Lately, I have been experiencing feelings of fear, worry, negativity, and powerlessness. My mind, body and soul feel heavy and stressed.
There is a great deal of change on the horizon and many unknowns. I am a full-time employee in an organization that is navigating difficult waters and the divorced parent of two college-aged sons. My love and I are in the midst of downsizing and negotiating a move to a new home. I am concerned about money, my children’s success and happiness, and my health.
My life recently has felt both extremely exciting and overwhelmingly stressful. I find myself worrying about the future rather than focusing on the blessings of the present.
I play out worst-case scenarios in my mind and spiral into negative thoughts. I am tired. My shoulders are heavy and my head aches. I continue to push myself to exercise, yet I struggle, both mentally and physically. I think about quitting and numbing myself with junk food and alcohol.
Those close to me in the past few days have been reminding me to breathe. It seems clear that I am projecting an image of a stressed-out, uptight self-absorbed person, not the calm, helpful person I want to be!
After talking with those close to me, I recently took some time to sit and reflect. I have become increasingly aware of the need to shift my perspective.
I strongly believe that what we think, we become. I want to attract and project goodness and peace, not franticness and worry. I have many blessings for which I am thankful and much to contribute to my work and loved ones. It is time to refocus, reset and restart.
How Minimalism Helps with Stress
I have found minimalism to be a helpful framework for many areas of life: home, relationships, fitness, and embracing change. Minimalism can help me now. It gives me hope and strength as I broaden my perspective and reframe my thinking.
Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned that you may find helpful the next time you are feeling particularly stressed by life’s challenges.
1. Acknowledge your struggles.
Admit that you are tired, scared and don’t have all the answers. Take the time to rest and reflect. Avoid the temptation to drift into catastrophic thinking. Seek support from your friends, family and coworkers. Get it out, but set a limit on venting and don’t allow yourself to dwell in the negativity. Talking is therapeutic and listening and supporting others amidst your own struggles gives perspective and purpose.
2. Keep it simple.
Clear your mind of the cluttered, negative, self-blaming thoughts. Be kind and smile. These two actions can carry you for miles! Kindness and openness invite the recipient to return the favor. Apologize for your mistakes or any actions you’ve taken in anger or frustration, and thank those who are helpful to you.
3. Focus on the present.
Deal with the priorities that are in front of you. Do the best that you can each day, and start fresh the next day. Even slow progress is progress. Be patient and go slowly. Strive to exude a relaxed presence and you will become more relaxed.
4. Do one thing at a time.
Multitasking scatters our thinking. Whenever possible, focus your full attention on successful completion. This includes conversations with people, composing clear messages, and completing projects. Once a task is completed, move on to the next. Accomplishing a single task is a place to start and a foundation upon which to stack additional accomplishments and gain positive momentum.
5. Find your strength.
It is easy and tempting to slip into the powerless victim mode. Dig deep and focus on your resilience. Think of other difficult situations through which you’ve persevered. Get outside and experience nature. Breathe some fresh, clean air. Exercise and feel the strength of your physical body influence your heart and mind. See that you are a small, thriving piece of a larger, beautiful world.
6. Identify or create a mantra to keep you centered, positive and focused.
I have identified the words of Thich Nhat Hanh as a mantra, “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” I added this to my computer as wallpaper and to my phone as a screensaver so that I have a regular visual reminder.
After applying each of these concepts to my recent weary state, I have renewed optimism and hope, and a calmer countenance. None of my challenges or concerns have disappeared, but my view has expanded and I have been able to open my mind and breathe deeply. I’m ready to move forward.