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10 Steps to Cope With Overwhelm

03/29/2015 09:01 am ET | Updated May 29, 2015
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It is no secret that in this busy world we can often end up feeling pretty overwhelmed. We are surrounded by things to do, people to see and goals to reach. Then when you add the extra pressure of what life "should" look like and the constant practice of comparing ourselves to others it is not really surprising that we get overwhelmed. However, overwhelmed doesn't need to be our natural state. This is where minimalism steps in. Minimalism in life is not a design aesthetic, it is about creating space, clearing the clutter and focusing on what matters.

Minimalism isn't about having nothing, instead it is about choosing to focus on what is important to you and cultivating that. It is about making conscious choices that match your intentions rather than just absorbing and collecting for the sake of it.

So here are my 10 steps to use the principles of minimalism to rid yourself of overwhelm.

  1. De-Clutter Your Wardrobe: Start simple, go through your wardrobe and weed out anything that doesn't fit you, you haven't worn for over a year or you just don't like any more. Give them away or recycle them. Trust me this is so therapeutic. You will find by getting rid of the excess you start to see the potential of your clothes, develop new outfit combinations and actually feel relaxed when getting ready rather than stressing out that you have nothing to wear.

  • Buy Less, But Buy Better: We all want to have nice things that enhance our lives but this doesn't mean more stuff. Instead, choose to buy less but buy better. Trade bulk buying things that won't last for time researching what you really want and buying what you will actually use. Because the old wisdom "buy cheap, buy twice" is probably true.
  • Go From Shelf To Shelf: This is great practice of slowly de-cluttering your space. Instead of forcing yourself to have a major day of cleaning out, just go day-by-day and shelf-by-shelf. So when you have 10 minutes to spare, de-clutter one small space. The rule is, if you don't need it and don't love it, it goes. Simple. Items with sentimental value can often throw a spanner in this formula so here is one way around this. Before you get rid of a sentimental item take a picture of it. This way you will still have a visual reminder of the memory even after the item has gone and it will allow you to clear out without the heart wrenching emotion. Remember that the more you let go of, the more space you create for things that you really value, and the more attention you show to the things that matter.
  • Clean Out Your Fridge, Cupboards and Pantry: These are the places that often get missed in a home detox, but a lot of us are storing items that we have had for far too long. So clean out, get rid of anything that is out of date and vow to use the stuff that just sits there. You will save money, create space and maybe even surprise yourself with some new culinary dishes!
  • Unsubscribe: For most of us our digital spaces are just as cluttered as our homes, if not more. Everyday I get emails flying into my inbox, most of them are from people I have never met, or companies I don't really shop at. I am sure I'm not alone in this. All of these emails are taking up space in your inbox and your mind. They are extra things we need to read, delete, or consume in some way. So cut yourself some slack and unsubscribe. This also goes for switching off social media notifications. The more notifications we have, the more we are bombarded with messages and reminders that take up space in our brain. So turn them off and see what happens, you will probably love the space and realise you can focus on the social interactions that matter the most, rather than trying to find the needle in an overwhelming digital haystack.
  • Take a Tech Break Once a Month: We all live our lives in front of screens of varying kinds and whilst they offer us so much, they also tend to suck our energy and bombard us with content, messages and things to do. Tech is great, but we all need a break. So set aside a day every month to just switch off. Put away your phone and your tablet, step away from the TV and computer and instead go and do something with your friends, family or loved ones in the real world. Take a break, read a book, visit a museum, go to the park, do some exercise, learn a new skill. There are so many options and the more creative you are the better. Just taking this break once a month will rejuvenate you and no one in your online world will probably even notice.
  • De-Clutter Your Mind: De-cluttering works for both our mental and physical environment. Just like our houses our brains fill up with things we don't need or use. De-cluttering your mind isn't necessarily as easy as de-cluttering your house but it is certainly worth it. The best way to approach this is to try and take some time to meditate, to get still and just allow some space in your brain to open up. A lot of people are scared by the thought of meditation and whether they are doing it 'right' or not. But the truth is meditation is simply breathing. So take a seat, close your eyes, and breath. When thoughts come up (which they will) just observe them and let them float on, and return your concentration to your breath. Do this practice over and over for a few minutes and voila you have meditated, and created more space.
  • Single Task: Many of us have been caught in the multitasking myth. We think that we can be more effective by doing two things at the same time. It turns out though that this makes us less effective rather than more. We split our focus and produce two mediocre results rather than something that has had our full concentration. Unsurprisingly our full concentration allows us to get the job done a lot quicker. So in fact we are more productive and produce better work when we single task. Stop adding extra pressure to your brain and do things one at a time.
  • Say No: Most of us say yes to pretty much everything as a default. It becomes easy to say yes to things that aren't really our job, that we don't want to do, or that don't excite us because we feel we must. Realize that every time you say yes to something you are saying no to something else. Because we only have so much time every day and we can't do everything. When you think about it like this saying no isn't about being selfish, it is about using your time wisely. I'm not saying you shouldn't help out a friend, or say yes ever. I am just saying that it's worth working out what matters to you and prioritizing what you say yes to based on that.
  • Live By Your Values: This is the final, and probably most difficult step. Living by your values doesn't just effect your time and what you buy, but everything in your life. When we start to live by our values instead of what we think we should do, life gets a lot better, we are less likely to be overwhelmed and more likely to feel great. Decisions are easier to make and things seem to flow. So take some time and decided what really matters to you, what is really important. Keep those values close to your heart and act accordingly. Stop doing or buying things because everyone else is, instead do what matters to you.
  • Remember even just one of these 10 steps can make a huge difference to how overwhelmed you feel and create more space for new exciting things to come into your life. So what are you waiting for. Get started now!

    Read more from Lucie Lincoln at www.lucielincoln.com

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