Stress basics (10)
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Stress relief (23)
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Relaxation techniques (9)
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Simplify your life to reduce stress
Switch off the media
TVs, radios, smart phones, laptops, video games — they all contribute to audiovisual clutter. Being flooded with stimuli, even entertaining stimuli, is a tremendous source of stress. Unplug and unhook yourself. At the very least, turn off the TV while you're on the phone, or turn off the phone when you're watching TV. If that's not enough, try a vacation from the TV news, the daily paper and news magazines. It can take a couple of weeks to adjust and get beyond the withdrawal effects. Eliminating the daily paper will also reduce the amount of paper coming in and cluttering up your home.
Clear your calendar
How often have you complained that there aren't enough hours in the day? It's not the clock that's the problem. It's the number of activities you're trying to pack in. Being too busy can become a habit so entrenched that it leads you to postpone or cut short what really matters to you, making you a slave to a lifestyle you don't even like. You may have so much going on that you don't have time to assess what matters most to you, let alone make time to do it.
What can you do? Only say yes to activities you really care about. In other words, learn to say no. Remember, it's easier to decline an invitation than to figure out how to get out of it later. If you need a reason for saying no, explain that you've promised your family you wouldn't take on any new activities. If you're involved in volunteer work or even a social group that you dread, get out of it. Think about how pleasant it would be to look at your calendar and find that all the don't-want-to-but-have-to commitments have been erased.
Your mind can also be cluttered, your attention spread too thin among too many tasks. Long touted as the mark of the highly efficient, multitasking has recently been revealed to be less of a boon than once thought. In fact, recent research shows that people who multitask tend to be less able to concentrate and more easily distracted than people who rarely multitask.
Perhaps more importantly, multitasking doesn't let you get into the flow — a state of being so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. When you're in the flow, also called in the zone, things seem to happen effortlessly. You're totally absorbed by what you're doing. There's no room in your awareness for conflicts or contradictions. Flow creates a sense of fulfillment and engagement, and even contentment.
So, try for more flow and less multitasking. Start by turning off the electronic distractions and focusing on one task. Only when you've completed that task can you go on to the next. Focusing on one task is also a good way to learn to be present — or totally engaged — in the moment. This is mindfulness. It doesn't get any simpler than that.Previous page
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- St. James E. Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter. New York, N.Y.: Hyperion; 1994:6.
- What is simple living and why is it important? http://www.simpleliving.net/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2010.
- Rosen C. The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis. 2008;20:105.
- Hallowell EM. Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD. New York, N.Y.: Ballantine; 2006:5.