What’s minimalism? Can you be minimalist if you want to own more than three pairs of pants? This series is about exploring what minimalism means to you. Let’s start with something it means to me: balance.
Balance? What does balance have to do with anything? Well, picture this. A twenty-something, single, living in a shared apartment. She spends her weeks running from class to the office and back again, squeezing in hobbies and time with friends somewhere in between. Often, she leaves the house before the sun is up and comes back past dinner time. On weekends she sleeps in, exhausted, unable to do much more than watch Netflix all day.
Despite being insanely busy, she doesn’t feel like she is getting anything done. Her room is a mess. There are clothes everywhere. She hasn’t touched her art supplies in over a week even though she wanted to make daily creating a habit. She hasn’t slept more than an average of five or six hours per night and you can clearly see it in her face. She’s been eating a mixture of to-go sandwiches and soups, chocolate, chips, pasta with pesto and oatmeal. She can’t remember the last time she had a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal full of veggies and protein.
That girl is me.
Well, she was me. There comes a time when bad habits begin to spiral out of control.
It begins with “oh, well, it doesn’t matter if I don’t get enough sleep tonight, it’s just this once” and ends with three cups of coffee before noon just so you can get anything done at all.
It begins with “This week feels a little busy” and ends with stress-induced colds every other week, even though normally your immune system is amazing.
It begins with dropping half your clothes on the floor and falling asleep in the other half, and ends with in a completely cluttered room that reflects the state of your mind exactly.
There comes a time when you sit in the middle of your chaos and realize your life has gotten away from you. Sure, there may be good reasons. You may be going through a tough time emotionally and just not be at your normal energy level. Maybe you’re deliberately keeping yourself extra busy to avoid a painful or uncomfortable situation. Or you recently took on a new commitment and are struggling with an unfamiliar schedule. It helps to know how that spiral started, but knowing alone won’t get you back out of it.
This is where minimalism comes back into the picture.
Minimalism is not just about things. At least the way I understand it, minimalism is a lifestyle approach. It’s about simplifying, reducing, de-cluttering, mindfully selecting and curating – not only material possessions but also time, energy, habits, thoughts, purchases, finances… When we manage to apply minimalism to all areas of our lives, we create balance. A deep, calm, peaceful balance.
When you have let it come as far as I had, it can take a while to regain your focus and balance. It’s easy to say “just cut back on your activities, take more time for yourself”. Sometimes, the reality is that you can’t cut back all that much. But there are always things you can do.
First Aid Kit for the Unbalanced
♥ Get some sleep – in fact, make sleeping eight hours a non-negotiable part of your schedule. If you think you don’t have time for that, consider the difference in your productivity when you are well-rested and alert versus when you are tired, drowsy or even sick.
♥ Meditate – even if it’s just five to ten minutes per day. Do a session in the morning to center yourself or in the evening to calm down your anxious brain. Personally, I love the app “Headspace” – they’re not paying me to say that, and I will add that it’s on the pricey side for the monthly plan. It’s really well designed though, easy to follow and has good, bite-sized meditations. There are also a lot of free meditation resources on Youtube & Co.
♥ Be a little nicer to yourself – When my little hamster wheel was in full swing, and I was running for my life, I was having tea with a friend of mine, squeezed in after choir practice on a Tuesday. At some point she looked at me suspiciously and asked how much I was sleeping. Probably not enough, I told her. “You need to be a little nicer to yourself”, she said. “You don’t have to always do everything, and all at the same time. That’s insane. Cut yourself some slack! You’re not a machine!” I wanted to cry – I have said the same thing to so many of my friends. Remember that you are human. You need rest, you need love, you need play. Allow yourself that.
♥ Ask for help – Again, you are human. You don’t function as an autonomous island. If you’re going through an especially tough and stressful time, don’t hesitate to reach out. If it’s your best friend making you tea, your flatmate doing the dishes even though it’s your turn or your partner talking you through a difficult work situation, your loved ones will usually be happy they can help. Let them!
I’m curious: Have you ever found yourself completely out of balance? How did you rebalance? And what did you learn? Or, if you’re currently feeling very out of balance: What are you struggling with most?
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