Slow Down to Do More: “Why Self Talk and Asking Questions Helps You To Accomplish More” with Ashley Graber and Samantha Eaton
Self Talk: Like I mentioned earlier, rushing often comes from some standard we have set for ourselves that we are trying to live up to. By taking a pause, noticing and addressing that root cause, we’re able to get out of that rushed-trance and slow down. Remind yourself working faster and harder is not always better or as efficient in the end. If you’re feeling like there’s not enough time in the day, remind yourself you’re doing the best you can with the time and resources available to you, and everything will get done.
Ask Questions: When that voice in the back of your head fueled by society pressures speaks up and demands you work harder and faster when you’re trying to slow down, take a pause, get curious, and question it. What will truly happen if I take 20 minutes to get fresh air and go for a walk? What if I don’t get this finished this second? What is actually true? Be mindful of Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Maybe you do need to work for 12 hours to get everything done or maybe you’re subconsciously stretching your work to fill longer hours because society associates praise with busyness.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Nutrition and Eating Psychology Coach Samantha Eaton. As a result of her unique Mind-Body-Food Method, she helps busy professionals reprogram their minds, reset their bodies and revamp their eating habits to look and feel their best without diets, deprivation or food rules. Her approach guides clients through sustainable transformation in a holistic way that is flexible, fun, and empowering. She is certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and has been featured on Dr. Axe, Fox, NBC, CBS, and most recently Bustle.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
My struggles with food and my body started in high school. I started comparing my body to other girls at school, in magazines, on TV, and drew the conclusion that if I get to a certain size or weigh a certain amount (basically, get really skinny), then I’ll have this whole new, happy, confident, adventurous, successful, healthy, super social life. And at the time I was 5’4, 115lbs which by certain standards is considered on the lower end of “average” but I STILL thought I was fat and needed to lose weight.
So being the type A person I am, I put rules in place for myself to achieve this goal. I only ate a certain amount of calories a day, I avoided certain foods or types of foods (no fat, no junk food), I took lots of diet pills, exercised 2 hours a day, and if I could get away with skipping meals, that was a bonus!
Eventually I did reach my ideal weight, but even at my thinnest, nothing happened. Nothing changed like I thought it would. I wasn’t living this amazing new happy, confident life filled with all kinds of new fun activities. It was more of the opposite! I had to fight like hell to get there, then I had to fight like hell to maintain it. Sure I fit into a size 0, but I was absolutely miserable…and I’m pretty sure I made everyone else around me miserable too.
Not only that, but I was STILL self conscious about my body, I STILL had low self esteem/confidence, and it all made me feel hopeless, frustrated, deprived, and overwhelmed.
Around that same time that my dad got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That turned my whole world upside down. The doctors told us it was an incurable, degenerative disease, and we were all devastated. My mom and I set out to find ways to slow the progression as much as possible, and discovered studies which have shown a direct correlation between common food ingredients and chronic diseases like Parkinson’s. We had my dad make some tweaks to his diet and lifestyle, and his symptoms improved! That was my big WAKE UP moment where everything shifted and changed for me. Until then I just saw food as “this will make me fat vs. this won’t” but now I started seeing food has so much more power in our lives than that. I realized this was my passion, and decided to go back to school to turn it into a career. I ended up transforming my eating habits, my body image, and ultimately my life, and I’m so passionate about helping others do the same.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
I’m honestly surprised those percentages aren’t higher! It’s rare I ask someone how they are doing and they don’t responding telling me how busy they are and how they are tired from rushing around trying to get everything done. I think the culture we’ve grown up in has taught us this fast-paced lifestyle from an early age. Men experience social pressure from media, ads, and peers of what it means to be “masculine” and how to gain respect from others. Things like being strong physically and emotionally, being the breadwinner for their family, and being successful in their career are all included. Women experience social pressure in different ways, like being a supermom — seamlessly managing a home and raising happy, healthy kids and being physically attractive. From those messages and pressures, both men and women look for ways to work toward all of those areas, oftentimes setting unrealistic expectations, and feel rushed.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced falling victim to the ‘faster = better’ modality, and subsequently having my business and health suffer. I constantly compared myself to others in similar positions, and would shame, blame, and criticize myself if I didn’t feel like I measured up. I put this pressure on myself to do better, do more, and succeed even more than others around me. As a result, I worked extremely long hours, I could never turn my brain off which translated into barely sleeping, and I stopping doing things that made me feel good and healthy like going to the gym and cooking just so I could spend more time working.
