|Living in the 21st century is no piece of cake. In today’s fast-paced world, we have to constantly pressurize ourselves to keep up with the rat race that we are all involved in.
From demanding working hours to overnight study sessions, to kids being engaged in almost every extra-curricular activity available to them, we are running in a rat race, and that’s no lie.
We are living a life vastly different from the ones our previous generations used to live when they only worked for a scheduled amount of time and spent the rest of their days engaged in leisurely activities.
Please note: This guest article does not contain healthcare or therapeutic advice. If you are concerned about your health or well-being, speak with a health professional or visit your nearest medical facility in an emergency.
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How to Simplify Your Life and Reduce Stress
If you ask someone, “Do you have time for leisurely or recreational activities?” their answer will be, “No! How can I afford to idle time when I have so much work to do?” It seems work is our life, and life is our work. We have no time to pause and admire the moment, we have no time to “smell the flowers.” And it’s not our fault either; if one slacks, he or she falls behind, leading to frustration and anxiety.
Then the question is, how do we strike the balance between this world that is zooming by, and our leisure? How do we even find time for leisure? Yet, without taking a break, this constant work schedule can lead to stress and anxiety for almost everyone.
Then how do we manage our times? How do we keep up with the race and yet live a much simpler life, one which allows us to de-stress, so that we don’t get overwhelmed and panicked?
The answer is a term going around for a long time. The “simplicity movement.” But what is it? And how does one incorporate it in their daily lives? The answer is simple. By starting small.
Here are a few tips that will help you simplify your life in baby steps, so that you can focus on your work and ambitions while also leading a much less stressed and overwhelmed life.
Leave your toxic relationships behind
This one is of utmost importance. You cannot lead a simpler and healthier life if you have negative or toxic relationships weighing you down, like a rock tied to your feet, preventing you from flying. These toxic relationships can be anywhere, with partners, with friends, with family members even. And I can understand how hard it is to cut people out of your life when they are close to you.
For example, a friend, who has helped you in times of need, but is overall leading to the detriment of your mental well-being. You can’t let that friend go, because you feel indebted to him/her for helping you in a dire situation, but you know that their presence in your life is amplifying your stress levels, putting you in mental conditions where you can’t handle yourself.
As hard as it is, you have to let these people go. Your gratitude towards them will remain forever, but at the same time, your mental health comes first, and if they are causing any harm to your peace, either by being critical, or judgmental, you have to cut them loose. There is no easy way to do it, but trust me, once these superfluous people are out of your life, your life will be much simpler to lead.
Learn how to say NO
This is something I have struggled with myself in the past, and still struggle to do, but the art of saying no when you need to is essential to leading a stress-free life. Often, we overwork ourselves, make commitments that will be tough for us to fulfil, push ourselves harder than we need to because we feel we will fall behind if we don’t.
But taking a break from time to time can do wonders for your work and emotional efficiency. The word “me time” might be overused, but you do need it to handle your constant stress. Learn how to take some time off work when you are in a constant work grind and feel suffocated, say no to a party to spend some quiet time with your best friends, or just simply take the weekend off to pamper yourself.
We have all been there when we have refused to take a break, and that has only led to ultimate breakdowns, eventually forcing us to take breaks longer than necessary. Why go that route? By taking one day off, you are saving five days lying in bed, unable to work because your body and mind are not permitting you anymore.
"Learn how to take some time off work when you are in a constant work grind and feel suffocated, say no to a party to spend some quiet time with your best friends, or just simply take the weekend off to pamper yourself."
Messy home, messy life
This is a proven fact. If your house, or room, or working space is a mess, your mind will also feel like a mess – a jumble of confusing thoughts that can leave you puzzled and emotionally exhausted.
Of course, cleaning your entire house in one day is a stretch, but if you have piles of things waiting to be tackled and de-cluttered, that creates a nagging worry in the back of your mind – an added burden you don’t want.
Again, taking baby steps here is essential. Maybe start with your bookshelf first. Devote a couple of hours to reorganize your bookshelf, dust off the jackets, decorate it up. Then go about your week’s work, and once the week is done, take another day to tackle the pile of dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Then a few hours to reorganize your wardrobe.
You can also go about it differently. You can spend fifteen minutes every morning to make your bed, straighten up things in your nightstand and clean up things that won’t take much time. After the fifteen minutes are over, you can go to your work or other involvements.
This way, you are not overwhelmed by all of it at once, but you accomplish the tasks eventually by doing a little every day.
Related: How Can Disorganization Impact Mental Health?
One thing that adds a huge burden to our minds is debt. Be it your daily EMIs, or your house mortgage, or your student loans, the worry always lingers in your mind. “I have debts. I have to pay them off. But how?” Some debts, unfortunately, can’t be cut back on, but there are a lot of debts you can choose to cut back by living a life that your daily salary allows.
Avoid credit cards, because they are a bigger trap of debts than anything else. My own experience with them has taught me, people with moderate incomes should not use credit cards, for they often buy things off the card on an impulse, but forget that credit cards are debts that come with huge interests.
Of course, if you are a billionaire, you won’t have to worry about this, but for most of us, it is important not to incur any unnecessary debts just because they want to live a fashionable life. Living within your means leads to a simpler, stress- free life for all. You should spend only the amounts your income allows.
Related: Your Mental Health And Money Relationship
This last one is a game-changer. Get into the habit of meditation. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. “I’m too impatient; doesn’t work; hokum.” All valid, but also untrue.
The power of meditation has less to do with spirituality and more to do with psychology. When we meditate, we allow ample oxygen supply to our brains that creates a calm, relaxed state of mind.
This works wonders on stress, negativity, overwhelming thoughts, and anxiety. Too impatient? Set a timer for just 10 minutes of your day, mere 10 minutes when you will sit down and meditate. Meditation doesn’t mean thinking about all the worries that have been plaguing you; it means leaving them behind.
Do breathing exercises while you think of calm, soothing things that usually relaxes your mind. For me, it’s the waves in the sea. For you, it can be sunflowers. Just keep that image in mind while you place your right hand on your beating heart, take a deep breath in through your nose, and let it out slowly through your mouth.
This simple breathing exercise, if done daily, even if for five mere minutes, can bring about a huge change in your life, and you will feel that change as your stress levels lower.
Leading a simpler and stress-free life in today’s world is no easy game, but remember to take it one day at a time, one small step towards relaxation at a time, and you will gradually feel the change happening. These are tried and true methods that I have learnt to reduce stress in my life, and I hope sharing this with you helps you in the long run as well.
About the guest author: Sonia is the author of the blog soniamotwani.com and is an author, mental health advocate and a lifelong dreamer who aims to provide more insights and build a safe space and community to heal and help people.
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