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Cut the Stress, Simplify Your Life

If stress is wearing you down, take some advice from those who have left their stress behind -- simplify your life.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life. -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

OK, it's unlikely you're going to make like Thoreau and move to the woods. Heck, you probably don't even have time for a walk in the woods. If that's the case, though, that may very well mean that it's time to simplify your life. In so doing, you may just save your health -- and your sanity (not to mention actually having time to take that walk).

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Erin Bocherer and her husband are doing just that. "Our New Year's resolution was to simplify our life as much as possible to reduce stress," says Bocherer, an advertising account supervisor.

This is what the Bocherers have been doing:

  • Online banking. "This limits post office drop-offs and reduces the time and money spent on stamps and licking envelopes," says Bocherer. "It also enables me to schedule automatic payments each month, which saves several hours of our time because we no longer need to write out bills and balance the checkbook."
  • Hiring a cleaning service every three weeks. "We still clean, but they handle the nitty-gritty, time-consuming activities that seemed to fill our weekends," says Bocherer.
  • Hiring a nanny. Yes, this is expensive, but it saves the Bocherers two hours a day in the car dropping off and picking up their son at daycare. "It enables me to spend more quality time with my son (and with my daughter when she is born in May)," says Bocherer.
  • Reducing debt. "Debt is one of our biggest stresses that never seems to end," says Bocherer. By creating a strict, yet manageable budget, and focusing on paying off their debt, the Bocherers say they are creating a feeling of accomplishment.

Simplicity Movement Taking Hold

The Bocherers are not alone in their efforts to cut the stress from their life. Browse your favorite newsstand or bookstore and you'll see evidence of an anti-stress movement taking hold in this country. Generally known as "voluntary simplicity," or the "simplicity movement," the need many of us see for a less stressful, more meaningful life is reflected in magazines, books, and web sites devoted to simplifying your life, whether that means "de-cluttering" your home, "downsizing" your career ambitions, or living off the land.

About 5% to 7% of adults in the U.S. are pursuing some form of voluntary simplicity, according to Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute in New York. The contemporary voluntary simplicity movement began in 1981 with the publication of Duane Elgin's book, Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. Since then, dozens of books, national magazines, web sites, and grassroots "simplicity circles" have sprung up to offer support and share ideas for those interested in scaling back.

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