Less stress, more living

less stress

After realizing that her life was just too full, journalist Annemiek Leclaire resolved to spend a year slowing down: 365 days of shifting into a lower gear, cutting back and simplifying.

I had only just started when I came across an ad for the online course ‘A year to simplify your life’ from DailyOM: ‘In today’s busy world we tend to over-schedule ourselves, piling on more responsibilities, more commitments, and inevitably more stress. Our relationships suffer, our homes fall into disarray, and our bodies and souls begin to languish. In our quest for convenience, and in an effort to produce more time in our hectic day, we overload ourselves with all the latest technological advancements, yet we often find that they only invite more complication and disconnect. If we can find ways to dial back the excess and forgo unnecessary (often self-imposed) obligations, we can begin to thrive in ways that are reflected in every area of our lives. Time for self-care and soul nourishment, deepening of relationships, and surrounding ourselves with beauty come to the forefront of our priorities as less important list items fall away.’

Even just reading that intro gave me a sense of relief. I signed up. It sounded like a great way to help make my life easier and lighter. The ‘Simplify your life’ course was developed by the American author and space clearing expert Stephanie Bennett Vogt, who, among other things, wrote A year to clear – A daily guide to creating spaciousness in your home and heart. The core theme of her books and courses is ridding yourself of clutter. By ‘clutter’ she means anything that has been piling up, whether it be things, thoughts or feelings. Clutter in your house, head or heart. A lighter life only comes about when we learn to clear it out.

The first lessons were about awareness. What would it feel like for me if life would ‘stream smoothly like a river’? How do moments of flow, comfort and silence feel? And what is it like to be stuck? In the evenings, I dutifully committed my answers to paper in the twilight. For me, flow is a quiet focus on things. For me, it’s a great luxury when I get to concentrate on something that interests me without any concerns or distractions. Being stuck, on the other hand, is the feeling that you are always running behind on an overcrowded schedule. The sense of never having enough time. A sense of never enough, always.

To learn how to make more time for yourself, the course then talked about the power of slowing down. I was advised to start a ‘daily practice of slowing down’. The question was: can you take five minutes longer to do something? I decided to do this when getting up in the morning and when going to bed in the evening. I set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier and, after waking up, made a cup of coffee, slid back into bed, thought about the day ahead and stared at the trees. I did the same when I went to bed: staring out into the night with a mug of tea, listening to the noises in the city square below through the open windows. Those two small steps already felt really beneficial: at the beginning of the day, I no longer let myself be immediately tugged away from myself by all kinds of inconsequential distractions, and at the end of the day I took time to return to myself. What it also taught me is that these are the skills we need today to survive in an overwhelming world.

  • Read the full story ‘Less stress, more living’ in Issue 33.

Text Annemiek Leclaire  Photography Nick Romanov/Unsplash.com