rushing too much, that increases my anxiety and it just causes me to have a much more difficult emotional day. Taking a set of breaks from social media and your phone can be another way. To slow down. I did this today. I had a notification when I went to eat my lunch and it said to update my phone.

Usually I just, ugh, hate those, swipe it away. I was like, you know what? I'm gonna do a forced social media break during lunch. So I turned on the update and it went through. So I just sat there and just focused on mindful eating, noticing the taste. Smells, textures of my food. Slow down with my eating pet, my kitty cat next to me.

I just enjoyed in the break looking outside, being content with what is and not overextending myself and working through lunch cuz there's a surefire way to drain your energy. Which brings me to nature, getting outside can really fill you up. For me, that helps me slow down. I've been gardening a lot this week, so just putting my hands in the dirt, even if I'm not planting something, really reconnects me to nature really resets my battery.

I can, I feel like all the stress and worry and whatever's going on is gone. When I am outside, sometimes I go in my backyard and luckily I have some woods in the back, and I'll just go and like I did this morning and just stand there looking up at the trees, putting my hand on a tree, feeling the trees energy, feeling that connection with all things.

Where the earth, the trees, just looking around, seeing what's here around me and just breathing. Don't have to even have to do deep breath. Just doing your regular breath tuning in, noticing what your breath feels like in your body. I also think slowing down can be by doing some consistent rituals. So for me, when I can, I do my daily routine.

Sometimes that's thrown off. If I have like doctor's appointments or other things that get me going earlier, would I like to do some kind of movement through yoga or Qigong? Maybe do a little reading, maybe take some time, do some pranayama breath work, and just slow down. I get up a little earlier for that reason so that I can take my time and kind of luxuriate in a ritual.

Of course, you gotta do what works for your schedule and your family, but for me, that's what kind of. Settles me, builds my inner resource and resilience to get through the day so that I have more in my battery and can handle more. That comes up hopefully without being reactive. Of course, we're all human, but finding what are the rituals in between sessions?

What are the rituals at the end of the day? How do you disconnect? I know I've talked in some other episodes about this as well. I believe in check-ins and I teach this to my clients as well, holistic check-ins to say, let me see. Am I aware right now? Or where is my attention? Just simple question. You could write these on a post-it note or as a notification that you're not gonna swipe away.

Just have the intention not to, am I aware? What can I tune into? Can I turn tune into my hearing in this room? My seeing, what is my energy? What is my emotion? Is there anything I need to do right now? Or do I need to just be, that's a good mindfulness question. If I notice my mind is racing, how can I bring myself back?

What will that look like? So thinking about that, and again, these are just examples of. Possible ways that you could have some check-in questions for yourself. Another thing I like to do is just I'm able to my office at home to close my door and just take a moment just to close my eyes even for one minute.

Visualizing a peaceful place is wonderful way to rejuvenate, and I find that helpful. Whether that's the beach, I like to think about waterfalls. The sound of a waterfall. Just being present with that in my mind, to take that one minute vacation. And of course if you have kids at home, I, that's much more challenging.

But even if you can just do it in the bathroom, do some mommy time, me time, whatever you wanna call it. I also like to have disconnect. Official days and vacations. Unfortunately I can disconnect too much. So then I come back and I feel like I'm brain dead and can't remember, but that's okay. I need the disconnect.

So Saturday is my day that I would, won't do any work, won't do anything for the podcast or my private practice. I totally make sure that day nothing unless something really unusual happens like my. Website goes down or something. But no, usually that's a total disconnection. And I have vacations. I usually try to do that.

Sometimes I do check my email just to clear out. I don't answer anything. I just will delete some things. But mostly disconnecting, just making that mental filter of saying, that's it. Okay, work is over. I'm on vacation now. And of course, if thoughts of work come up, acknowledging it without judgment. And let me get back to my vacation and relaxing.

Another thing I wanna talk about was, um, slowing down when driving that is another way that you can cause sympathetic activation is going too fast. Really taking your time with that. Let me. Slow down even five miles an hour or 10, cuz that's causing that rushing energy. So what are the obstacles to doing these practices?

I think for a lot of people it feels weird, uncomfortable cuz they're not used to it. Especially if they have, if they're older and have decades of doing this behavior. So it's easy if something feels uncomfortable to not do it or maybe do it for a short term and then gradually get away from it. Many times we forget.

To do these practices too. We, we know they're emporium as therapists, we hear it everywhere, but of course life happens. The car needs to be fixed. Somebody's gotta go to the doctor. In your family, all these things happen. Somebody dies in your family, God forbid. And it's easy to shift focus, but I think no matter what you're going through, negative, positive, you can still be mindful, still giving space for whatever emotion wants to come up, whatever sensation.

Being present. I think the other obstacles, we don't make it a priority. Everything else becomes more important and we're not necessarily making ourselves a priority, which can come out too with how much self care you're giving yourself. And do you have that underlying belief that I don't deserve this, or if you're used to putting everybody first, at first, it can feel selfish to put yourself first and to take the time you need.

But I think reframing that, that. This is what I need for my self-care to grow to be a healthy human being. And one other thing I just wanted to mention too is music can be a great way to slow down. I make that my cue at times at the end of the day, either podcast or I listen to music just to shift from work to personal me and just put 'em on headphones while I'm cooking or doing dishes.

And that just kind of tunes me in and releases the day. Also listening to binaural beats, which is a great way to change your mood or help with sleep. If you haven't listened to my episode 1 23 with Wayne Altman, I highly recommend going back to that, and that's another way to kind of get connected, the present moment or brain spotting music.

You don't have to be in a brain spotting. With a therapist to listen to the music that's on Spotify, just don't listen while driving or Dr. Or doing any other machinery, but just putting that bilateral music from brain spotting so you can just listen on Spotify or, or YouTube. Just put, make sure you have headphones on and the music goes from one ear to the other as you listen to the music.

It's very calming, and of course there's always so many more ways. That you can do this, but maybe just challenge yourself after this episode to discover your own patterns or routine, something that really resonates with you. Just try one thing, see how it goes, and maybe add something else after it's successful.

And just be realistic for what's possible for you and keep that self-compassion going. So if you have some days where you missed. That's okay. Just go back to it again. Keep going back and make it happen. Keep the intention going. You can make it happen. That's why you're here today. I hope this episode was helpful and that you've learned some things and maybe it gave you something to think about anyways, of how to slow down and kind of embrace that present moment awareness.

And again, this could be a whole course in of, of itself, which maybe that's a course for the future I could think about. Adding some of this in. But thanks for being a listener and a supporter of the show. It means so much to me and as a gift to you and to help support you on your holistic journey. And these are some wonderful mindfulness meditations and breath work and other practices.

I'm a meditation teacher on the OR app now, but you can get a free 30 day or a meditation guest pass that will help you find peace and get restful sleep. Check it out today for free@www.org health.io/guest pass slash Chris McDonald. That'll be in the show us. That was long to say so. I'm sure it's long for you to remember, but it's on the show notes.

Check it out today, and I'd love feedback on those meditations. Let me know what you think. This is Chris McDonald's sending each one of you. Much slight in love. Till next time, take care. The information in this podcast is for general educational purposes only and is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guest are giving legal, financial counseling, or any other kind of professional advice.

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