From Our Readers
November 19, 2014 6:30 am

I thought I was living a happy life, and the things that I thought and felt were completely normal. Everyone is grumpy, tired, and works too much, right?! But while this may be commonplace, as I’ve found out, it’s a long way from the state we’re supposed to be living in.

The changes I experienced when I de-stressed were deeper and more extreme than I could have ever dreamed of, and it was positively life-changing. The majority of these changes happened without my prompting, and those that I instigated took me much further than planned. Just because everyone is living a certain lifestyle does not make it right. If any of these sound appealing or familiar to you, then I suggest you also re-evaluate the impact that stress is having on you, your family, and your relationships, because amazing changes can happen once you stop stressing.

The house became a place I was happy to spend time in

The stressed version of me hated to be in the house. I thought that a day spent in the house was a day wasted. Part of the problem was that I was so busy that the house was never clean enough or in the state that I wanted it to be in. Even when we had a huge house—two bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, dining, kitchen, laundry, front and backyard, just for the two of us—I still found the house constricting. I had more room than ever before, and I was bored. Now in our shoebox apartment, we have added splashes of color and have done away with the vast majority of our possessions with aims of a simpler life. This has made the housework simpler—half an hour and I can do a good clean of the whole apartment—and the house a happier place to be. I enjoy spending all day reading a book in various positions of reclining, bed, lounge, bath, floor. I enjoy writing all day at my computer in my little house-sanctuary. I’m not feeling guilty because of the dust, the garden, the half-assembled IKEA bookshelf. I’m just happy.

I realized I wasn’t OK with only answering “What have you been up to lately?” with “Oh, you know. Just work.”

I was a major perpetrator of this one. You run into an old friend in the street or on a train and you cannot think of anything you have done recently except work. You don’t want to seem like you’re complaining, so you try to make your work stress sound casual, because everyone hates their jobs and is consumed by the stress for 20 hours of every day, right?!

No. Not everyone hates their job, and can you not think of one thing other than work to tell me about? Have you read a good book lately? Did you discover a new restaurant? I challenge you, that next time someone asks you how you are or what you’ve been up to, to come up with an answer that is not a reference to work. And “good” is not an acceptable response for how you’ve been. Lets try to form full sentences, please.

My skin was the clearest it had ever been

Not a word is a lie. In my last two weeks of work, I was more stressed than I had ever been and I broke out with pimples in all the worst places that you can’t hide: chin, cheeks, chest. Bad. Within a week of finishing at my job, they all cleared up; and in six weeks, I have had one pimple, which lasted 24 hours. Want to know the magic to clear skin? De-stress, look after yourself, and live happy.

My relationship improved

My stress caused me to be inattentive to my partner. I found myself trying not to talk about work, which left me steaming inside, and sitting in silence, brewing. None of this equated to a good, healthy relationship. Don’t get me wrong, we were happy and still enjoyed each others’ company; however, I have seen a marked improvement in how close we are, and how much fun we have together now that I’m not overly stressed. On the flipside, I am also able to see the toll that my partner’s stress takes on her and our relationship. All those things she said to me about my stress being a barrier were true. I’m willing to say it: she was right (just don’t tell her I said so).

I became more open to seeking help, and my anxiety about asking for it was reduced

I was diagnosed with a food allergy about five years ago. Since then, I have had extreme anxiety about everything I put into my mouth. It was not uncommon for me to wash my hands twice before eating and to read food labels thrice, just incase I missed any dangerous ingredients the first two times. I had been meaning to see an allergy specialist since my diagnosis to help deal with this anxiety, but I was so tightly wound that I did not believe that there was any way they could help me. I have an allergy; my life is over, end of story. Since releasing my work-stress, I have a lot more clarity on the issue. I have seen a medical allergy specialist and an alternative health practitioner about the anxiety. While being relaxed sadly cannot cure a food allergy, it’s definitely been a relief to have seen someone about it. I now read labels once, wash my hands once, and am trying new foods and restaurants without having a panic attack.

Finding the time to stretch every day is a necessary and easy thing to do

From the age of about 6 until 18, I took dance classes; and as a result, spent a lot of time stretching my muscles and trying to be able to contort in a range of unnatural ways. I am now paying for this later in life with hips that are less than square and have been told by many physiotherapists and osteopaths over the years that I will save myself a lot of pain if I just do some simple stretching every once and a while. Stretching, I thought, I don’t have time for that! What a lie. I did have time for that. It takes 10 minutes every day and can be done in front of the TV or in front of my computer while I read. I could have also saved myself a whole lot of money and pain if I had done this over the last ten years.

I lost weight without even a conscious effort to slim down

I’m not going to go into this because I’m not sure what to say. I just started losing weight. It’s probably a combination of numbers 6 above and 10 below. Primarily 10 actually.

I started to find out more about the world around me

I was so wrapped up in my own world that very little outside of it mattered. It’s not that I was overly self-absorbed, it was just a natural reaction to being stressed. You have little time to read—but actually read. Sure, we all inhale the Saturday newspaper and share an article on social media occasionally, but you do not have any time to research, explore, and discover new and original information. I have found out more about the world we live in the past six weeks than in the past six years. I have discovered new writers, journalists, publications, and sites with an independent status that allows them to report as they wish: no muzzle and no financial influences. It’s extremely humbling. I really think it is important to know your place in the world, and not just how the world moves around you.

I did not need as much money to be happy

I found that I no longer craved new clothes, shoes, or expensive wine to accompany my takeaway dinner in front of the TV. I can go weeks without buying anything besides food now. I have started to see the value in using the local library as opposed to buying new books every week—not as a money saving tactic, but as a sustainability measure. I have purchased one new item of clothing in six weeks and that was because it really was time to put my favorite pair of jeans in the bin (there is a point where the holes stop being gunge and start becoming revealing). Without even trying, my two weeks of severance pay lasted me six weeks of stress-free living.

My two-bars-of-chocolate-a-day habit decreased significantly

I was eating at least two bars of chocolate each work day, plus sharing a couple of blocks with my partner each weekend. Tragic, I know. I was literally eating my unhappiness and stress. I expected myself to stop eating so much chocolate, but I thought the process would be like pulling teeth. Instead, it just happened. I still eat chocolate—and god help the person who tries to completely take it away from me—but I naturally kicked the unhealthy rationing. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself!

Monique Thorpe is a freelance writer, event manager, and all round freedom-seeker from Melbourne, Australia. Monique is the author/editor of The Women Who, a website that celebrates women for who we are, and not who we should be. Feel free to follow her at @MoniqueThorpe or her blog Colour of Sunshine.

(Image via.)

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