April is Stress Awareness Month, and we cannot think of a better time to reflect on ways we reduce our stress than another edition of Wellness Wednesday. I (Shannon) thought that I would take this time to consider one of the most important ways that stress is alleviated in my life- our minimalist lifestyle.
We’ve discussed the ways in which our lifestyle change four years ago was a positive one for our mental and physical wellness, but I don’t think we have talked enough about the long lasting effects, and ongoing contribution that the lifestyle has on stress reduction and ways in which it helps to keep me mentally well. Let me explain.
I was talking to a friend recently about how things were feeling somewhat stressful at work, and that I was so thankful that at home, my life was not in chaos. Of course my relationship with Gerry is sound, but what I meant was that our lifestyle, our home life, being minimal, helps things feel that other things around me are in order. Think about it. Do you ever feel as though you can not start cooking dinner until your kitchen is clean? Maybe you cannot pack for a trip until your closet or bedroom is tidy? Even before we made our lifestyle change, there was no way I could even get any work done until my desk was clean, at home or at work. I have to have things in order before I can get started doing anything. I am someone who gets really stressed out about making decisions when things are chaotic, so the less I have to rummage through, or sort through in a stressful situation, the better. When I am super stressed, or upset, the last thing I can do is make a choice, even if it is what I want for dinner. Having a minimalist lifestyle just makes things so much easier, more simple. Having only the things that bring me joy, or the things I need, makes life more uncomplicated. I often say that the minimalist lifestyle saved my life years ago, when I was in an unstable place, mentally, and today, it continues to do so, mentally and physically.
Over the past year, I have been on a wellness journey. Of course, Covid sent most people into a tailspin. I could see the stress and anxiety coming towards me like a tornado in the distance. I knew that if I didn’t begin to get my coping skills in order, ASAP, I was going to be in trouble. So, what did we do? We stuck to our values of what was important to us: each other, our experiences, the things that bring us joy, and preparing for what is coming towards us, but hoping for the best.
Then we started walking. Exercise is always great for stress reduction, and we knew we were no different. We blogged about this earlier in quarantine. We walked A LOT. Anytime things got stressful, we walked some more. We called these our sanity walks. It may sound silly, but if things in my life were in chaos, if I had a lot of stuff lying around, clutter, etc., I wouldn’t have felt as though I could leave to do that. I would have felt like I had to get things in order, clean up, organize, sort things out. It’s who I am. Being a minimalist helps me to live my life. I don’t have any barriers to prevent me from living life freely. My stuff doesn’t hold me back.
There are some people in my life (and maybe some who are reading this) who may call my minimalist tendencies, or those behaviors I have described here as obsessive compulsive disorder, or symptoms of the diagnosis, and I won’t disagree, however, I will say that this lifestyle, allows me to function at this time in my life, where I am healthier, physically, and mentally, than I have ever been in my life.
It’s this simple, when I have less stuff, my mind has more calm and more peace. I find myself breathing deeply, I am able to be more mindful, and I am stripped of negative thoughts more often. Who ever thought I would be meditating, if even for a few minutes!? That stress reduction is powerful, and is better than any blood pressure medication on the market (not proven, my opinion only, obviously).
By letting go of things through minimalism, I have never felt as though I have lost anything, rather, I have only ever felt as though I have gained. I have gained a better sense of seeing life through a clearer lens. I want to live and experience so much more. I want to contribute more, be involved more, and focus on the things that my stuff was taking me away from before living this minimalist life.