Tame Your Mood Newsletter
Feature Article: Slowing Down
Depression Essays Book
Audio Recordings
About Marty

Archive of Past

Join Our Mailing List 

Click icon for 

Facebook page:
Find us on Facebook

Marty L. Cooper, MFT

(415) 937-1620


4831 Geary Blvd.

San Francisco, CA 94118





December 2013             Vol. 5, Issue 10  

Happy Holidays to you all, whichever ones you might be celebrating.  More than what tradition you're involved with at this time of the year, I hope you find a depth and meaning in whatever it is, from Christian, to Pagan, to atheist.  If we are celebrating that which is not personally meaningful, then we are going to feel some level of emptiness, which is a short step to feeling some level of depressed.  I wish you meaning during this holiday time.

And, as a practical response to the buzz of this month, the essay here is a very practical exercise in slowing down.  Not as a general idea, but literally, move slower by half.  When rushing, slow those big muscle groups, and then see what happens.  See below for more detail on this.  
Best wishes, and enjoy,


Slowing Down


The Idea:

So this article is going to be a very simple and direct reminder of something we all, across the board, forget to do. Which is to slow down.


Now, that's often put out as a general injunction, as a "way of living," or as a way of encouraging mindfulness and reflectivity and calm. Fair enough.


But I want say "slow down" as a literal injunction: don't move your body as fast. Consciously retard movement. Not internally, not speech, but with your big muscle groups and gross motor actions. I.e., physically, slow down.


What you'll notice is that when anxiety or depression arises, we tend towards a speeding up, but for different reasons. With anxiety, we are having a sense of danger, registering a sense of something that is threatening, but don't immediately know what to do about it. So the way we are designed, our nervous system revs up to deal with the perceived threat, and we find our thinking becomes agitated or hyper-focused, our body is more jittery, and our gross movements tend to be more jagged, less fluid, more "twitchy" or speedy.


With depression, we speed up for a different reason. Feeling an impending collapse, or a actual sense of collapsing, then (assuming we are not already full into that "pulling of the plug") we will speed up, because that feels like a defense against the threat of being dis-abled. We start feeling that we're on a shale slope above a cliff: if we don't speed up and scramble away from the edge, we'll fall off and be harmed (sink into a depression).   So we speed up spastically, become busier, more active, but in a rather manic, agitated, unsustainable way. Eventually, in this mode, we'll burn out that "caffeinated" energy and fall off the cliff.


With both anxiety and depression, we have to learn pacing, for the reason above: manic, agitated energy is unsustainable, because it burns through reserves faster then they are replenished. Coffee energy always runs out. Whereas paced (whether that pace is rapid or snail-like) self-replenishes, or at least burns out in a measured, controlled way. It's not reactive or fear-driven.


We can, actually, slow down at all our levels, all our systems-at the levels of thought, emotion, body sensations, relationship interactions, speech, and movement. But the last, movement, is the easiest to act on and influence. (You will know, for instance, how hard it is to slow down thoughts directly if you've ever been on a meditation retreat...) And since all of our systems are interrelated, and affect each other, then shifting the state of one is going to (sometimes in big, sometimes small and hard-to-notice ways) shift the others.


The (very simple) exercise: 

So, when you notice that you are revving up, try mindfully slowing down. If you notice you're Image courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.netreaching for your stapler in a jerky, over-energized way, double the time it takes to reach out and pick it up. Notice what happens (again, mindfully, reflectively) when you literally, physically slow down. Does your anxiety go up or down? Does the sense of threat from depression diminish or increase? Do you feel emotions more acutely or not? Does something else happen in another part of your body? Do your other senses dim or brighten?


Or, if you are walking down the street and notice yourself rushing, without actually needing to hit a deadline, then slow your pace by half, and again, see what happens, how your experience changes. What actually happens?


Then you can experiment with changing the pacing. If you reach for the stapler at quarter time, or walk at three quarters the pace, what then happens? (You can also try, for contrast, what it's like to move at double time.) The body actually likes certain pacings, and not others, is soothed by some, is agitated and scared by others. See if you can find, when agitated and moving fast, what your body likes in the moment. It doesn't mean that you get stuck at that speed. It means you are listening more closely to this basic level of self (and of the nervous system), being curious, responding with actual shifts (rather than moving reactively, only), and experimenting.



This may seem like a kind of kindergarten exercise-a lot of you have been working with anxiety and depression a long time, and with great sophistication-but simplicity can have great effect. If you watch very accomplished martial arts practioners (for instance), what you will see is stunningly simple actions that have what seem like disproportionate effect and power. Simplicity, when mindful and embodied, is powerful.


Plus, there is also a level where, when the body is respected in terms of its pacing, is allowed to move as it wants, rather then as our heads think it should move, it likes that. In an analogous way, the body is like a child who wants to be recognized and respected for where it is at, and gets agitated when its not. If you can know, and match, a child's pacing, it will generally feel soothed, and then ironically, allow itself to be "moved around." In other words, accepting our body's desire for a certain pace does not trap us there, but actually opens up (through invoking a greater sense of soothing/safety) possibility for more action/speed/productivity, but from a base of stability and sustainable energy.


So give it a shot, as an experiment: move slow and see what happens.



My Book is Available:

Anxiety and Depression:  42 Essays on Overcoming the Wild Moods

My book,

Anxiety and Depression:  42 Essays on Overcoming the Wild Moods, is for sale as a paperback or Kindle.


It is a collection of short essays, focusing on the challenge of managing, and ultimately, uprooting depression and anxiety.  You can find a few sample articles here, and

can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Archive of Past Newsletters
   All past issues of Tame Your Mood can be found here.
Audio Recordings
   Various audio recordings can be found here.
About Marty

I am a San Francisco psychotherapist who helps individuals struggling with anxiety and depression to not only manage theseMarty L. Cooper, MFT "wild moods," but eventually learn how to overcome them.  I work comprehensively with mental, emotional, bodily, and spiritual dimensions and anxiety and depression, all of which are necessary to overcome the chronic quality of anxiety and depression.

If you are interested in exploring working together in psychotherapy, please contact me at:


(415) 937-1620,