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Just about everything feels complicated these days, … and there’s a great excuse for not taking action, which causes us even more (di)stress.
How to make life simple and focus on what really matters
The greatest gift we can give ourselves when we start to feel this paralysis is determine what we can exert some control over and what we have no control over – because stressing about the latter is truly a waste of energy and only keeps us stuck. As Eckhart Tolle teaches, we have only three options when faced with a situation beyond our control: accept it fully, leave it completely, or work wholeheartedly to change it.
As an integrative nutrition health coach and kitchen coach, I am often struck by the idea that how we show up at the table is often a reflection of how we show up in our lives. In recent years, detoxes and cleanses have become an enormous dietary fad. While there is nothing wrong with many of them (although buyer beware!), they address only one part of our complex (notice I didn’t say complicated) lives – our diets.
Cleaning up one small facet of our lives and ignoring the rest is like changing the oil in the car but deciding that fixing the ding in the windshield is too much trouble/time/money. Eventually, that ding will become a crack, and we’ll be faced with a whole lot more trouble/time/money: it can’t be fixed with all the gallons of oil in the world, just as all the green juice in the world won’t make you healthy if you don’t work on other parts of your life and continue to eat junk, literally and figuratively.
How can we clean up our diet – both the food we put in our mouths and the other “foods” that nurture us? These 15 suggestions for simplifying your “lifestyle diet” range from baby steps to larger tasks, from actions you can take to thought patterns you can work toward.
1. Carve out and observe time for self-care.
Like a car, you can’t run on empty – determine what nourishes you, whether it’s naps, reading, massages, working out, time with friends or something else, carve out time for it (this might take some negotiation), and make it a date with yourself on your calendar – not negotiable/breakable/postponable.
2. Say “no” more than you say “yes.”
Speaking of your calendar, it doesn’t have to be packed! There is no law that says you must fill every hour of every day with an activity, that your kids must do something after school every day of the week, that you must go out every weekend.
3. Learn to meal plan.
Learning the time management skills needed to create a week’s worth of meals can vastly simplify your life because it takes the sting out of the question of “what’s for dinner?” (which kids always ask at the moment when the parent’s own blood sugar and energy levels are at their nadir).
4. Learn to cook.
And I don’t mean watch the cooking shows that intimidate you into believing you can’t do it – take some hands on classes in simple, healthy home cooking. Or try an online course
5. Declutter your home.
There are many systems out there for accomplishing this task – I recommend Marie Kondo’s Konmari method found in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. When carried out completely, it prevents you from ever having to declutter again, and as any fengshui practitioner will tell you, living in a clutter-free environment is energetically very different from living among piles of stuff.
6. Reduce what you own.
Do you really need to buy an item? Can you share, borrow, or rent it, particularly if it’s something you many need to use just once or once in a great while? It’s now possible to share/borrow/rent everything from tools/appliances to clothing and cars. Can you perform a task by with something you already own? Can you get by with a simpler model?
7. Let it go.
Part of simplifying can be letting go of those tasks that you really despise in order to open up time for doing what you love: when I worked full time and was going to school, building a business, and managing a family it made sense to hire a cleaning service.
8. Step out of the money-based economy.
Think you can’t afford to pay someone for their services? Learn to barter or join a time bank.
We have become a nation of single-use items that are tossed away and end up clogging our landfills – out of sight, out of mind. The enormous burden we are imposing on our environment simultaneously incurs a huge energetic debt on our psyche. Look for items, containers, and packaging that can serve more than one purpose or be used repeatedly in daily life: store bulk dry goods in canning jars; freeze foods in containers instead of plastic bags; shop with reusable bags, use cloth diapers, etc.
From recycling and composting packaging, food scraps, junk mail, and lawn clippings to “upcycling” ingredients when you cook – there are a lot of ways to stretch the use of what initially seem to be single-use materials.
11. Rethink your physical activity.
Finding it hard to make time for the gym? Working out at home (using DVDs, on demand streaming, hand weights, resistance bands, etc.) or outdoors (walking, running, cycling) eliminates the need to plan for time and transportation to the gym.
12. Detox your relationships.
If it’s your control issue (I need my husband to…, my kids should…, I wish my parents didn’t…, I want my friends to…) – it’s beyond your control. Examine which relationships nourish you and which ones exhaust you. Release the friends you need to chase down to make or keep plans, the ones who spend shared time trying to “fix” you, the ones you somehow feel obligated to pull out of their misery time and time again. Work to change those difficult close/family relationships we usually can’t or don’t release by learning to forgive and learning to speak the other person’s “love language” ,while not easy, will usually set the relationship on a better path.
13. Do the work that works for you.
Few of us have the luxury of not needing to work, and many of us can’t make money doing what we love, so the key to reducing stress in this area of our lives may again lie in determining what is and isn’t within our control, changing what is (finding new work? finding similar work in a new place? negotiating some changes?) and accepting what isn’t.
14. Develop a spiritual practice.
Our high-octane lives have a hugely detrimental effect on our spirits, leaving us ungrounded and fragmented. A spiritual practice does not have to be based on prayer or meditation – it is, at its most basic, any activity you do regularly to go deep inside to reconnect with yourself and to come out able to connect more meaningfully with the world around you, and it can be something as simple as taking a walk in nature, volunteering for a charity that resonates with you, cooking, cleaning….
Sleep a lot. Sleep enough. Everything feels simpler and more manageable when you’re rested.