Stress: Is Simplicity the Answer?

 Is your life more or less complicated than it was 10 years ago?More and more people are finding that, inspite of technology and other modern conveniences, they have lesstime, get less sleep, and are more stressed than they were a decadeago. Can simplicity help to relieve some of this stress?

What Is Simplicity?

Making changes to simplify certain aspects of life can be theantidote to living in such a complex society. But, simplification isa very individual matter—what is considered simple andstress-relieving to one person might be burdensome and stressful toanother. For example, you may eat convenience foods because theysave you time and energy. Your friend, on the other hand, may findconvenience foods expensive and rather "inconvenient" for herfamily food budget. The most important part of the simplification process is introspection —taking an honest and in-depth look at yourselfand your life and then identifying things that can be changed.Simple enough? Yes and no. That is, some changes can be relativelyeasy to make. You may decide to unclutter your house by throwingout items that you really do not need and scaling back on yourconsumption. On the other hand, you may find that you need a majoroverhaul to find a simpler life—a change of career or financialgoals, a geographical relocation, or a change in perception throughintensive psychotherapy. What makes the concept of simplicity difficult for some peopleis that it implies that you must give up something. But many peoplederive invaluable benefits from simplifying their lives—more time,freedom, self-expression, and a chance to live with more clarity andmeaning. Simplification is a deeply personal endeavor and should beapproached with the following things in mind:
  • Values/priorities. What is most important to you? What would you have the hardesttime living without—your health, spouse, family, friends, time,creative projects? (This can be a tricky one. For example, you maysay that you value money. But, by looking deeper within yourself,you may find that what you really value is freedom, self-reliance,time, friends, or self-esteem, which you think money will buy foryou).
  • Identity. Who are you? What talents, skills, activities, and types ofenvironments bring you the most enjoyment? Are you livingauthentically—speaking your truth and living according to your ownvalues (values that you have examined and owned) or someoneelse's?
  • Time/pace. How do you manage time and pace yourself? Is your natural pace100 miles per hour or a bit slower and more reflective? Examineyour current pace and your energy levels. If you are feelingexhausted or burned out, you may need to slow down, or at leastchange where you are focusing the majority of your energy.
  • Purpose. What do you most want to do with your life and are you doingthat right now? How do you wish to direct your talents? Are youliving purposefully?
  • Vision. What is your ideal lifestyle and environment? What would yourlife look like if you could design it exactly the way you wanted?You cannot always "have it all," but think about how close you canget to that vision now, realistically.


Ways to Simplify Your Life

The list of things you can do to simplify your life is probablyendless. Big changes will require a good deal of thought andplanning. But there are many small changes you can make to simplifyyour life right now, such as:
  • Buy a simple car—one that has less gadgets to fix.
  • Do your shopping all at once, and preferably in the sameplace.
  • Reduce the clutter in your home and office. Throw out thingsthat you do not use.
  • Buy classic clothes that do not go out of style.
  • Donate your clothes that need to be dry cleaned.
  • Shop during off-hours.
  • Get a simple, low-maintenance hairstyle.
  • Downscale to a smaller home or less expensive car.
  • Find a way to turn your hobby into your primary source ofincome.
  • Make a conscious effort to reflect upon and appreciate thesimple things in your life—those things that you may be taking forgranted.
Simplifying your life is not always simple, but something as easyas getting more organized can be a big help. As some of thecomplexity decreases from your life, you may find greater clarityand peace of mind.


Mental Health America

National Institute of Mental Health


Canadian Mental Health Association

Mental Health Canada


Adams C. The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the GoodLife. New York, NY: Harpercollins; 1998.

Aumiller G. Keeping It Simple: Sorting Out What Really Matters in YourLife. Holbrook, MA: Probity Press; 1995.

Orem S, Demarest L. Living Simply: Timeless Thoughts for A Balanced Life. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc; 1994

St. James E. Living the Simple Life: A Guide to Scaling Down and EnjoyingMore. New York, NY: Hyperion; 1998.

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