Eventually I started noticing I wasn’t able to focus and concentrate as well, or be as creative. I wasn’t showing up as my best self for my clients. And I got such bad adrenal fatigue I would nearly fall asleep at my desk multiple times throughout the day. That’s when I knew something had to change. I had to start setting boundaries and re-evaluating my values and priorities. My business could not be successful if I wasn’t happy or healthy.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
When we prioritize our self care, everything changes. Self care is identifying your needs and doing things regularly to fulfill them, to keep your battery charged, to help you cruise through the day physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’re giving your body ingredients so it can help you look, feel, and perform like your best.
When we slow down, we’re able to tend to these needs and give our body the right ‘ingredients’ so it can help us perform even better in all areas of our life, and look and feel our best. Eating nutritious food, moving your body in a way you enjoy, stress management, getting ample sleep and rest, and staying hydrated, those are all examples of self care practices and without them, our health and business will suffer.
Eating fast while multitasking is what a lot of people do to save time, but that actually increases likelihood for a slowed metabolism, poor sleep, high blood pressure, weak immune system, cholesterol plaque buildup, weight gain/trouble losing it, and more, for example.
Plus if you’re feeling unhappy and uncomfortable with your body by not giving it what it wants and needs to stay healthy, it’s likely to hold you back from doing things to grow your business like TV appearances, big speaking opportunities, and sharing vulnerable details. Business can’t exist or thrive without those things.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Time Blocking: Jumping from one unfinished task to another exhausting, inefficient, and can take a serious psychological toll over time. Your chances of accomplishing more at a better quality increase when you focus on getting one thing done at a time. This is a tool that helps you take your to-do list to the next level — the level that helps you actually get it all done, and stress less in the process. Start by writing down everything you must do that week, the high priority things. In another column, write down things you want to do, the secondary priority things. In another column, write down things that would be nice to do if you have time, you know, the tertiary priority things. Next to each item, write how much time it takes you to do, and how many days you are looking to schedule it in for — realistically. For example: Exercise (1 hour, 4 days). Take your list, starting with top priority items, and infuse it into the sheet on the next page. Block off chunks of time each top priority item will take up, realistically. Then move to the next priority items, and so on. It’s a visual way to see gaps in your schedule, and mentally it helps you stay focused on the 1 task at hand rather than something you aren’t doing until later in the week.
- Deep Breathing: When we rush and get stressed, our heart rate increases and we take more shallow breaths. This tends to make things worse and harder on our mind and body. When I find myself getting worked up about something because I’m rushing, I make myself take a mini-timeout and do some deep breathing. You don’t have to follow any special breathing technique, just focus on taking long, slow breaths. I try to make my exhales longer than my inhales because that stimulates our parasympathetic/rest nervous system. Take 5–10, and get back at it. You can also do a quick meditation. A UCLA study found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains (actual tissue and mental skills) than those who didn’t. The brain changes in response to our experiences. When we ‘pattern interrupt’ our rushed state by taking a pause, doing some breathing or meditating, it creates a space between our automatic behavior and action that allows us to be more flexible in our responses. This helps conserve mental energy, minimize errors, and maintain focus.
- Self Talk: Like I mentioned earlier, rushing often comes from some standard we have set for ourselves that we are trying to live up to. By taking a pause, noticing and addressing that root cause, we’re able to get out of that rushed-trance and slow down. Remind yourself working faster and harder is not always better or as efficient in the end. If you’re feeling like there’s not enough time in the day, remind yourself you’re doing the best you can with the time and resources available to you, and everything will get done.
