Are you feeling overwhelmed? Stressed? Burnt out? Is there's too much on your “plate” and not enough hours in the day to get it all done? Do you feel trapped in your daily "grind," with no apparent way out?
Well, you're not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of Americans are experiencing moderate to high stress daily. More importantly, 44 percent indicated that their stress levels have actually increased over the past five years.
The obvious problem here, of course, is that stress is a killer. Literally.
Along to the way to killing you, stress can also increase your levels of anger, fatigue, anxiety, and depression which leads to headaches, adrenal fatigue, digestive problems, change in sex drive, and heart attacks, to name a few.
Ironically, most of us know all of this already. That’s great! So, why can’t we stop it?
Although it may not be obvious, the key to managing stress lies in learning how to simplify. No, I’m not suggesting becoming a minimalist or something extreme. Rather, by making a few simple, yet powerful changes in our daily life, we can tame the “wild beast” of daily life and keep our stress levels balanced and in check. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Here are ten effective ways to simplify your busy life:
- Clear the clutter.
Face it. Most of us have too much damn stuff. And, in most cases, we have trouble letting go or getting rid of it once we have it. As a result, we have become clever “pack rats” who organize and find better ways to store and collect more stuff. Over time, this all piles up. Then, the burden is not just physical, but also mental and emotional, as we hold on to all of our stuff.
Here’s a different approach: try getting rid of everything you no longer need, use, or enjoy. If you haven’t picked it up in the last six months or longer, get rid of it.
Sure, it may have been needed or enjoyed in the past, but its time has come. Throw it out. Or better yet, donate it to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or another charity. You will feel better and your mind will feel clearer. No, really!
- Go for a walk.
That’s right. Start moving. Why? Because we sit too much - in our cars, at work, while on our computers. The truth is that too much sitting can kill you. A recent study found that spending 11 hours or more a day sitting increases your chances of dying over the next three years by 40 percent, REGARDLESS of how physically active you are.
No, you don’t need to join a gym, get a trainer, or run a marathon. Keep it simple. Just start walking. Results of a study released last year concluded that even 15 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate exercise a day can increase your life expectancy by three years and reduce your risk of death by heart attack, stroke, or any other cause by 14 percent. Just 15 minutes. What could be simpler?
- Shut down your electronics at night.
Blasphemy, I know. But, if left on while sleeping, the light from your television, computer, and other electronic devices can interrupt your brain’s ability to produce melatonin which is needed to induce sleep naturally. Melatonin also plays a vital role in synchronizing our biological clock, regulating the body’s rhythms, and promoting overall health.
In addition, the electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) from cell and cordless phones, wireless routers, computers, and other devices can drain our energy and impact our health. Dr. Thomas Rau, medical director the Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland, believes that the loads from EMFs can lead to cancer, concentration problems, ADD, tinnitus, migraines, insomnia, arrhythmia, Parkinson’s, and back pain.
Furthermore, studies have found that children are even more susceptible to these effects than adults.
To minimize some of these dangers, Dr. Frank Lipman, director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, recommends shutting down your devices at night and keeping them out of your sleeping area, especially away from your head while you sleep.
- Be present in your daily activities.
The idea here is simple: when you’re eating, focus on your eating and eat. Enjoy your food. Be aware.
When you’re with someone, be present. Give them your full attention and focus.
Most of us have seen...
...families or groups of people sitting at a restaurant or out socially, with each person (including children) busy on their phone or other electronic device and no one talking to each other.
...or someone talking on their phone, while checking out at the grocery store or giving their order at a restaurant, paying little or no attention to the person assisting them.
We may even be one of these people.
We may even be one of these people.
The remedy is simple: Be mindful and truly present in each moment. Let go of the distractions. Be here now.
- Spend time in nature.
Ah, the great outdoors!
Spending more time in nature has numerous psychological and physiological benefits.
Researchers have found that the negative ions from rivers, waterfalls, and the ocean, act as natural antidepressants, boosting energy levels and improving immunity. Other studies have concluded that being outside in nature can heighten a sense of well-being, keep away exhaustion, and overall, make you feel more alive.
Dr. Susanne Preston, a clinical mental health counseling instructor, adds: “Research has shown that spending time in nature has been associated with decreased levels of mental illness, with the strongest links to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, in addition to increased self esteem.”
So, get outside...what are you waiting for?
- Consciously breathe.
The simple act of stopping periodically throughout the day to take 2-3 slow, deep breaths, while consciously keeping your awareness only on your breath can relieve stress, improve concentration, increase energy, heighten intuition, and bring your attention back to the present moment.
When stressed, our breathing pattern changes, becoming shallower and more rapid. If this continues, it can lead to greater stress, anxiety and even, panic attacks.
Here’s an easy, conscious breathing technique that can help you get rid of stress and anxiety in about two minutes.
- Be willing to let things go.
When we hold onto things mentally or emotionally, we complicate and make our life more difficult by adding unnecessary burdens to our mind and emotional heart. This can keep us blocked, unable to make real progress and move forward in our life.
So here’s my advice: Let go. That’s right, let it all go. Surrender. Allow everything. When you do, you’ll likely feel better and experience relief, opening yourself up to all that life is trying to offer you now for your highest good.
- Stop complaining.
When you complain or criticize, you are using the power of your energy, attention and focus on what you don’t like and what you don’t want. This only creates more resistance within you.
Why is this a big deal?
“You think that your resistance stops you from suffering but it actually causes your suffering and limitation. The situation always is as it is – neutral – it’s your resistance that causes you to feel stuck. When there’s no resistance, there’s no stuckness and you are free to change and improve.” - Alex (@unleashreality.com)
In other words, complaining only keeps you stuck in the problem...and it doesn't feel good. So, stop it!
- Limit your daily information flow (email, texts, internet, etc.).
The internet and modern technology has changed our lives in countless ways. We are more connected now than ever before. If we don’t know something, we can easily find the answer in seconds. We can have a video chat with someone on the other side of the Earth with just a few clicks. We can shoot a video, play our entire music collection, or manage our daily life or business literally from the palm of our hand with our iPhone or other smart phone.
As a result, there is an increasing number of things calling for our attention every moment of every day, including email, text messaging, social media, and daily reminders.
How do we best manage it all? Simple. Give it a rest.
Try checking email only once or twice a day. Limit your time on social media to 15-20 minutes daily or every other day. Text only when necessary. Turn off all notifications. Take technology breaks for a full day, half a day, or even a few hours...and go outside, talk to real people face to face, experience real life, not just a digital version of it.
Ideally, technology should serve us. Not the other way around.
- Slow down.
What’s the rush?
Instead of cramming and filling your day with multiple tasks, running around like a crazy person, pick one or two tasks that you really want to do instead and focus on those.
Multitasking is so common that it's considered normal. However, I found that it's better and more satisfying to do one or two things really well for the day, giving them your undivided attention, than many things half-assed and exhausting or stressing yourself out in the process.
"It's in the slowing down that you can have clearer perspective. When you are moving so fast, it's not always easy to integrate, appreciate and let in the fullness of all that is happening around you. When you are moving so fast, it can be hard to really experience the joy of the moment fully...When you slow down, you allow the perfect people, places, situations to fall into place in alignment, so that when you do arrive everything you need is there right on time." - Kute Blackson
Your life is now. Slow down. Simplify. And enjoy it.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around...you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller