Guys. I just learned about this idea that changed my life, and it was such a huge light bulb moment for me that I just have to share it with all of you.
Before I can share this idea though, I have to give you a little back story on how I came across it:
Yesterday was a hard day for me. You see, I have anxiety. We all have some level of anxiety, and with everything in the world going on right now, I know a lot of you are feeling more anxious than usual. I take medication for my anxiety though, and I have seriously mixed emotions about it.
Despite being a psychology major, a huge supporter of the mental health movement, and a strong believer in the power of getting help when you’re ready and when you need it, I still struggle with the idea of taking a pill for my mental health. Even though I’ve struggled with anxiety and bouts of severe depression since I was a child, it took me until I was 29-years-old to decide that yoga, meditation, and self-help videos just weren’t cutting it. I was so frazzled and stressed I went to my psychologist and bluntly told her (in a semi-joking matter) that I wanted drugs.
I’ve been on these drugs for a few months now, but for the last two days, I decided not to take said drugs.
I’m in quarantine. I’m pregnant. I have an out of control amygdala even on my best days. This was a terrible, terrible life choice for me, and I have been…not the best version of myself for the last two days.
(This morning, I woke up and apologized profusely to my fiance, informing him that I guess I’m just a lunatic without my medication and I shouldn’t have made the decision to just stop taking it by myself. Bless his heart – he just hugged me and told me not to apologize.)
Now the part I’m excited to talk about.
Before last night, I’d never heard of this idea before, and in less than 24 hours I can attest that the philosophy of essentialism is kind of a game-changer.
Whenever I feel like my life is spiraling out of control, I tend to turn to self-help books, youtube videos, and google searches. I reach for other people who have free advice to offer, willing to implement just about any exercise or way of thinking to get back to a place of centeredness.
Last night, after a full day of bawling my eyes out and a day and a half of not sleeping, I found myself on the YouTube channel of Rowena Tsai. (She’s great by the way. She started her channel in order to “[encourage her] peers to take an honest and sober look at their lives to see if they’re living the life they proactively choose to live. And if they’re not, to find the courage to do something about it”, according to her profile.)
The video on her page that I watched can be found here: the one habit that is changing my life: set systems rather than goals.
In the video, she starts out discussing how she uses systems to embrace the journey to reaching goals, rather than just focusing on a laundry list of goals, and how changing habits and setting systems are what causes lasting changes in our lives. Then she gets into the idea of choosing to prioritize the essential in your life over the non-essential.
The video itself isn’t about just essentialism, although I still recommend the video.
During her tidbit on choosing the essential, she mentions in passing the book where her ideas on choosing the essential originated from:
Which, if you’re interested, you can buy here, or here (these links redirect you to Barnes and Noble and Amazon, respectively). I’m sure you can also find it anywhere else books are sold. (The Book Depository is one of my personal favorite online stores.)
If you aren’t a big reader, you don’t currently have the funds, or you just want the short version, I found a fantastic and helpful summary of the main ideas of essentialism at Top Results Academy.
The above resources will give you a more in-depth understanding of what essentialism is, but I’m going to give you the down and dirty version right now:
Essentialism is recognizing that the majority of things we prioritize in life don’t actually matter, and there are only a few things that do. It’s all about the power of choice, and not giving that power away. It’s choosing what problems you want, because everything we do in life has “problems” that come with it. If we can narrow down what the most important things in life are to us, it will help us choose how to best spend our energy, how to set our long term goals, and more importantly, how to set milestones that help us reap the joy of our efforts in the now. It’s about having powerful boundaries and not letting people break them. It’s about recognizing that prioritizing time for ourselves to recharge is equally as important as other “priorities” we set for ourselves. And my favorite part: essentialism is a way of thinking. It’s a practice. Understand the basics and tailor it to your own life.
My brain exploded.
I love to-do lists. I put a hundred things on my to-do lists every day and somehow things still get neglected. Important things, like my health, and the love of my life who just hugs me and tells me not to apologize when I have anxiety meltdowns.
So, this morning, I sat down with my notes on essentialism and wrote down my top three priorities. They are as follows:
#1: MY FAMILY
I have an amazingly supportive fiance who loves me even when I’m being crazy and/or hyperfocused and I have a daughter on the way who I want to grow up healthy and happy in a happy home. I always want to be present for them and approach them with the best version of myself. Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, they’re still going to be the most important thing, no matter what craziness the highway of life has in store.
#2: MY MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
This is a big one. I can’t take care of anyone else if I can’t take care of myself. This covers a wide range of habits and routines I want to develop in my life: more yoga, more reading, making healthy, home-cooked meals, gardening, getting eight hours of sleep every night, taking time to sit in silence, continuing with therapy when I need it. This over-arching idea envelops so many important things in my life that shouldn’t necessarily be checklist items.
#3: SELF-FULFILLMENT, GROWTH, AND INDEPENDENCE
I’m about to start on a really cool part of my life journey: being a stay at home mom. (I genuinely never thought I’d be excited about that). It’s important to me that I’m still growing as a human being while I’m at home raising my daughter. This encompasses finishing my bachelor’s degree (that I’ve been working on since 2009…), getting my master’s, starting this blog and eventually turning it into a source of income, and doing things that I feel are impactful.
And there it is. This is just my springboard, my starting point, but I already feel less stressed.
So what’s next?
Finding small, impactful, inspiring steps that I can take that enrich these three main priorities in my life, and gracefully stepping up my “no” game to things that don’t add value to my life.
And just like that, I sat down and wrote my first blog post, which I’ve been struggling to do for months. A small, actionable step I was able to take towards my goal of reaching a wider audience.
So tell me, what’s your take on essentialism?
Was this helpful for you?
What are you prioritizing in your life?
Thanks for reading!