- Ask Questions: When that voice in the back of your head fueled by society pressures speaks up and demands you work harder and faster when you’re trying to slow down, take a pause, get curious, and question it. What will truly happen if I take 20 minutes to get fresh air and go for a walk? What if I don’t get this finished this second? What is actually true? Be mindful of Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Maybe you do need to work for 12 hours to get everything done or maybe you’re subconsciously stretching your work to fill longer hours because society associates praise with busyness.
- Set Alarms: Alarms can be a get tool to help us go from being stressed and rushed to being present. This is especially helpful if you tend to get ‘in the zone’ and sucked into your work, only to look up and realize it’s been 6 hours and you haven’t eaten or gone to the bathroom! Experiment setting an alarm to go off every hour. Do a quick 10 second scan and check in with yourself to see what’s going on, if your body needs anything, and remind yourself to slow down. This also works well for lunch. Set an alarm when you typically get hungry or when you want to eat, and set it again for maybe 10 or 15 minutes later. Challenge yourself to take a mental break to recharge and refresh, focus on your food, eat slowly, and chew well.
- Wake Up 5–15 Minute Earlier: How you start your day can set the pace for your day. Have you ever opened your eyes in the morning and immediately pulled out your phone? Or as soon as you wake up do you immediately start going through your to-do list for the day? Take 5 to 15 minutes right when you wake up to just be. Ease into your day without such a sense of urgency. By waking up earlier, you’re not taking away from time you would normally spend working or getting chores done, so it’s easier to relax, it’s “free” minutes! You can do anything during this time, just make sure it’s slow and relaxed. Maybe read a for-fun book, sit with your thoughts, play with your dog, or make a really great breakfast.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
I define mindfulness as being fully present in a non-judgmental, observational way, doing things with intention and attention. For example, when it comes to eating, what you eat is of course important, but so is HOW you eat it — almost just as much. It starts when you feel that urge to eat come on to check in with yourself to see if you’re actually physically hungry, or if it might be coming from an emotionally driven place. My stomach tends to tell me I’m hungry when really I’m just procrastinating or bored. If you do decide to eat, tune in and be fully present.
When eating, take small bites, chew your food really well, eat it slowly, minimize distractions and sit at a table when possible, and fully enjoy it. This not only helps with digestion, but it also helps prevent overeating, because when our body feels satisfied it will signal fullness sooner. If you’re mentally checking out because you’re not tuning in or feeling guilty the whole time, it’ll take more food to signal that satisfaction.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Mindfulness is about enhancing focus and awareness all aspects of life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying tuned in to whatever you’re doing, and even how you’re feeling.
Shutting off email alerts is one of the best mindful techniques I’ve ever done! I would get alerts constantly throughout the day, and every time I heard that distinct alert sound, it would mentally pull me away from whatever it is I was doing. I would have to stop and see what it was, and it would drive me crazy if I didn’t respond quickly or had a lot of unread messages in my inbox. Completing small, quick tasks releases dopamine, a pleasurable hormone, in our brains. This release makes us feel addicted to email and compromises our concentration and effectiveness in other areas. By shutting off the alerts, I get to control when I look at my messages and have found it is way less of a distraction.
Adult coloring books are a great way to practice mindfulness, I love doing it at the end of a long day or even for a little break in the afternoon. It brings out attention away from ourselves and onto the present-moment event while also relaxing the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, the brain relaxes.
Another one I love is the exercise is called “five senses.” It’s a really effective way to snap yourself into the moment and be present. Do the following 5 things in this order:
- Notice five things that you can see. (Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.)
- Notice four things that you can feel. (Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
- Notice three things you can hear. (Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.)
- Notice two things you can smell. (Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast food restaurant across the street.)
- Notice one thing you can taste.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
When I had a corporate job, I remember walking in the office and getting set up in my cube with a plan for what I wanted to get done that day. Before I knew it the day was over and I was on my way home, having only accomplished a few of my priorities. Research shows that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing. In other words, many of us operate on autopilot. Most people can barely remember their drive from point A to point B but all of a sudden they’re there.
