I’m late, I’m late for a very important date…
I’m late, I’m late for a very important date…
The car accident on the way to work, heavy traffic, a flat tyre, the alarm that didn’t go off, the keys that got lost and the family drama that had to be dealt with — people have a million excuses for being late.
According to a new CareerBuilder.com survey 29% of employees say they’re late to work at least once a month, while 16% admit to being late on a weekly basis. Being late has a serious effect on workplace productivity, on our health and wellbeing and, on a more personal note, adds an enormous amount of stress to our lives from being in a perpetual rush.
So maybe we should be asking: why are so many people running late and how does this affect us?
From a physiological perspective, rushing activates our fight or flight response leading our body to believe we are in imminent danger. Our heart rate increases and the adrenal glands become activated, releasing a rush of adrenaline into the bloodstream to prepare us for the danger on hand. This chemical response in the body is designed to give us the strength to fight or run fast as in flight, which is meant to help us survive in the wild. The problem with using this survival mechanism when it comes to rushing is that we’re not in any danger at all – just late – and we have been tricked into thinking if we rush we will get there faster.
This could not be further from the truth: going into a rushing energy means we are not present in our bodies and we are much more likely to make a mistake, such as losing our keys as we’re leaving the house, dropping food or toothpaste on our clothes, having an accident or breaking something, tripping over and having a fall or taking a wrong turn in our car. These mistakes cost time, therefore making us even later and compounding the stress.
All the above creates a domino effect; one small thing goes wrong and it cascades from there, taking us out of flow and sync with the rest of our day. Many of us run our whole lives this way, rushing from one place to the next, creating stress in the body and ultimately leaving us feeling exhausted. The fight/flight response is designed for occasional use to keep us out of harm’s way, but in this modern world, we are running on it 24/7. This has enormous consequences to our health and wellbeing and can lead to adrenal fatigue, anxiety, stress, exhaustion, burnout and a feeling of being trapped on the hamster wheel of life, thinking: what’s the point? It’s all too much! Consequently, our vitality and quality of life can be severely diminished.
It may seem nonsensical but running late can actually be highly addictive, giving you an adrenalin buzz and the false sense that it’s the only thing that’s going to motivate you to work and move faster when in fact it’s the exact opposite . . . you just make more mistakes!
Living in this momentum of constant busy-ness and motion also means that you don’t have to sit and note how you really feel, whether that’s exhausted, sad, lonely or frustrated. The constant motion allows us to avoid going there and having to deal with the reality of our choices and just how sensitive we really are.
How can we work on changing this momentum of rushing?
Could it be as simple as understanding that rushing does not get us there faster at all? The tortoise and the hare story is a great example to shatter this common illusion – slow and steady does indeed win the race. Having an awareness of how we are in our bodies stops us from going into autopilot to get to the next place. Consciously making a choice to not rush helps us to feel more relaxed and deal with what’s ahead. Rather than going into overdrive we start to see that the slip-ups and mistakes don’t happen as often. In reality, being consciously present in everything we do actually saves us time.
Here are a few tips that may assist you:
- Planning ahead is a great tip for managing your week and preventing stress from building up. Planning and scheduling things in your diary help you to structure your week and by allowing more time than what’s needed you give yourself a buffer for unexpected things that may pop up. Rather than aiming to arrive on time, a great practice is to adjust this to being 10-15 minutes early, giving yourself the space to settle in and be consciously present for what is needed, as opposed to perpetually being on the back foot of life.
We are not going anywhere
Have you ever felt caught in the trap of trying to keep up, to learn more, become more, do more, to get somewhere…? This short introduction to “Time, Space and All of Us” reveals the truth and beauty about time.
- Prepare the things you need for the next day instead of leaving it until the next morning. Perhaps organise your clothes so that you are not searching for that top or school shirt and get everything together to take with you in advance.
- Do your food shop before the start of the week so you have food ready to cook for meals throughout the week, and maybe a simple meal plan. This, in turn, supports you to make healthy choices when you get home instead of grabbing for snacks.
- Consider stopping to get petrol on the way home, instead of leaving it until the next morning when you get into your car to find you have none left or enough time to get some. Just this simple oversight can put you into the momentum of stress and rushing before the day has even started.
- Start to become aware when you are going into rushing and tell yourself to slow down; you don’t get there quicker by rushing, in fact, you are more likely to make mistakes which can make you feel even more stressed.
- Feel your feet as you walk to bring yourself back into feeling your body (consciously present), instead of being in your head and distracted.
- Minimising stimulants like coffee and sugar is also very supportive as you are more likely to rush when you consume these substances because they activate the nervous system. This can also make you feel on edge, giving you a false high and inevitable low when they wear off that perpetuates the need for rushing to keep you motivated and out of the slump.
All these small things can make a big difference to the quality of our day and give us the opportunity to explore the momentum we are living in. If you start your day without rushing it’s a lot more likely to flow with ease. Each small choice you make brings more self-care and love into your daily life, nourishing you and in turn everyone around you.