Strategies to Simplify an Overactive Life

Margi DehlinHealth & Wellness, Minimalism2 Comments

Photo by Maya Dehlin

The “busy” happens to all of us. As deliberate as I try to be–life can snowball into “overwhelm” without a great deal of effort. It happens. But as my fatigue builds or my anxiety mounts with the increasing demands of my life, I have found a few strategies that help to bring me back down again. I am sure you have a few tricks of your own! Let’s collaborate, shall we?

  1. I take stock of every event or detail in my planner. I am careful to note what the true “have to dos” are for the next two to four weeks? I am ruthless here. Anything that I can cancel, I absolutely do. I am always surprised at how empowering this step can make me feel. The next step comes for items that may be necessary but they may be time flexible too. Anything I can reschedule, I do. Many times I reschedule for the following month.  Or I wait as long as I am able. This reconfiguration usually takes me 30 minutes to an hour. It is like trimming the fat off the meat of my life. I can literally gain hours and hours over a month this way. Normally, I don’t even notice what I have canceled.
  2. From there, I try to notice any natural windows of time. Where do I have open space? Do I have an hour before bed? Thirty minutes before the children awaken in the mornings? Do I have a daily lunch hour at work? Do I have an open morning on an upcoming Saturday? Whatever I may have, I work to give purpose to that time. Purpose is a verb! Yep. That is right. “Purpose” that time for YOU. I am not talking hours if you don’t have hours. A little can go a long way. I will write in “WALK” or “READ” or “YOGA” or ” M TIME.” It may be a thirty-minute block or two hours.  Trades can work too. Maybe you have a lunch hour that you usually work through or perhaps you normally watch YouTube videos while you lunch or catch up on email. One idea is to schedule a couple of times each week where you head outside for lunch. You work to be aware of your senses while you eat. Noticing birds or colors or the sounds of the city. Or you may decide to eat lunch in your office for a bit but add a 20-minute walk at a nearby park.  Trades can work wonders. Or consider adding a pleasure to an already assigned task at hand.
  3. Shift your time and your life to SIMPLIFY mode. Basic meals with few ingredients. Streamlined social engagements. Essential exercise routines only. Sleep is paramount. I begin to say “I really can’t” a bit more. I have found countless times, a good “no” is really a “yes” to myself and my values.
  4. Move more slowly and be more present. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works for me. I need to take a shower. True! Why not savor and really be in the shower? Feel the water. Focus on the senses. The smell of the shampoo and how it feels in my hair. Allow the moment to bring you home to where you are NOW. Need to eat? Put down your computer and really taste the food in front of you. Are you chewing well? Is it crunchy? Sweet?  Are you thirsty? So many times when we feel busy, our minds become out of touch with the space before us. We tend to speed up everything. The reminder to slow down and focus on one thing at a time is an instant de-stressor. And it can be super challenging!
  5. We all feel busy at times. I try not to use the word “busy” as it makes me feel disempowered or disconnected from who I am and what I want from life. I definitely never had dreams of being a busy person,  you know? I like to say that my week feels “full” as I may have many good things happening in a week or month. The crucial element is that a good part of what I am doing reflects me. It is all a balance. A cycle. Try to be easy with yourself here.  If you actually feel chronically “busy” or “exhausted” compared to “full”, I might gently suggest you consider your relationship with expectations (for yourself, for others, for your life), your values (being able to know what is most important and prioritize a bit of that in your day), and boundaries (being able to say “no” to others in order to honor yourself).

I hope some of these strategies are helpful to you. Here is another blog post from the wise Courtney Carver on simplifying the busy life if you would like some added support. Do you have any strategies you would like to share? What do you do when your life seems to loom large before you? I always love to hear from you!

2 Comments on “Strategies to Simplify an Overactive Life”

  1. Hi Margi, I just love how committed you are to the nuances of daily life – your ability to take 24 hours and use every minute of it resourcefully and creatively hs wonderful. I admire the way you savour the minutes. The way you use time is so respectful of the gift of life.

    I learn a few tricks with all of your posts – and I think it’s lovely that we all feel free to share an idea – and you receive every comment so graciously and encouragingly.

    In this share I really appreciated your idea of culling the unnecessary (simplifying)…things that don’t share your life vision. It’s amazing what we can fill our lives up with if we aren’t careful & mindful…the older I get the more I’m aware of the sands of time – and I’m getting much better at saying no – – and I’m more in tune with how I want to spend my time. Boundaries… important they are! I believe it was Liz Gilbert who refered to ‘the sacred art of boundary making’. And it IS an art. It’s definately a work in progress for me to set boundaries without instinctively justifying to myself or others.

    Like you, I love my lists. ( I love pens and notepads, too….) I have a daily outline for non-negotiable e.g. ….breakfast.. .grooming….school- run… dog-walking….work….dancing….dinner….bed. The nuts & bolts. But I also have to fit in appointments, groceries, housework. Then there is the fun stuff that I need (Have!!) to factor in such as listening to a podcast, Facebook, Netflix. So I do try and turn everything I do into the most pleasurable experience possible – the dog walk will include listening to a podcast…groceries might be done with a latte. I’ll mark school-work while watching Netflix.

    I’m in that busy season with a dependent child & elderly parents…but I know in 5 years my life will look very very different. But I don’t want to wish this time away – I feel it’s so important not to wish stages away because they are hard. Everything passes in the end and we never get the stages back. ..So, I try and turn the very ordinary into as pleasurable experience as possible – so I’ll use nice shampoo & conditioner when washing my hair….I pay attention to clothes and make-up so getting ready for the day is enjoyable. I love spritzing a squirt of perfume while heading out the door….(Obsession by Calvin Klein at the mo…..)

    Next week Evie and I are planning on starting at the gym – so we can do some weights before school. I’m always planning ahead but I love it. Just being alive feels like such a privilege…and how lucky we are to have choices! I don’t want to waste any of it xox

    1. So inspiring, Fiona. I connect with your ideas so easily. Thank you for sharing how you link pleasure with the little things (washing your hair, getting ready for the day, walking the dog) and also the work of life (a latte while grocery shopping or watching a favorite show while grading papers). Such wonderful ideas. I also find that incorporating pleasure into our daily rhythm reduces stress and adds an element of joy to our days. Thank you for sharing such concrete examples of how that is done!

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