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Column | Everyday Elegance

Alicia Woodward: Breaking the hurry habit

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Alicia Woodward

Alicia Woodward

In the poem called My Symphony, William Henry Channing advises us to "hurry never."

As much as I've always loved that sentiment, it's something I've been slow to learn. Breaking the hurry habit can be difficult, but it is one of the best things we can do to take better care of ourselves and to capture that elusive everyday elegance.

As a busy mother and teacher, I operated on two speeds for decades - a hundred miles an hour and passed out from exhaustion. Most days, I hit the ground running the second I crawled out of bed in the morning. During the five minutes between classes, I flew around like a whirling dervish, squeezing in as many tasks as I could before the next class began.

I don't say this to boast. It wasn't healthy or wise, and it was anything but elegant. Even after my children were grown and I was no longer teaching, I still found myself rushing. I walked, drove, talked, moved, and acted as if there was a sense of urgency when there was none. I had a hurry habit.

It seems the want to rush isn't just a symptom of our modern, fast-paced lifestyle. These words were written in the 1600s by Saint Francis de Sales, "Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."

I sympathize with those in the hectic stages of childrearing, caregiving, homemaking, schooling, or career. I know it sometimes seems there's no choice but to be in a hurry. I also know the toll it can take on our relationships, health, and inner peace.

We all want to be active and efficient, but we can learn to do so at a slower and more deliberate pace. As a gentle reminder, here are 10 ways breaking the hurry habit can improve our lives ~

1. Better Health - When I catch myself rushing, I feel my heart race, my muscles tighten, and my breathing constrict. Our bodies aren't meant to be in perpetual fight-or-flight mode. Slowing down can improve our physical and mental health.

2. More Beauty - I wonder how many sunsets or full moons I missed because I was too busy to notice. The more we slow down, the more we notice beautiful things around us.

3. More Help - If our life truly demands us to constantly be in a hurry, it might be time to get some help. It's smart self-care to ask for help when we need it. No matter what we've been led to believe, nobody can do it all.

4. Sweeter Memories - Have you ever been so busy that you felt you completely missed a child's important milestone, a holiday, or a special event? Time moves on whether we're aware of it or not.

5. More Kindness - Being in a hurry can cause us to seem rude and self-centered. Slowing down allows us to be more courteous, patient, and aware of others.

6. More Productivity - It may seem counter-intuitive, but hurrying doesn't always help us get more done. In fact, rushing often results in mistakes, accidents, and bad choices.

7. Better Decisions - When we set an intention to stop hurrying, we find it easier to make decisions about what we can include in our lives. Saying no to one thing means saying yes to something more important to us.

8. More Peace - Think about the difference between frantically driving someplace and leisurely driving to your destination. A calmer, less rushed demeanor can bring more peace to ourselves and those around us.

9. Better Planning - A school secretary I worked with had a sign over her desk that read, "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." If we want to stop rushing ourselves and others, planning ahead is crucial.

10. More Elegance - There's nothing attractive about running around like a chicken with its head cut off. By breaking the hurry habit, we can calmly glide through our days with more grace and composure.

Alicia Woodward is a retired language arts teacher and empty-nester. She and her husband recently moved back to their hometown of Mt. Vernon. She writes a weekly blog called The Simple Swan and has a new channel on YouTube by the same name. Visit her blog at www.thesimpleswan.com. Email her at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com.

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