I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately on the topic of minimalism. The definition of minimalism may vary from person-to-person. From my understanding, minimalism is focusing on what is most important and useful to you and getting rid of the excess. This can be applied to the amount of stuff you have, the amount of commitments you make, what you allow to occupy your time, etc. Today, I’m going to talk about how minimalism could potentially benefit those prone to anxiety and those who easily become overwhelmed. The following is based solely on my experiences with both anxiety and minimalism.
Decide what is important in life
Applying minimalism to your life can vary based on your personality. There are extremes that can be found on television; for example, those people with the tiny houses or those who live out of a single backpack. That’s not the kind of minimalism I’m going to be talking about here. I believe most life changes are best done in moderation. Think of minimalism as a change in your mindset. Focus on what matters the most to you and what adds value to your life. As for me, I start to become anxious when my time is consumed by things that are not important. I daily strive to practice gratitude and contentment for what I have and try to discern my needs vs. wants. My current focuses are family, self-care, and professional development.
Ask yourself: What is most important to me today, this month, this year?
Decide what is NOT important in life
I’ve found the process of eliminating the non-essentials to be a therapeutic aspect of minimalism. When there are too many things to deal with, my anxiety increases and I will frequently become overwhelmed. We all know that life gets hectic and there are many things that we will always have to deal with (ex. bills, work, emergencies, food, shelter, etc.); however, we have the ability to cut out things that are nonessential. This frees up more time and energy to focus on what you identified in the last section. Below I will talk about some areas to consider when evaluating non-essentials in your life.
Though I’ve always tended to be more minimal with regards to possessions, there’s always room for improvement. Avoiding consumerism is particularly difficult in American society because we are constantly advertised to. I’ve learned that stress will increase when you try to keep up with the latest-and-greatest or when you start comparing yourself to others.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~Unknown
Evaluate technology use
While technology allows us to accomplish many things in our day-to-day lives, it also has the potential to distract us from the things we value most. Technology impacts me the most at work because there are several options: Over sized touch screen computers, iPads, smart TV, multi-function phones, etc. While all of these tools serve some purpose for the job, it began to overwhelm me to have to keep up with a bunch of different devices; in fact, it made me less productive. I recently limited my device use at work to just my personal cell phone (google voice number) and to my desktop. I returned the iPad to admin and haven’t been using the fancy office phone because I didn’t really need either of these devices. I’ve felt less occupied and have been more productive.
I gave up social media years ago to minimize screen time; however, I’ve recently become aware of how much I’ve been using my iPhone. In the last month, I have been trying to reduce my phone use. I started by removing my work email from the phone. I took off video apps such as YouTube and Hulu. Then I started removing apps that I don’t use regularly. I also minimized the number of apps that send me notifications.
Yesterday I took a huge step by removing all except four of my coupon and rebate apps (I had 18!). While they served me well during the college years where going over budget meant deciding which bill would go unpaid, I realized that keeping up with all these apps are a source of stress in the present. Though I’m frugal, I decided that spending time scrolling through the various apps before every grocery trip was too time consuming. Scanning all the receipts and monitoring rebates would sometimes take me up to 30 minutes after a shopping trip and the payout was definitely not worth my time (even by minimum wage standards.) So I let the apps go. This change will help me to limit how much time I’m spending on my phone. I might actually enjoy going to the grocery store again.
Consider your technology use. Is it helping or hindering the goals and values that are most important? If not, make some changes and see what happens.
While this post was not meant to be a how-to guide about minimalism or to provide proof that practicing minimalism fixes anxiety (it doesn’t), I hope that you’ve found something useful to take away from it.
Thanks for reading!