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, in
spite of technology and other modern conveniences, they have less
time, get less sleep, and are more stressed than they were a decade
ago. Can simplicity help to relieve some of this stress?
What Is Simplicity?
Making changes to simplify certain aspects of life can be the
antidote to living in such a complex society. But, simplification is
a very individual matter—what is considered simple and
stress-relieving to one person might be burdensome and stressful to
another. For example, you may eat convenience foods because they
save you time and energy. Your friend, on the other hand, may find
convenience foods expensive and rather "inconvenient" for her
family food budget.
The most important part of the simplification process is
—taking an honest and in-depth look at yourself
and your life and then identifying things that can be changed.
Simple enough? Yes and no. That is, some changes can be relatively
easy to make. You may decide to unclutter your house by throwing
out items that you really do not need and scaling back on your
consumption. On the other hand, you may find that you need a major
overhaul to find a simpler life—a change of career or financial
goals, a geographical relocation, or a change in perception through
What makes the concept of simplicity difficult for some people
is that it implies that you must give up something. But many people
derive invaluable benefits from simplifying their lives—more time,
freedom, self-expression, and a chance to live with more clarity and
meaning. Simplification is a deeply personal endeavor and should be
approached with the following things in mind:
What is most important to you? What would you have the hardest
time living without—your health, spouse, family, friends, time,
creative projects? (This can be a tricky one. For example, you may
say 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 for
Who are you? What talents, skills, activities, and types of
environments bring you the most enjoyment? Are you living
authentically—speaking your truth and living according to your own
values (values that you have examined and owned) or someone
How do you manage time and pace yourself? Is your natural pace
100 miles per hour or a bit slower and more reflective? Examine
your current pace and your energy levels. If you are feeling
exhausted or burned out, you may need to slow down, or at least
change where you are focusing the majority of your energy.
What do you most want to do with your life and are you doing
that right now? How do you wish to direct your talents? Are you
What is your ideal lifestyle and environment? What would your
life look like if you could design it exactly the way you wanted?
You cannot always "have it all," but think about how close you can
get to that vision now, realistically.
Ways to Simplify Your Life
The list of things you can do to simplify your life is probably
endless. Big changes will require a good deal of thought and
planning. But there are many small changes you can make to simplify
your 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 same
- Reduce the clutter in your home and office. Throw out things
that 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 of
- Make a conscious effort to reflect upon and appreciate the
simple things in your life—those things that you may be taking for
Simplifying your life is not always simple, but something as easy
as getting more organized can be a big help. As some of the
complexity decreases from your life, you may find greater clarity
and peace of mind.
Mental Health America
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good
New York, NY: Harpercollins; 1998.
Keeping It Simple: Sorting Out What Really Matters in Your
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 Enjoying
New York, NY: Hyperion; 1998.