I’ve been wanting to explore the facets of what it means to live slowly for some time. But, it’s also something I’ve shied away from. If you’ve been reading W&S for some time, you’ll remember some of my more ‘topical’ related posts. All entitled, Let’s Talk About… (where I covered topics like mental health, motivation, goals, and inspiration, among others). Eventually, I really shunned these type of posts, finding them too saccharine and whiney (as they are from my voice). Also, who on Earth would care about advice from me? I barely have my shit together — in no way able to dispense “sound advice” to anyone.
But, as this blog has grown (and I have, too), I realized that talking about concepts is vital to share the Slow or Simple Living experience. What does it even mean? How do we accomplish the elusive ‘slow living?’ Will there be that Eureka-Light-Bulb moment of “I’ve made it!”? Or will it involve creeping questions, moments of reflection, and adoption of practices to shape your life, consistently for years?
A myriad of questions. And that is why it dawned on me, that in order to really live slow, that we need to tackle the problems that life throws at us. More specifically — if you’re reading this, then we will tackle them together.
Marrying a Life Lived Slow with Unresolved Conflict
This week, my quest to mindfulness and slow living has been thrown a curveball. Namely, through the dreaded lingering beast of unresolved conflict.
I’ve been relatively lucky in my long, and yet short, life, where for the most part, I’ve been able to deal with conflicts head-on. In our marriage, Nick and I tend to tackle any budding problems with open communication and not taking each other for granted. My friends and I, many whom I’ve known for years, have all matured, and with that maturity, we connect in mostly positive ways. (Although there were some best-friend-necklace giving backsies in the 4th grade. Savage.)
But, over the past couple of weeks, things have erupted with a family member, and we (well, she) decided to leave things unresolved. Potentially for the long-term. Needless to say, my conflict-adverse, peacekeeping brain has been on the fritz. I can’t sleep; I can’t get it out of my head. And I can’t seem to shake the feeling that things are ‘not good.’
And while my feelings of isolation and anxiety are not good, they are certainly not abnormal. Whether it be a fraught relationship with your parents, a fight with siblings, an issue that you and a colleague cannot agree on, the weight of unresolved conflict hangs heavy on many of us. Overwhelming expert opinion says this will likely affect mental health and can lead to insomnia, anxiety, or even physical symptoms.
In terms of slow living — which, at its core, is about simplifying your life and cutting out excess — unresolved conflict can feel like a particularly cruel burden. How can you live your most peaceful, contented, slow life if there is a nagging feeling of “not complete” hanging over you?
While there is no magical cure for unresolved conflict — and each situation will be completely different for each person, as is the nature of human communication — there are some ways to ease the burden. And, hopefully, find your slow pace again.
If you are able, try to resolve the conflict.
This may seem a very obvious answer, but as long as either party has not asked not to be contacted, it makes sense to try and resolve that conflict rather than live with it. When approaching the situation, important behaviors to keep in mind include using I statements (“I feel hurt by the situation,” rather than “You hurt me”); avoiding using ‘always’ and ‘never’ to explain behaviors; not interrupting each other when explaining your point of view. This article here provides 7 useful tools for improving your communication in conflict.
The important thing, here, is to remember one thing hat has taken me my entire life to learn, and frankly, I am still coming to terms with it: in conflict, and in life, the only thing you are able to change is your response to the situation. Let that one sink in for a bit before attempting to confront any conflict. It helps, tremendously.
Engage in Mindfulness, Breathing, and Physical Exercises
Assuming that the conflict has to remain unresolved at least for the time, the next few ideas are simply how to live with it. Slow, simple living focuses so much around mindfulness. And unresolved conflict can wreak havoc on any attempt to feel at peace. This is where exercises can be extremely helpful, whether for the mind, the breath, or the body (ideally all three).
- Meditation really is
- Daily yoga not only helps with stretching the body, but it helps to quiet the mind, increase breathing capacity, and can really work out the body. I have been following Home: A 30 Day Yoga Journey by Yoga with Adriene (free on YouTube!) and have found it immensely wonderful. It’s the perfect place to start
And Finally, Time Heals (Most) Wounds
And finally, less a proactive step, more a reminder for those also in my boat. Time away from the person or the conflict at hand really does help the brain, and heart, let things go. So while the conflict is still there, just know that, with time, your mind will return to its central core, and the pain will lessen. With time also comes more chances for reflection, to gather thoughts for a constructive approach to tackle the conflict head-on.
So, in summary: slow living and unresolved conflict can coexist. With some proactive approaches — such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and time — you can clear your mental space enough to move forward. And really, all we can do is that: move forward.
Please note: I am in NO WAYS a psychologist or mental health expert. If you are feeling signs of depression or serious anxiety, please please get in touch with a mental health professional. In the meantime, I am always here for a listening ear, if you need it.