Do less to reduce your stress

Nurturing

LESS IS MOREAre there areas in your life where you could cut back? Could you do less of something?


Mental Matters
Jannah Walshe

It has come to that time of year where everyone turns their minds to New Year’s resolutions. The focus becomes about what more can be done in the coming 12 months. More exercise, more healthy eating, more work. Or we focus on how to be better; a better parent, better employee, or a better person overall. The premise being that we always have to be improving and striving for better.
There is nothing wrong necessarily with self-improvement. However, I want to propose a different approach this year. How about changing the focus from what more we can do to where we can do less?
Are there areas in your life where you could cut back? Could you do less of something? Would it be okay if things weren’t perfect? Would it be possible to prioritise your own needs some of the time?

Life you crave
Ironically, by cutting back it is possible to gain more. When we move away from constant doing and busyness we can free up time for the things that bring us inner contentment. For each person this will be different, but for many it means more quality time with family, more quiet time for rest, more inner calmness and more time to reflect on what is important.
This means having enough time in life to not to be rushing around like headless chickens. It’s about really taking the time to find out what is important to us and then moving ourselves more in that direction.
When our minds aren’t racing from one thing to the next, we can gain access to our innate mental health. Wouldn’t it be lovely to reach the end of 2022 having moved closer to that type of life that you really crave? Even if that is only figuring out what that is, or taking some baby steps in that direction.

Judgements and distractions
People often fear cutting back for the worry of what others might think. The judgement of appearing lazy means many answer the question ‘How are you?’ with ‘I’m so busy’ or ‘I’m run off my feet’. We see it as positive to seem busy in others’ eyes, and yet we feel it as negative in our own lives. We are always waiting for some holidays to have some time off. (Or, as often happens, we fall sick and the body forces us to have a few days rest at home.)
The benefits for our mental health of doing less can be huge. But it is also challenging.
Sometimes staying busy proves to be a distraction from how we are really feeling. So slowing down can mean all of those old feelings resurface. If that starts to happen and you feel yourself pulled back into old habits, seek out some professional help to talk it through.

Let it go
It is normal for life to be busy at times, when it can feel unrealistic or even impossible to reach a peaceful state of mind. In times like this, it can feel as if life is throwing too much at you – and as if speeding up is the only answer, the only way to reduce the stress. But the opposite is true.
If you feel harried and rushed, take some slow, deep breaths and let the exhales last a bit longer than the inhales. Try to get outside. Something about being in nature, particularly in woods or forests, helps us to naturally slow down. Slowing down in the busiest times, helps us to think more clearly and find an easier way through the stress.
So this New Year’s, I challenge us all to examine our lives, look at where there is room to let some stuff go. By moving towards doing less, we may actually find that we naturally eat healthier, do more exercise and work better because we have more time to allow it to happen without forcing it.

Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo.
More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.

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