In her monthly column, Jacinta trials new self-care rituals and other forms of bettering yourself, and reports back to us with her experiences. Her goal is to make free forms of self-care that have lasting positive effects more well known and approachable to students and readers alike.
People always say that we need to slow down, that our modern society moves too fast, and we are busier than we have ever been. And I’ve always been inclined to agree. But of course, putting it into practice isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I’ve always felt like I was operating at such a high speed that if I faltered for even a moment, everything around me would immediately come crashing down, like a car stuck together with PVA glue pushing 100km/h on the highway. For the last two years, I have been studying full time and working two or more jobs, something I have done since I joined the workforce six years ago as a seventeen-year-old. I also live out of home, in a city four hours away from most of my friends and family. I’m not looking for sympathy here, since I’m sure many students and people in their 20s are in very similar situations to mine. What I am doing is highlighting the lack of support I have in my life, which is the main reason I have always felt the need to keep so busy. Slowing down sounds great in theory, but ironically, I have no time for it.
Which is exactly why I chose to focus on it for this month of Ritualistic Self-Caring! For the last four weeks, I made a conscious effort to slow the hell down and try to actually appreciate the life I have, while I have it. This meant no unnecessary multitasking, no signing myself up for responsibilities that I absolutely do not have the time, energy or need for, and committing to no longer working on Sundays. I know this last one isn’t easy for those of us who work casually, or in the hospitality and retail industries, but for me it was a necessity. Before I cut my Sunday shifts, I was fully engaged seven days a week, which left me with virtually no free time. I treasure my Sundays now as my opportunity to only do the things I love, like going to the markets and catching up with my friends. Sometimes I just bake banana bread, and pop on the iconic 1987 film Moonstruck starring Cher and call it a day.
‘Slowing down’ can look like a lot of things. But it’s really about training your brain to not be in ‘rush mode’ all the time. I often find myself doing mundane things like driving, cooking or even meditating, and feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency, even if I don’t really have anything else I need to do in that moment. It’s like my constant imperative is to be doing nothing. So, I rush through all other tasks in pursuit of ‘nothingness’, which only culminates in me sitting on the couch, scrolling on my phone, often making me feel even worse. Why can’t I just slow down and focus on doing those other tasks slowly and without pressure? So, that’s what I did.
I’m lucky enough to live a ten minute walk from a large park. I’ve lived in my home (I’m renting, there’s another relatable struggle for ya) for almost two years now, and I’ve been visiting this park an average of three times a week. IIn order to get some much needed peace and quiet, I tend to frequent the side of the park away from where all the children’s birthday parties and after school sports take place. It’s spacious and relatively quiet, aside from Saturday afternoons, when a group of young men, donned in medieval knight costumes, fight each other with swords and shields for an hour or two. When I first discovered them, I wanted to laugh, until I realised they had formed a small community of their own, doing something they loved, even if it makes them look a little silly sometimes. I would love something in my life like that, so I don’t laugh at them anymore. Okay, maybe a little bit, but I’m laughing with them, I promise.
Anyway, this became my spot for picnics with friends, workouts, and yoga sessions. I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s laughing at me, when I’m sticking my butt in air doing downward dog or struggling to balance on one leg for more than five seconds. Some days I go to the park just to read, purely for the sake of getting out of the house, and even that is enough to greatly improve my frame of mind and mood for the rest of the day. Who knew that doing things like being in nature and exercising regularly could be so good for you?!
An important part of slowing down is trying to live in the moment. I experienced this a few weeks ago, during a massive thunderstorm. I’ve been an avid thunderstorm enjoyer since I was a child. One of my earliest memories is my parents setting up a line of five chairs for them, my sisters and I to sit on our back patio, where we would watch the winds topple over empty rubbish bins and the sky getting darker and darker by the minute. So, when I heard the thunder start to crack, I left my phone in the house and made my way outside so I could properly enjoy the show. I was free to watch the lightning strikes illuminating my street and to listen to the thunder rousing the neighbourhood dogs into a talentless choir. It was a rainless night, so I roamed around my front yard in search of the best viewing point without the risk of being soaked. There was something meditative about waiting in silence for the next flash of lightning, of being the only person on my street who seemed to still be awake. By the time I decided to head back inside, an hour had slipped by, which really shocked me. The whole hour passed without me obsessing about all the other things I needed to do; instead I was able to just enjoy the moment I was in, and let it come to a natural end.
Another good tip I found for slowing down, was staying off your phone for at least an hour after waking up and an hour before going to bed. Electronics stimulate our minds in such a way that it can take up to an hour for us to settle down, which is why so many people are struggling with their sleep these days. For most people, the last thing they do before bed is scroll on their phones. I have also been guilty of this, but can attest that the less screen time, the better.
The main thing I have observed over the month is that learning to slow down is like building a muscle. It takes time and it’s hard at first, but it gets easier the more you do it.
My Recommended Resources for Slowing Down
First of all, if you’re not already familiar with Ball Park Music, then start listening immediately. This Brisbane band has been around, churning out bangers, for over a decade, and I like to describe their sound as indie rock for dads, in the best possible way. A lot of their songs, like this one (‘the present moment is so easy to enjoyyyyyyy’) describe some amazing life lessons. My favourites are A Good Life Is the Best Revenge, The Perfect Life Does Not Exist, and It’s Nice to Be Alive.
I initially bought this book because I’m a massive David Bowie fan, but what this book does is actually teach you about how to meditate, slow down and learn about yourself, all while using Bowie’s rich and interesting life as a reference point. A truly phenomenal book that you should read if you ever get the chance.
This is an amazing podcast in general, but I particularly enjoyed the episode called The Healing Power of Nature. Sbeg uses a variety of statistics and sources to prove just how beneficial being outside is for your health, both physical and mental. I’ll give you a little taste of the episode to convince you to listen; apparently only two hours of outside time PER WEEK is enough to better your mental health. Need I say more?
Jacinta Rossetto is a writer, artist and editor who is studying a BFA in Creative Writing minoring in Journalism at QUT. Her passion project is a little something called Dawn Street Zine, a zine that she writes, designs, produces and scouts content for. Her favourite genres to write in are gothic fiction, literary fiction and romance fiction. Jacinta has sold her works at Marketto, a small-business market run by Forge Forward, as well as taken part in the Brisbane Writer’s Festival Zine Market. Jacinta identifies as queer, has two German shepherds and eighteen tattoos.