How a Minimalist Copes with Anxiety

by Inês Morais
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minimalism and anxiety
“Solo” by Varnavas Varnava

Let’s start by an obvious but necessary disclaimer: anxiety is a medical issue that should be discussed with a doctor. We can learn ways to help control it, but medical guidance should be the first option in order to alleviate symptoms. 

Now, speaking of methods, minimalism can be a helpful tool in controlling anxiety-related feelings or symptoms. It depends, of course, on each individual because we don’t all have the same triggers or reactions to possible solutions. What might work for one person might not work for another, which is why you must keep in mind that even though minimalism can be of use to some people in dealing with anxiety, it isn’t absolutely certain that it’ll work for you. It’s, still, worth the try, if you feel like your clutter is holding you down. 

At the end of the article, you can read the testimony of someone whose life changed by embracing the minimalist lifestyle. The interview goes from her struggle with anxiety to how minimalism helped her cope with the mental illness. 

Can minimalism help cope with anxiety?

Minimalism can’t stop anxiety but it can surely help people who suffer from the illness. Many times, what triggers us is the stuff around us, the stuff that we think we want (not need) but can’t buy – it’s about stuff that keeps your mind unbearably heavy, most of the time. Minimalism can help you because it’ll guide you towards a decluttering process that cleanses both your space and your mind.

How does minimalism help cope with anxiety?

minimalism and anxiety
“Anxiety” by Tito Mindoljevich

The ways in which minimalism helps someone with anxiety are unique to each, however, there are a few general aspects in which minimalism helps all of us, especially those of us who suffer from anxiety.

  • Minimalism can help stop worry

The minimalist lifestyle helps you be in touch with what’s most important in life. This gives you the freedom not to worry about stresses you – hence the less important things – and keeps your mind clear and light.

  • Minimalism can help stop the comparison game

Something that can really bring us down is comparing our lives to others’. That tends to happen more often today, given that social media makes up for a big part of our lives. We focus so much on the exciting things others are doing and the beautiful places they’re visiting that the game ends up consuming our time and our minds.

As a minimalist, you begin to understand that possessions have no impact on your happiness. The capacity that minimalism gives you to take a step back and grasp how wrong society’s conventional view of possessions sets you free from the crippling feeling of being less than others just because you don’t experience or don’t own as much as them.

Minimalism can help stop financial anxiety

Financial issues trigger feelings of anxiety quickly and easily. Minimalism is of great help here because the lifestyle involuntarily reduces your spending, helping to relieve financial problems. Leading a minimalist life does save you money both in the long and short run, which immediately alleviates finances-related feelings of anxiety.

Interview

We’ve talked to Allison Tupling of The Greenish Mama, who kindly shared her struggle with anxiety and the role minimalism had in coping with it.

Can you describe your experience with anxiety and how it affected your daily life?

I started getting really bad anxiety after my second daughter was born. I was scared to leave the house with the girls on my own. I would think the worst about everything when it came to them. I was on edge all the time which made me very short tempered and I would get upset at really trivial things.

How did you try to cope with it? Did you try any methods said to be helpful (such as medication or therapy)?

I finally got help from the mental health services here and even though I wasn’t too far on the scale, I was enrolled in a 12 week CBT program.

Do you think those methods failed you?

CBT didn’t fail me. I have tools that I can implement and have continued access if I need more help.

Did you find minimalism or did it find you? How were you introduced to the minimalist lifestyle and when?

I found minimalism by working towards Zero Waste. Eco anxiety is another area I have issues with so reducing my waste naturally led to me reducing in other areas of my life.

How does minimalism help you cope with anxiety?

Minimalism I have found has given me less to worry about. I don’t worry as much about finding time to clean while managing two toddlers. The clean spaces and surfaces create calm in my mind as well.

How are things now? Do you still have severe episodes, and, if so, are they different now?

I’ve had a pretty bad time lately as my husband and I are remodeling our kitchen. The clutter, not having a kitchen and being home with toddlers is sending my anxiety through the roof.

What advice can you give to others?

Please, reflect on the questions and try to provide detailed answers so the reader can understand where you’re coming from and relate to you by making sense of your path!

I think you need to evaluate your reasons for wanting to try minimalism and really think about your relationship with stuff as that can make the transition easier or harder. I found reading Marie Kondo’s book really fascinating in terms of our relationships with stuff and even if I am not following it to the letter I did find it to be a helpful starting point. I think that you are on your own journey and minimalism will look different for everyone and not just the stark white, pristine pictures on Pinterest. You also shouldn’t feel bad for what you decide to keep in your home as long as you are keeping it to use or display.

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