1. I got rid of a lot of stuff. Yes, I know this is page one out of minimalism for dummies or pretty much any other book on simplifying, but it really is a great foundation from which to wipe away immediate stress and build a life of peace. Getting rid of the excess tangible stuff helped me notice the intangible areas of my life that needed work. Decluttering is also a wonderful way to take the hassle out of choosing what to wear, what to use and eliminate the stress of having too many purposeless items all vying for your attention.
2. I stopped giving away my time. While at first, prioritizing my time seemed incredibly selfish, I realized that by not setting boundaries in my life I was getting burned out quickly and feeling resentful towards those I gave my time to. I stopped doing projects for free and overcommitting to social obligations I didn’t really want to attend and actually permitted myself a day off during the week. The result was amazing. As someone who has a tendency to burn the candle at both ends and give away time and energy in the hopes that the favor will some day be returned, the idea of reclaiming my time and prioritizing myself made me feel both very guilty and liberated simultaneously. While most wise people will tell you that self-care is vital to caring for anyone (or anything) else, hopefully, this is one point you won’t have to learn the hard way like I did.
3. I deleted applications on my phone that caused discontent and stress. It was unbelievable the difference it made in my life after I deleted access to social media applications that trapped me in a cycle of comparison and discontent in my life. Facebook and Snapchat were my big pitfalls, and while it felt a bit like hanging up on a phone call in the middle of a sentence, I realized that I was on the phone with a constant stream of unreliable representations of the people I knew. While I still have my social media accounts, deleting the apps off my phone was the perfect way to break the habit of constantly getting distracted by what other people were doing and get back to being in the moment, focusing on living my own life.
4. I pursued creative endeavors. There are a plethora of articles and talks about the power and importance of creativity, even for those who may not consider themselves naturally inclined to creativity. But I have no desire to convince you of the importance of creativity, you can do that for yourself. Instead, I would simply urge you to make time for creativity.
When I was a child and had an abundance of untethered time, I would spend my days absorbed in my imagination and let my creativity take me wherever it fancied. As a result, I was rarely bored and never short on ideas. Unfortunately, as time and responsibilities began to compound in life, creativity began to become a luxury of youth. For myself, creativity was only allowed to roam free for small amounts of time during a project or when a deadline was fast approaching, but if it wasn’t serving a utilitarian purpose I kept it locked away.
When I allowed myself more time and fewer distractions I rediscovered the therapeutic pleasure of getting creative for no purpose at all. Picking up an instrument, attempting to draw, writing and creating without parameters became beneficial to my stress levels and made those deadline-driven creative sessions even better. I didn’t realize it at the time, but just like when I was a child, my unrestrained creative sessions were giving me new ways to solve problems I hadn’t even come across yet. So when possible give yourself the liberty to get creative, especially if it seems completely purposeless.
5. I spent less, saved more and started giving. Once I began to minimize my stuff and break the cycle of consumerism in my life I realized that I was spending a lot less, which meant that I could do a few things that I was never able to before, like give some money away. By using a few tools that automatically deducted a percentage of my income and funneled it towards saving and giving funds (for more on this see my post 7 Apps that are tools instead of time-wasters), I was able to gain the peace of mind and joy from finally having money to save and money to give to those in need. As someone who struggles with budgeting and maintaining a realistic relationship with finances, knowing that I have a little bit of backup offers a huge amount of peace to my life.
Images courtesy of Freddie Marriage and Shay Moran
Also published on Medium.