Every now and then I have the good fortune of being able to feature the works of like-minded bloggers. Today, I'm featuring a story about finding freedom by conquering debt and its accompanying anxiety. This article is written by none other than Claire Wilde of Want Less.
Personal debt can be incredibly devastating, as it can lead to both emotional and physical damage. The average for households that carry debt in the United States and in the United Kingdom is about $16,372. Read on to see how Claire found personal fulfillment by acknowledging her anxiety, conquering her debt, and discovering financial freedom.
Claire Wilde is the author of Want Less, a blog centered on minimalism, "escaping the rat-race, logging off from the screens and resisting the pull of 21st century consumerism." She loves sharing tips on how to live the best life possible. Claire is also an avid reader of fellow blogger's materials, and compiles her favorites at Simplicity Voices, a space for articles on minimalism, simplifying, slow living, well-being, and discovering financial freedom.
How Panic Attacks and a Mountain of Debt Led Me to Simplify my Life, and How You Can Too
by Claire Wilde
Mine was just an average life, but it was a life in crisis.
I had the nice house, the fancy car I couldn't afford, the big TV, and the games console.
I had the overworked middle-management job and the busy social life to unwind on the weekends - with plenty of drinks and meals out, of course.
I had the multiple holidays abroad each year, packed with activities each day so I really got the most out of every trip.
But I also had a secret mountain of debt at a time when my job security was looking rockier and rockier.
The stress and worry of my overcommitted life came to a head one sleepless night, when my first panic attack set in. I had no idea what it was, which made it all the more frightening. I thought my heart was going to stop.
This is the closest I came to a "light bulb" moment, when I knew something needed to change; although, in reality this wake-up call has been a years-long process that in some respects I am still going through now.
First, I changed jobs and left my brief career in management behind.
My next big change came on honeymoon. My wife had brought along a book on minimalism, and when I read it I knew that my possessions were adding to my constant state of overwhelm and worry.
I've always been both a sentimental and a messy person, which means I tend to keep hold of as many possessions as possible, then leave them in a constant state of disarray.
When we got back home, I slowly got rid of about a third of my belongings. It felt great.
I then cut back massively on my spending, and paid off every penny of my debts. It was long, and hard, and boring, and totally worth it.
Now I'm looking at other ways I can simplify my life and more importantly inject more fun, laughter and spontaneity into it.
If anything in my story resonates with you, here are some steps you might take to simplify your life too:
1. Try to step away from anything that's making you truly miserable
That might be a stressful job, a bad relationship, a heap of debt or another millstone around your neck. Sometimes, such things can seem completely inescapable so find someone to confide in if you need extra support. You are never alone and situations are never helpless.
2. Make peace with your limitations
Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you work at things, it's never enough? If so, you're not alone. 'Productivity' can be a dangerous concept when it makes people feel like they have to be working at peak performance every minute of the day. That's just a fast-track to burnout. So make sure you build unstructured time into your day and don't scold yourself if you catch yourself daydreaming. It's natural, healthy and downright fun to waste time.
3. Cut your commitments to find more time for yourself
As I've already mentioned, I'm a big believer in kicking back and doing nothing at all, but chances are you might not have much time for such a luxury. Well, one way to make time is by starting to say no to things you might otherwise feel obliged to say yes to. Ditch that book you're not enjoying. Politely decline that event you don't want to go to. Build pauses into your day and then guard them fiercely.
4. Pare down your possessions
I'll be frank here: in my view, you don't have to get rid of the majority of your belongings to feel the benefits. I'm not sure I'll ever be a hardcore minimalist. But just saying goodbye to the items which felt like they were dragging me down really did lift my mood on a daily basis.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others
Have you ever been to visit a friend, only to be consumed by envy at their swanky property, tasteful furnishings or high-tech gadgets? I won't lie, it's hard to banish jealousy from your head, but next time you feel that way, just notice it and ask yourself why you feel that way.
6. Cut down on your social media use
This is another huge one if you want to stop feeling jealous when you look at your friends' lives. Notice how you feel after you've been in social media, and if it is making you feel low, find ways to cut back.
7. Get out more
Yup, out in the open air. If left to my own devices, I'll happily sit on my laptop all day so I sometimes have to force myself to go for a walk – and always feel better for it.
8. Find your happy
Try to notice those days when you feel really uplifted. What has made you feel that way? For me, it's when I'm around really close family or friends, when I'm lost in a hobby, when I'm being active, when I'm exploring somewhere or something new or when I'm being spontaneous. But I'm spectacularly bad at actually making sure I do all these things on a regular basis. In life, there will always be drudgery, but make sure you know what your antidotes are.