I’ve had a busy week / few weeks / month seems to be a staple sentence within a number of my blog posts. It’s isn’t an exaggeration as it’s rare that I get a long period of uninterrupted time to myself, and when I have logged off on a Friday night my brain has often felt more than a little fuzzy. However, being busy doesn’t equate to stress in the way it did when I was teaching – I’m lucky in that a lot of the things that I do and experience during each week vary widely and are usually lots of fun – but over recent months I have been trying to consciously trying to take steps to make life more simple. I have created lots of habits individually which I have blogged about over a period of time, but even just focusing on one of these could make a large amount of difference to your stress levels.
Declutter, Clean and Tidy Up
One of my very first blog posts was about the sheer amount of stuff that I owned. In the space of fifteen years just one car load of possessions that accompanied me to university grew into an entire houseful of things, which proved to be incredibly stressful not only to live with, but to pack up and move from house to house over the years. I decided to declutter and get rid of a large amount of everything I hadn’t used for a year – clothes I hadn’t worn, CD’s and DVD’s that I hadn’t listened to or watched, books I had read and knew I wouldn’t read again, ornaments, photo frames, old notebooks, broken items, stationery… it was an incredibly cathartic experience. I sold through eBay and The Bloke and I did several car boot sales, I gave items in good condition to charity shops, took boxes of books to my local library and recycled as much as I could at the local recycling plant.
Minimise Your Screen Time.
Reducing screen time is quite a difficult thing to do when your job relies on it – my phone tells me every week that I spend an average of about 8 hours a day online which always blows my mind. However, I’ve been trying to minimise this as much as possible, particularly in the morning when I wake up and for a period of time before I go to bed. I have started to treat my social media management in the same way that I would as if I were leaving the house to go to a job, giving myself a cut off point at a particular time after which I stop. I put my phone down completely at least two hours before bedtime – during which The Bloke and I will watch a film or whatever TV series we are streaming – and I certainly don’t check my emails.
Plan Effectively to Avoid Rushing and Slow Down
I know people who are constantly busy – errands, house renovations and decorating, self-imposed plans and targets – they just don’t ever seem to stop and I find it rather exhausting just by watching them. Planning in advance and establishing an effective routine is a great way of making each day more simple both in and around the home, but it takes a little time to put it into practice.
An easy way to start planning is to start time blocking. If you have errands to run, what errands can all be completed in the same time or area? Small, simple things can be organised at the beginning of the month eg. if you know that there are lots of birthdays coming up you can purchase cards and presents in one go and have them written and wrapped in advance. Meal times can be shortened by creating a food plan that uses similar ingredients and meals can be prepared and frozen in advance. Food shopping online can be a much less stressful experience than visiting a supermarket, particularly if you have younger children. Cleaning schedules help to organise what is completed and when.
Go Outside and Exercise
Even if you’re somewhat of a hermit there is nothing more rejuvenating than going outside in the fresh air. Taking a walk, looking at your surroundings and controlled breathing exercises can completely recentre the mind and body, and the beauty of going outside is that it is completely free.
Exercise has probably been my biggest achievement of the last twelve months. I’ve gone through numerous stages of exercising over recent years – mainly running (during which I completed the Birmingham Half Marathon), but it’s something that I failed to continue with. Quite simply, I hated running and the effort required to get up and out of the house proved to be overwhelming and a negative experience, so I lost all motivation to continue. However, a few months ago I discovered a reasonably priced low-impact fitness class at a nearby centre and went along for a trial period, and fell in love with it. I now go at least twice a week, I’m feeling fitter and I’ve made new friends.
Start Decreasing Your Debt and Live More Frugally
Start cutting back on what and how you spend your money and create a budget. By the time I had graduated from university and qualified as a teacher I was living on my own and had tens of thousands of pounds in debt that were spread out across student loans, student overdraft, graduate loan and a credit card. It’s a scary situation to find yourself in, particularly at a young age and when there is nobody else to help. It’s amazing at how many ways money can be made and saved just by making small changes. When I realised that my debts were beginning to spiral out of control I had a meeting with my bank manager and consolidated all of my major debts into one loan which I initially paid off monthly at a minimal amount, which saved me several hundred pounds of interest and fees each month. I learned how to live on almost nothing, shopping frugally, cooking meals from scratch and in bulk, having a second-hand pay-as-you-go phone, putting a no-spend limit on unnecessary luxury items like new clothes, DVD’s and nights out and I didn’t have the Internet or a home landline for a long time. Years later I am now debt free. I may not own a house, but all of the money that I make after tax is mine.
Prioritise Experiences Over Things
As someone who was once surrounded by things I can categorically state that they mean nothing. The happiest of my memories involve people, places and experiences. From lying on a beach in Barcelona, standing at the top of the Empire State Building, walking the Walls of Dubrovnik, the fantastic meals with great friends to exploring the park on a gloriously sunny day with my sister’s dog, watching an incredible film or reading a beautifully crafted book, experiences and memories are the things that I treasure above all else. They don’t have to cost anything – the magic of a beautiful moment is worth far more than any material possession.
Start Saying No More Often
Sometimes it is difficult to say no, particularly if a routine has been established for a long period of time with someone who is considerably more high maintenance. It took me years to realise that my own needs were as important as others, and saying no not only sets clear and healthy boundaries, but it can protect your mental health and boost your self-confidence and personal value. The act of saying no doesn’t have to be a detailed explanation, but be aware that it may take a little time for others to accept it, particularly if you are known for being a people pleaser. You don’t have to accept a date just because you have been asked. You don’t have to go out after work just because your colleagues are. You don’t owe anyone a ‘just one more,’ or ‘just try this.’
Practice Self-Care Regularly
Self-care is enormously important, but can have multiple levels depending on your own personal needs. Self-care isn’t just about lighting a candle, having a hot bubble bath or reading a book, it involves the improvement and well-being of physical and mental health and emotional stability. Even the strongest of people need to take some time for themselves, even if it is just ten minutes a day.
I like to indulge in self-care activities regularly, adopting hygge practises in which I consciously and deliberately create situations in which I can truly relax.
Practice Gratitude Daily
Daily gratitude is an incredibly helpful tool that not only boosts the mindset but has a positive impact on stress levels and serves as a reminder of happy memories. I record my gratitude in the form of a gratitude journal, which I create a designated spread for in my bullet journal at the beginning of each month. The concept of a gratitude journal is simple: acknowledging the things, however small, that you are thankful for that day. It’s important to try and connect with gratitude on an emotional level, so an easy way of starting this is to take 10-15 minutes and write just a single thing down in a ‘line a day’ format.
What about you guys? What do you do to make life that little more simple?
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