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Stress less and relax more

Life made simple

If your to-do list can fill up an entire wire-bound notebook, then it may be time for a to-don't list.

"Everybody is feeling the crunch of a fast-paced life," says psychotherapist and life coach Antoinette Giacobbe. "But if you focus on quantity rather than quality, then you're probably not getting as much out of life as you can."

Antoinette is quick to quote Confucius: "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." And that habit can put your home, work, relationships, body and mind out of balance. To get balance back, you need to declutter and re-think some of your strategies — even those that are unintended. "Once you gain control over your life," explains Antoinette, "you can regain or reclaim your life."

Try Antoinette's 10-step plan and start enjoying the simple life.

1. Define your core values

"Think about what's really important to you and identify your core values," advises Antoinette. "An easy way to do that is to ask yourself, 'If I had only six months to live, what would you do?' How would your to-do list change?"

For some of us that could mean spending more quality time with family and friends or learning to play a new sport. Whatever your new list looks like, Antoinette stresses that what's on that list will help you identify what's really important to you.

Once you've reconnected with your core values, it will be easy to identify what things can move to your to-don't list.

2. Learn to say “yes” more

"Start saying 'yes' to the things that you want to do," she explains. "Many fall into the trap of waiting for the right time — 'once I lose 10 pounds' or 'once I get that promotion at work' — but why can't now be that time?"

And if you're putting your goals on hold because you're hesitant to take a risk, then you could be leading a life of waiting and never doing what you really want.

3. Learn to say “no” more

To make more time for "yes" and start doing what we want, we need to learn how to say "no". "Eliminate what's not important," stresses Antoinette. "Saying 'no' without guilt and fear of not pleasing others is very liberating. And by setting limitations and boundaries — based on our core values — and learning to delegate will free up time and energy so that you can fit in the important things."

4. Declutter your home

Your home should be peaceful and inviting. "Clutter drains energy," she says. "And too much clutter can lead to clutter in other areas of your life."

Antoinette suggests we use the "No More STUFF" method:

  • S = start small. "Start with one drawer a day or week," she advises. "Little steps can lead to big gains over time."
  • T = timer. "Give yourself a time limit, like 15 or 30 minutes, to tackle a job. You'll find that when your time is up you may just want to keep going."
  • U = use the one in/one out method. Whenever you bring something new into your home, get rid of one item. That way, you'll never run the risk of outgrowing your storage spaces.
  • F = for every item, ask "Do I love it?" or "Do I use it?" Answer no to those questions and you can mark the item for removal.
  • F = find a home for everything. "Everything you keep should have a designated home or place — like a drawer or a cupboard," she clarifies. "When something doesn't have a proper place, then it's clutter."
5. Declutter your body

"Decluttering your body means taking care of it," says Antoinette Giacobbe. "You want to ensure you're eating a healthy diet (with plenty of fibre), drinking plenty of water and getting enough exercise so that your body is getting rid of waste efficiently."

At the same time, she also says that it's important to make a conscious effort to slow down and de-stress and get quality sleep to help recharge your body.

6. Declutter your mind

"Declutter your mind of negative thoughts," she says. "Negative thinking keeps fear in business and these thoughts can be destructive to your well being." The solution is to think positively, find solutions and then go out and put those solutions in place.

7. Manage multitasking

If you're juggling a bunch a things at once, you're more likely to be stressed and make more mistakes. According to Antoinette, doing too many things at once isn't productive. What she does advise us to do is to join the single-tasking movement. "When you concentrate on one thing at a time, you can focus on the present, get more accomplished and enjoy your day more."

A good way to do that is to work in blocks of time where you concentrate your efforts on one thing only. Just make sure you've set your priorities and dedicate uninterrupted time to get the task done.

8. Work smarter, not harder

Eighty percent of results come from 20% of your actions," informs Antoinette. "So it's important to know what actions will lead to success."

Start by choosing a measurable goal, brainstorm about how to meet that goal and then identify what actions will get you the best results. Once you have a plan of action, evaluate your progress and adjust your plan.

9. Detoxify your relationships

"Negative people can damper an otherwise happy life," she says. "You must deal with them in constructive ways in order to simplify your life. Difficult people are our teachers in disguise. They help you flex your communications muscles and bring you vital life lessons."

For abusive relationships or those that clearly cross boundaries, you must leave the relationship. For other relationships that are challenging, you may need to adjust your attitude and change your behaviour toward these people. Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they're coming from, and then change how you relate to these people rather than try to change them — something that's impossible to do.

10. Focus on your relationship with yourself

Like all healthy relationships, you need to work on your relationship with yourself," advises Antoinette Giacobbe. "Turn off the artificial techno-world, spend quiet time with yourself, spend time with nature, try journalling or meditating, or take a walk. Remember to reaffirm your core values and be grateful for what you have."

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