I’m willing to bet that you’re yearning for something; that you may even know exactly what you’d love to be doing right now — if only you weren’t so busy with the kids, work, the household.

And if you’re anything like me, you also find that when you do finally have a bit of free time, you can’t allow yourself to be still and enjoy the book, lie in the hammock, sip that cup of tea in silence.

Your mind keeps jumping, as if you should be doing something else. Isn’t there a phone call I’m supposed to make? Laundry to be taken out of the machine? An item to add to the grocery list?

It’s been six months since I left my full-time job and embarked on this gap year, and I’m only now able to sit still and quiet my thoughts. For months I wasn’t sure whether it was my body or my brain that was sabotaging my efforts at living more slowly, more intentionally, doing fewer but more meaningful things, being truly present with every person or task.

I was so used to being in a harried, stressed out state, that it seemed this had become my comfort zone.

But why?

Is it the Protestant work ethic, so deeply ingrained in me that I need to be seen as being busy, productive? Do I subconsciously believe that self-care and anything related to joy or pleasure is wrong?

Or is it my identity as an over-functioning mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister … and human being?

Regardless, it wasn’t working for me. And while I continue to practice doing less, I have learned some incredible things.

Jules Blaine Davis, best known as The Kitchen Healer, also refers to herself as a body story healer. And it is this latter title that is particularly relevant as I try to unhook from busy-ness. In her Ted Talk Jules explains that we forget that our bodies are wise, and we think our heads will figure things out. But it’s our bodies that truly know and that inherently want to “live inside a rhythm that aligns with who we are.”

And so using my body as a guide, I began to stop, notice and name whatever I was feeling when I found myself too much in my head. I decided feeling anxious and stretched too thin wasn’t serving me, and I began to give myself permission to feel something else instead.

I start with the question, what do I want right now?

And even if I don’t immediately know, I at least know what I do not want.

And so I let go. I let go of whatever is pulling me out of the present moment and focus on my body. I might take three long slow breaths. I might feel my feet, planted firmly on the ground. Or I might make a cup of rooibos tea and sip it slowly.

Another tool that brings me back to the present moment and to my body is gratitude. Regardless of what I’m doing, I pause and tell myself, “I get to do this.” Even if I am doing something particularly terrible, like cleaning dog pooh off the bottom of my toddler’s bare foot, I say to myself, I get to be here, right now, holding his chubby foot in my hand, his hand resting on my shoulder for balance, laughing together.

Nothing brings you back to your body — out of your head and into the present moment — quite like that.

Am I always this Zen? Of course not! But when I notice the stream of unconscious chatter in my brain which doesn’t serve me, and take away its momentum, I gain so much.

And it takes practice. I slip up, forget myself, lose myself, again and again.

This is how I am finding my way back to my body, back to the present moment, and learning not to fill it with busy-ness. Again and again, I make conscious decisions, choices.

And this “letting go” of things that seem urgent but aren’t, of things that may or may not be important for me, is expanding — I look at my phone less, I make fewer lists, and I’m happier.

Your turn: Have you ever had difficulty relaxing? If so, what “busy work” tugs at you, trying to derail you? And how do you finally manage to unwind?

Head over to my blog and let me know in the comments!

And if you’ve found this useful, please share it with a friend! I’d be so grateful!

Originally published at cecilepopp.com


  • Cecile Popp

    Educator, Writer, Mother of three, Canadian expat living in Turkey

    Cecile Popp is a Canadian educator and writer living in southern Turkey. For over a decade she taught English Language Arts at Turkish high schools, most recently at Robert College in Istanbul, where she worked for seven years. Now, seeking a quieter life, she has returned to the south to write and work on other projects, most notably a memoir about her Baltic German grandparents. Her YouTube channel, From Canada to Adana, features visual essays about her life in Turkey. She lives in Adana with her husband and their three sons and teaches at the university.