By Sheila Stinnett, LPCI read an interesting blog the other day about the Voluntary Simplicity Movement. This site was filled with the positive testimonials of individuals and families who have made the conscious decision to break with the American dream of “keeping up with the Jones” and to begin the life changing process of downsizing and simplifying their lives. As I was surrounded by the clutter of my “more is more, cannot have too much, get it now while it is on sale office”, I read how others had made the transition to a quieter, more peaceful existence where quality had replaced quantity. These people were living by the motto “less stuff equals less stress”.
We know stress can negatively impact the body. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, stomach problems, skin conditions, sleep disorders, weight fluctuations, asthma, arthritis and much more.We know stress can impact an individual’s moods. When left untreated, stress reactions are 50% more likely to cause long term emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, and anger. Divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse and compulsive gambling are all negative avenues individuals may utilize to cope with stress. Stress has even been listed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a hazard of the workplace. Recent studies have estimated stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
By striving for a less complex, simpler existence, the followers of voluntary simplicity had incorporated all four elements of the best stress management programs; avoid, alter, adapt and accept.
These voluntary simplicity people actively avoid as many stressors as possible through taking control of their own environment and learning to say “no”. They work at altering their current situations by being assertive and using time management skills during times of stress. When they cannot change the stressor, they try to change themselves and adapt. They focus on the moment and try to keep away from the perfectionist trap. When the stress is just beyond their control, they employ the art of acceptance. They practice forgiveness for themselves and others, sharing their feelings with others and focusing on the positive.
These individuals made the simple life sound so easy, blissful, peaceful and harmonious. Just by getting rid of my stuff and re-organizing by priorities, I would become healthier and more efficient. I would have a more positive outlook, be less cluttered and have greater financial stability. I was hooked. As I shoveled everything off my desk onto the floor of my office and chose one of the 30 pens which have migrated to my desk drawer so I could begin taking pages of notes, I realized mine may be a longer journey to “simple” than most.
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