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Can Women Slow Down and Achieve More?

Can women slow down and achieve more? What a concept. Admittedly, this question didn't resonate with me when I initially heard it. How on earth are women supposed to slow down—much less slow down—in order to do more?

Let's begin with the fundamental idea that success leads to happiness. We've been taught as women that we must be everything: A wife who gets dinner on the table every night, a mother who organizes the best birthday parties, a sister, a friend, or a daughter who feels she must always show up with a smile and a listening ear. A female business executive that is living up to the “grind mindset”, sacrificing rest and personal needs, in the pursuit of her dreams. It is expected of us to do and be it all, all at once, and at record speed.

Women are socialized to feel that we need to be gaining, completing, and achieving something every single minute of every single day, in order to be considered worthy and useful. This fundamental idea and manner of thinking is not only impractical, but also the cause of the epidemic of weariness, burnout, and declining mental health that affects women today.

Women often believe that slowing down is the antithesis of our success.

In a culture that largely discredits the need to slow down, women end up accepting this way of operating as a badge of honor. We feel as though we must prove to the world and to ourselves, that we are worthy, we are valuable, we are capable, and we are deserving. This approach is unsustainable to the point that it greatly compromises our well-being, notably our mental health.

According to the American Psychological Association's 2023 Stress Survey, women reported higher levels of stress compared to men, and expressed a greater need for support. Women were more likely than men to identify relationships and family duties as major sources of stress in their lives, and they also reported feeling "consumed" by their financial burdens. The fact that women were more likely than men to "strongly agree" that no one can relate to how stressed they are, and that they are less likely to overcome stress, is even more worrisome. Rosalind S. Dorlen, PsyD, ABPP, a psychologist who has spent decades researching women's stress, reports that women are more prone to internalize stress, which increases the risk of mental and physical problems.

Having laid the groundwork, let's return to the initial inquiry and topic of this piece: Can women slow down and still achieve more? Let’s dive in.

The answer, in my experience, and from what I’ve observed from other extremely successful women, is yes, we absolutely can, if we shift our core beliefs around happiness and what it means to be successful. Women can in fact slow down, set aside

time for rest and reflection, while savoring each step along the way. This allows us to be more successful, productive, and accomplish more. What does this look like in practice? While responses may vary, there are certain essential guidelines that might help us find the healthy balance in our lives that permits us to take care of ourselves and still pursue our goals.

Women can in fact slow down, set aside time for rest and reflection, while savoring each step along the way.

Adequate Sleep: According to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer than two-thirds of women get enough sleep each night. Women are also more likely to have sleep problems, compared to men. This poses risks to our emotional, physical, and mental well-being, making it more difficult to preform at optimum levels, and achieve all that we set out to. The most important way to slow down, and achieve more, is to get enough sleep. This may seem counterintuitive, especially considering everything that must get done, but making sleep a priority will help you show up in a way that will allow you to accomplish more. Getting enough sleep elevates mood, gives us more energy, sharpens focus and memory, and can raise productivity all around.

woman sleeping
Have you ever tried to slow down? What was the outcome?

Planning and Aligning: When was the last time you prioritized time just to think?

Taking a break from your regular workspace and giving yourself the time, space, and freedom to reflect is a great method to gain clarity on your personal goals and what you want to accomplish. This "thinking time" fosters creativity by removing duties and outside distractions. It also gives us the ability to think creatively beyond the confines of our conventional way of thinking. I strongly encourage you to give it a try and observe what kinds of ideas come to mind. Who knows, you may be surprised at what comes to you.

Setting aside time in the morning to set goals and organize the day, as well as carving out time during the day to reflect and reassess, has enormous benefits for our daily routines. If we are more equipped to handle events that arise within our work and relationships, we can be more intentional and strategic in our preparation and responses. Setting aside time to plan, coordinate, react, and contemplate not only puts us in a position to assess and re-align our priorities, but also enables us to concentrate on the goals we genuinely want and need to accomplish.

Prioritization: With everything we must accomplish, it is critical that we understand what needs to be prioritized in a given day, week, month, or even year. Taking on too many tasks at once, creates needless stress, which keeps us from concentrating on delivering high-caliber outcomes. This has the potential to diminish our credibility when careless mistakes are made, or small details are overlooked. Establishing clear priorities can increase productivity by ensuring each task is approached with quality, focus, and attention. By slowing down, we can accomplish more when we prioritize quality above speed.

Community, Networking, and Support: Traditionally, women tend to be very competitive with one another in in the workplace, however, recent research from the Harvard Business Review shows that women who possess a close-knit network of female acquaintances are more likely to secure executive roles that come with increased authority and compensation. Okay – can we just digest that for a minute? Through encouragement and support and harnessing the power of community and collaboration, we can do more, succeed more, and—not to mention—enjoy ourselves more along the way.

This is a very different approach from how women typically operate. Often, we face difficult situations on our own and view the need to ask for assistance as a sign of weakness. By creating a network of support, we can save an immense amount of time and effort navigating challenges and come up with solutions that yield impactful and fruitful outcomes.

Gratitude and Joy: When we are enjoying ourselves and practicing gratitude, we are encouraged to slow down, to appreciate and find joy in what we are doing. It's important to take moments during the day to practice appreciation, whether it's for small things that we occasionally take for granted or seeking meaning in our work and in our relationships.  We can achieve greater satisfaction, and a higher purpose when we practice gratitude. Lisa Firestone, PhD, Clinical Psychologist explains that cultivating gratitude has numerous advantages that allow us to slow down while still accomplishing more. These advantages include better sleep, more self-esteem, increased attentiveness and determination, and greater progress toward personal goals.

Are you convinced?

Like anything else, slowing down requires consistent practice and discipline. Consider it as a muscle that hasn't been worked in a long time—or perhaps never. At first, it may feel strange, unsettling, and counterintuitive, all of which are normal when trying a new approach. I can assure you that over time, your fundamental beliefs will start to shift and change and this method of doing things will become second nature as you start to realize the benefits. You will be happier, healthier, and take more satisfaction in your work when you allow yourself to slow down. Not to mention, you’ll also have more time for yourself, which is something you need and deserve.



Meet the expert:

Allison Varela is a Registered Nurse and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She is a leader in the pharmaceutical industry with a focus and commitment to providing patients with psychiatric disorders, with innovative medical treatments. Allison is deeply passionate about spreading mental health awareness and education within the women’s business community to inspire hope, strength, empowerment.



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