Sheridan Taylor Logo

Slow Down

Sheridan Taylor
In which our hero reminds you, dear reader, the body and mind are connected by more than the brain stem and that we can use the one to calm the other, interchangeably.

A horse will run itself to death if its rider keeps urging it to run. Seriously, it will. I don’t know of any other animal that will kill itself because a human won’t let it stop running. The songs and myths would have you believe it’s out of loyalty and courage. “Noble steed” and that sort of balderdash. They’re bullshit.

A horse will run itself to death out of fear. Senseless fear. A horse is a prey animal; it really only has one defence when threatened: run like fuck! So, when a human urges the horse to run past the point where it would normally slow down (horses also just like to run. If you could run the way they do, wouldn’t you like running, too?), that human is using the horse’s self-defence system against itself.

It’s like this: the horse is programmed to run when in danger, so it runs. But if a horse runs for any reason, long enough, or under enough stress, its body begins to behave as though it’s in danger, and its brain begins to believe it’s in danger. Once that horse reaches the point of physical exhaustion, if it’s being forced to continue to run, its brain assumes it’s in danger from the added stress on its body. So it keeps running. And then it collapses.

We do the same thing, you know. It’s why I worked so hard to learn to slow down. For years, I couldn’t slow down. I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I couldn’t sit still. I kept in constant motion because my body was always under stress and needed to burn it out somehow. My body couldn’t slow down because I lived in my amygdala. My limbic system was in control of my brain. My self-defence systems were always working.

All my life, I was obsessed with weaponry and fighting. It’s a product of fear. As a child, I played fighting games because it’s a manifestation of the fear and uncertainty I lived in. It’s a way to stay living in my amygdala and keep provoking that comfortable misery of fear I was accustomed to. I kept running even though the danger was long past.

So, I worked on two things: trying to develop flexible thinking and slowing down. I couldn’t ever just be in the moment. I was always thinking about the future or the past. If that sounds like you, you need to slow down. If you’re reading this, you at least have the capacity to make yourself learn mindfulness.

If you struggle with anxiety and/or depression like I did, you need to slow down the racing monkey brain. You need to practice mindfulness in some form. Yoga is a real good option for someone like me. It’s mindfulness in motion. If you struggle, you need to pull your brain out of rumination.

Basically, no matter what form your mental illness takes, you need to learn to slow down. If you can learn to slow your body down, you will learn to slow your brain down. They work together, just like a horse’s. They can kick each other up, or they can slow each other down. The unconscious and subconscious minds will use the body’s sympathetic nervous system against you, like a cruel rider can do to a horse. Use the body’s parasympathetic nervous system to your advantage, to work with it, like a good rider does with a horse. Learn to slow down.