Mindfulness is kind of an antidote to multitasking. Mindful working means applying focus and awareness in an observational way, to everything you do from the moment you enter the office. Focus on the task at hand and recognize and release (key!) internal and external distractions as they come up. It will help increase effectiveness, decrease mistakes, and boost creativity.
This can even apply in meeting settings. Go into the meeting or take a minute or so at the beginning to set an agenda. Go through each item individually, and if more topics start coming up, add them to talk about at the end or in a separate meeting to keep things focused and moving smoothly and efficiently.
When you’re ready to head home after your workday, spend the first 5 or 10 minutes of your drive in silence. Keep the radio off, don’t look at your phone, and just be. Notice and release any thoughts that come up, focus on your breath, let the stresses of the day fade away so you can return home and be fully present with your family.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
Mindful exercise apps on your phone are helpful. There are lots of them out there designed to guide and help you stay present and effective throughout your day.
The Slow Down Diet is a great book to learn the science and biology behind the importance of practicing mindful eating, and its impact on our overall health.
Gratitude Toolkit from Calm is loaded with effective tools and prompts to shift your focus to what you’re grateful for. Gratitude allows us to notice the many blessings we have while mindfulness helps us react to our misfortunes with non-judgmental observation. Together these two practices nurture the happier self within us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Relax into uncertainty” I believe everything happens for a reason, and there is so much that is just out of our control, despite how hard we try to control it. Nothing is guaranteed in life. When we focus on mindfully relaxing into the unknown, when we go into it with more trust and faith, it naturally helps reduce our stress, anxiety, worry, and fear. I used to spend all of my time trying to control everything, my husband even nicknamed me “Remote” (get it, remote control?). But I slowly started to realize all of my attempts at control were driving me crazy and making me chronically stressed and anxious. I wasn’t feeling like my happy, optimistic self anymore. I came across this quote around that time and it really spoke to me. I have it hanging over my computer and it serves as a great reminder!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to put an end to the pressures put on women by the diet industry. Diet culture sells this fantasy, an ideal life outcome promise to especially young women that sets us down this very dangerous road, and we’re not really presented with any other options as ways to get there aside from food restriction/dieting.
We’re told that we should look a certain way, have this culturally ideal body (aka tall, thin… what a very small percentage of women naturally look like), and if we work hard enough and want it bad enough, we can get there. Once we have that ideal body, then we’ll be happier, more successful, more confident, and life will overall be BETTER. And if we don’t look like that, then there’s something wrong with us, we’re not good enough, and our body needs to be fixed and changed.
Diet culture tells us this, so that when we fail, we know it’s our own fault, so we keep reinvesting in that dream. Instead of blaming whatever plan or approach we were trying to follow, we internalize it. We shift the blame to ourselves. Our inner mean girl shame voice chimes in and says things like we didn’t want it bad enough, we didn’t try hard enough, we didn’t have enough willpower.
The diet industry is so successful with this business model, that it’s a $70 billion industry. But if diets truly worked and did what the claims say they should do — claims vs. actual long term studies and research, because there aren’t any of those, we would need just one. But diets don’t work. So we keep chasing them. We keep going back over and over, buying more and more products, plans, and strategies hoping the next one will work for us. We end up feeling terrible (emotionally + physically) and they end up rich off our insecurities and never ending quest for a more culturally ideal body.
But the truth is: long-term studies continue to show that restriction-based diets do not work when it comes to sustainable weight loss for the vast majority of people. Research shows 95% of people who lose weight by food restriction/dieting will regain it in 1–5 years, so only 5% of people are able to keep the weight lost off. Not only are very few people able to actually maintain the weight loss, at least 1/3 to 2/3 of people on diets will regain MORE weight than they lost within 4–5 years.
Also, a recent study compared women who chronically food restrict to those that don’t and found the more a person dieted, the higher their BMI, and those who regularly tried to lose weight through restriction were 3x more likely to experience obesity, stress, anxiety, depression, preoccupation with food, and poor body image. So at best dieting is really just looking like a band aid solution to temporary weight loss and many other side effects.
About the Author:
After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.
Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12. Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.
Slow Down to Do More: “Why Self Talk and Asking Questions Helps You To Accomplish More” with… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.