How to simplify and destress

Our lives have become so hectic and stressful that it is a valuable skill to simplify and destress. Our days are way too short, and we are literally running around. Our minds are racing, and there is little or no time to unwind.

What is a simplified life?

Living a simple life refers to reducing your possessions and focusing your energy and time on the things that matter the most.

“If it doesn’t add to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.”

– Unkown

Since I emigrated two years ago with only a few suitcases of clothing, no one can accuse me of having unnecessary worldly possessions! (I must admit I miss my books and am considering shipping a box or two of those.)

How to simplify

  • Reducing unnecessary items and organizing the remaining ones will unclutter your mind. Clean your closets and garage of things you don’t need.

  • Keep your living space neat. Wash the dishes and don’t let laundry pile up.

  • Finances are often one of the things people stress about the most. Simplify by reducing your accounts, stop using credit cards and focus on buying what you really need.

  • Limit time on social media.

  • Stop multitasking.


  • A simpler life will lead to you learning more about yourself and finding meaning in your life.

  • You will improve your relationships by spending quality time with family and fewer friends.

  • Your mental health will improve on a simpler lifestyle as it is associated with more rest and less stress.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

– Hans Hofmann

How to recognize stress:

I never thought of myself as stressed. I am a typical relaxed middle child; my elder sister was the perfectionist. Until a good friend, who is a nurse, pointed out that I often display stress symptoms. I get headaches, the occasional migraine, and am generally a lousy sleeper. This made me a bit more aware of destressing.

The following is symptoms may be due to stress:

  • Headaches.
  • Changes in appetite; you eat too little, or you overeat.
  • Feeling irritable and losing your temper quickly.
  • Insomnia and sleeping problems.
  • Low energy and excessive tiredness.
  • Feeling sad.
  • Risk of substance abuse as a method to escape stress.
  • Muscle tension and neck- and back pain.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Dry mouth and anxiety.

“Friendly reminder that ‘doing your best’ does not mean working yourself to the point of a nervous breakdown.”

– Unknown

Physical reasons for stress:

What happens in your body when you stress?

We know that stress can lead to chronic psychological problems, like depression. But how does stress, which is more of a psychological condition, causes a severe physical ailment like heart disease?


A Harvard medical school study found that stress causes an abnormally high level of activity in the amygdala, which is the brain’s area causing emotions like anger and fear. The amygdala then signals our bone marrow to produce more white blood cells. The overproduction of white blood cells inflames our arteries which in turn causes heart attacks, angina, and strokes.

Health hazards due to stress:

  • Did you know stress is just as high a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as smoking?
  • Stress could lead to heart attacks, strokes, a weakened immune system, obesity, and a risk for diabetes.
  • Chronic stress is linked to memory degeneration.

How to manage stress:

Unfortunately, there is no one method that works for everybody. We all should develop our own set of coping mechanisms to control our response in stressful situations.

  • Breathing is an excellent place to start handling stress. Stop what you are doing and breathe. You can psychologically calm yourself by focusing on your breathing and stop stress in its tracks.
  • Exercise is crucial and one of the best ways to get rid of negative emotions and at the same time release endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Walking outside in the fresh air is a stress-busting activity; it reduces cortisol, a harmful stress hormone.
  • Yoga and meditation make you more focused and alleviates anxiety in a short amount of time.
  • Communicate your needs and learn to say no. Saying no when necessary is respecting your own needs. Ask for help when you need it.
  • healthy diet is essential, as poor diet choices elevate anxiety and depression. 
  • Improve your sleep by relaxing before bedtime. Read and listen to calming music, soak in a bathtub.
  • Discover the problem causing your anxiety. Is it debt, work, or a relationship? Stress can sometimes also be the sum of smaller, seemingly insignificant things that adds up.
  • Make a written to-do list (in order of importance) in your calendar as stress disorganizes the brain. Visually mapping everything out helps to feel organized. Learn to manage your time, stick to your schedule and plan some time for yourself.

Small ways to stress less:

  • Make yourself a cup of tea and drink it slowly.
  • Switch off your phone, as it often triggers stress.
  • Do a craft; repetitive movements like knitting can soothe anxiety.
  • Staying connected and catch up with people you care about.
  • Practice mindfulness. Slow down your movements. Be aware of what you feel, see or eat. 
  • Studies proved religious and spiritual people are calmer and healthier. Prayer is more popular than ever.
  • Being appreciative and striving for optimism can be a valuable mind-set. Write positive experiences and things you are grateful for down in your diary daily. 
  • Sharing worries with friends and family will make you instantly feel better. A problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Put on classical music, as it slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
  • A pleasant smell can also trigger relaxation.
  • Take five minutes to stretch.
  • Look at happy photos.
  • As laughter cures anxiety, watching a comedy is a good idea.
  • Head outside and sit in the sun.
  • Do something nice for someone else.

In this day and age, stress is impossible to avoid. Chronic stress should not be ignored. Get counseling if necessary.

One of my favorite authors said: 

“Stop a minute, right where you are. . . Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

– Barbara Kingsolver

My Dutch husband sometimes reminds me to switch off the “windmolens” (windmills) in my head, meaning I overthink things, which also causes stress.

We all should simplify and distress regularly. Take some time off and do what feels good! Take a morning walk. Do fun things. Just looking forward to something makes you calmer; plan a weekend away or buy theatre tickets. 

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”

– Steve Maraboli

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