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How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress

How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress

Excessive clutter is often a symptom and a cause of stress and can affect every facet of your life, from the time it takes you to do things to your finances and your overall enjoyment of life.  Clutter can distract you, weigh you down, and in general it invites chaos into your life.  Often times, however, tackling the clutter can seem an insurmountable task if you don’t know where or how to start.  By devoting a little of your time to getting rid of the clutter in your life and maintaining things relatively clutter-free , you’ll reap the rewards of pleasing living areas, reduced stress, and a more organized and productive existence.

The best way to tackle the decluttering of your home, your work space, and your life is to take things  one small step at a time.  Combined, small steps will lead to big improvements that will be easier to maintain over the long-run.  Here is a blueprint of how to start tackling that clutter and enjoying a less stressful life:

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Your Work Area

If you want to be more productive and focused in your work, getting the clutter out of your work area is essential.

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  • Start with your desk. Clear everything off the top of it and take everything out of the drawers.  Assemble the items in piles on the floor.  Clean and wipe down your desk, and marvel at how pretty and clean it looks.  Sort through all of the “stuff” that was both in and on your desk.  Toss out as much as possible a relatively small amount.  Once you’ve weeded things out, it’s time to sort through the remains.  Set up a basic alphabetical filing system with a folder for each project or client.  Keep your office supplies and other items in designated drawers.  If you need to, label things, but the main thing you should do is designate a spot for every item you decided to keep and make sure that it stays there, or goes back there when you’re done using it. Keep flat surfaces clear, and have an inbox for all incoming papers.  When the papers  come in, sort them each day – toss, delegate, do immediately, or file simply file all documents, but whatever you do, DO NOT KEEP THEM ON TOP OF YOUR DESK.  All you want on the surface of your desk is your phone, computer, inbox, and maybe a special photo in addition to the documents you are working with at the moment.
  • Declutter your computer. Get rid of files and programs on your computer that you don’t need.  Get rid of most or all of the icons on your desktop.  They not only slow down your computer, but they also create visual clutter.  There are better ways of accessing your information.  Regularly purge old, unused files.  If organization is not your thing, utilize a program such as Google Desktop to search for your files when you need them.
  • Then move on to information. In the digital world of today, there are so many different ways that information creeps into our lives.  Information in itself can become overwhelming when you have too much of it, and this is called information clutter. Instead of letting information take over your life, set limits.  Reduce the number of things that you read each day and get rid of things from your RSS feed.  Chuck those magazine subscriptions, and reduce your consumption of news and television. I’m not suggesting that you cut yourself off from the world, just that setting some boundaries will help.  Instead of letting information, even the kind that friends share on Facebook, take over your life, control how and when you receive it by limiting what you read.r

Your Home

Outside of work, home is where many of a bulk of our time.  So it’s no wonder that a messy house can add to daily stress.

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  • Simply your rooms. If your rooms are too cluttered, you’ll want to simplify them.  Start by clearing off anything that is on the floors.  Throw out or donate unused things.  After clearing the floor, move to flat surfaces such as countertops, shelves, tops of dressers, etc.  Clear them as much as possible, and then move onto furniture.  Consider if you need everything .  Sort things in piles – toss, donate, or keep. Organize everything that you’ve decided to keep into drawers, cabinets, and closets, keeping them out of sight, but still neatly organized and uncluttered. Do this one room at a time.
  • Tackle the closets. Closets are a great place to store things that you don’t want out in the open, and can easily become a place where you shove things just to keep them out of view.  Go through your closets – take everything out, clean it, and toss ,  donate as much as you can.  Decided a specific place to store anything you decide to keep.  Keep only the things that you love and use frequently.  As for your clothes, get rid of anything that you haven’t worn in six months.
  • Clean out your drawers. Drawers are prime place for things to get shoved into.  Empty out your drawers, and sorting them by whether you’re keeping, tossing, or donating them.

Your Life

Decluttering your work area and your home are great ways to start reducing the clutter and stress in your life, but there’s still more than you can do.

  • Reduce your commitments. Often times, our lives are too clutterd with all of the things that we need to do at home, work, school, in our religious or civic lives, with friends and family, with hobbies, and so on.  Take a look at each area of your life and write down all of your commitments.  Seeing it all written down can be quite an eye-opening experience, as well as overwhelming.  From here, look at each one and decide whether it really brings you joy and value, and if it is worth the amount of time that you invest in it.  Another way to reduce your commitments is to identify a few that you truly love, and get rid of the rest.  Learn how to say no and decline offers. If you eliminate the things that don’t bring you joy or value, you’ll have more time for the things that you love.
  • Reconsider your routines. Many of us do not have any set routines in our daily lives, and simply tackle our obligations, chores, and daily tasks haphazardly.  Without structure, it can lead to chaotic days and a drop in productivity.  Instead, batch tasks together.  Instead of doing your laundry several times throughout the week, do it all on one day.  It’s helpful to write down all of your weekly and daily obligations, chores, and tasks, and then plan out daily and weekly routines.  Hang it up where you can see it and try to follow it.  You might find that having a routine brings a new sense of calm and order to your life.

How to Maintain Order Over the Long-Term

Once you’ve successfully decluttered, whether it be one area or all the areas mentioned above, clutter will inevitably begin to creep back into your life. You must be vigilant in weeding it out on a regular basis, or it will just take over your life again.

  • Set up a system to keep clutter in check. Examine the way that you do things and how things make their way into your life, and consider whether you can put together a simple system for everything, from your laundry to work projects and email.  Write down your systems step-by-step and try to follow them as best as you can.  Follow your systems and you’ll keep the clutter minimized.
  • Don’t slack off.  It’s easy to put things off for another day, but it’ll save you headaches in the long-run if you deal with things immediately. Throw it out, donate it, or keep it and put it in a designated area.
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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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