I’ve just hit my low point of the semester.
Why? I could blame it on external factors, but largely it’s just the existential dread that I’m always dealing with. The biggest factor affecting me is just the general stress and uncertainty of being a graduating college senior.
As a result, I’ve really fallen off the boat with my minimalism practice.
Not just when it comes to purchasing of material goods, but also the other non-material aspects of minimalism that are beneficial to mental health.
In my life, I try to apply minimalism not just to the accumulation of material goods, but also to “throwing out” negative thoughts and behaviors. I also use minimalist principles to help myself have the willpower to avoid overspending on consumable goods like packaged candies and take out food as well.
However, in the last five or six weeks I’ve really let myself down and not been fully practicing minimalism as I have in the past. I’ve been overspending, overeating, spending too much time on screens, and being way too hard on myself.
So I’ll now share with you all some the process I’ve used to start feeling better and get back on track with my minimalism practice.
First and foremost I had to let go of all the guilt and self hatred I was harboring towards myself for what I was perceiving as unacceptable mistakes. I’m only human so I’m going to mess up, there’s really no need to feel bad about something that can’t be avoided. Guilt like all emotions serves a purpose, however in my opinion it goes too far and should be let go when guilt prevents you from moving forward and putting forth your best effort.
Next, I had to do what I call a “reset.” It’s something I do whenever I come off of any particularly difficult time, whether it be a very stressful week of school or a bought of depression or anxiety. The reset usually begins whenever I finish class for the day and starts with basic clean up, I clean up both my room and myself and do things like shave, put lotion on, vacuum, clean dishes, and do laundry. I find these types of activities very relaxing and cathartic, and it’s a nice way to feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’re brain is feeling too fried for much else. I’ll then work on doing only the work I absolutely need to have done for the next day so I don’t have it looming over me and creating more stress.
Next, I spend some time with my journal, I write stream of consciousness about how I’ve been feeling and what’s been going on and going wrong. I then determine three or less things I control that are the main “cause” of why I’m feeling down and come up with a plan to improve on each issue. I don’t always come up with three, but I put that limit on it so I don’t set myself up to fail by trying to make too many changes at once.
At this point I also spend some time acknowledging and accepting the fact that it will take time to get back into healthier habits, progress on changing your lifestyle is not linear. For example, just because I do well with healthy eating for two months and lose some weight doesn’t mean I will be able jump right back into that same level of healthy eating after gaining weight. It’s generally best to make lifestyle changes in a slow, steady way so that the changes are more likely to stick and this applies when you are trying to get back into the swing of things as well.
In this most recent reset I determined the main causes of my distress to be overthinking. My plan to address it is to beef up on mindfulness practices like journaling and yoga. When I notice myself overthinking a choice I want to be more intuitive about the process, I will make the choice I know is best for me, do that thing, and then move on to other thoughts or activities, effectively “decluttering” the tiresome process of belaboring every little choice I make during the day.
Then, I journaled about minimalism specifically. I used journal prompts about minimalism I did at the start of my journey because I wanted to compare how I was feeling then, when it was exciting and new about a year ago, to now, when I am feeling a bit more frustrated. This helped me to remind myself why I began my minimalism journey in the first place and looking back also helped me to see how much I’ve gained from minimalism already.
Thinking more deeply about it also helped me see that minimalism functions in service to my environmental, financial, and mental well-being goals instead of being a goal in and of itself like it was when I was first starting out. Making this distinction changes little in how I plan to practice minimalism, but does explain why I haven’t felt as passionate and has helped me refocus my goals.
During the rest of my day on a reset evening I will do basically whatever activity I think will help give my brain a break and help me relax. I may watch a little Netflix or Youtube, but do avoid being on screens for more than an hour or so on these nights. I might read, catch up on calling friends and family, work on bullet journal layouts, go on a walk, meal prep, grocery shop, dance, or play ukulele.
Dedicating a whole evening to resetting my life and reflecting is what I have found to be the most effective way to get myself out of a funk. It always feels odd to put this time aside for myself because when I’ve been in a funk I’m often already behind on work and feel guilty for taking additional “break time.” But if I don’t take the time to clear my mind, my mental state gets worse and I fall even farther behind. Furthermore, just because I haven’t been working during a certain time doesn’t mean my mind ever got a break, when you are too anxious or sad to work your brain isn’t getting a break and you will still need time to rest.
Since doing this reset I’ve felt much more at peace and have been able to reconnect with minimalism and cut back on my overspending, overeating, and screen time.
I hope sharing my story is helpful to others who are struggling to get minimalism, or any other lifestyle change to stick.
Especially with minimalism, the image portrayed online is often one of perfection and the imperfect moments and struggles are not given the attention they deserve. This tendency makes minimalism seem inaccessible and can turn people off to the idea or be discouraging to people who are new to the practice and can’t get to that perfect look they see online.
As mentioned before, lifestyle changes don’t progress linearly. What counts the most is not achieving the ideal seen on social media, but genuinely improving your life no matter how many times you fall off the horse and have to climb back on.
How have you handled “falling off the horse” from a lifestyle change? Share your stories and let me know in the comments below.