How To Minimize Stress and Maximize Awesomeness!

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During the courses of our lives we go through a lot of transition periods. Transitions can be both stressful and awesome.

Marriages, graduations, new careers, new relationships, new destinations …

That last one is an interesting one for me and it prompted this article.

My second night in Bangkok I hung out with Sean Ogle of Location180.com (check it out, he rocks) and we were talking about how much we love our lives. Is that nerdy? ;)

But we were also talking about stresses involved with our work. That stress being, we love what we do, but when we’re in a travel period (transition period) and visiting a new city, it’s tough to get work done. And not working is stressful because it’s something we enjoy. It’s a funny cycle. :)

Tangent (you know how I love them): Sean is also a guitar player. Like me, he gets stressed if he can’t play a guitar for an extended period of time. One of the many reasons I built a guitar in India is because when I was traveling through Australia/New Zealand for 4 months it was stressful not having a guitar.

But I digress …

While in Bangkok (I’m in Chiang Mai now, love it!) I knew it was just for a short while so I put off work even though I had stuff to get done. On both Thursday and Friday I went to one of the Regus offices in the city (free access with my Amex Platinum Card) and did 1-2 hours of work. But the city was calling me so I answered.

What Are Stressful Transitions?

Stressful transitions are different for me and you. Mine are things like being on the road for an extended period of time vs staying put in a new place for an extended period of time.

Traveling around New Zealand in a bus for 30 days? Awesome! But stressful as all get out. (I think I’ve used that phrase twice within the past 2 weeks. When will it get out of my system? Nobody knows.)

Goa, India for 2 months? Besides the first few weeks of figuring out Internet access, not stressful.

The last 24 hours were a little bit stressful:

- 14 hour overnight train (thanks to the nice British family who let me take one of their bottom, roomier, berths in exchange for my crappier upper berth!) with a bunch of loud drunk punks.

- The one vegetarian dinner option on the train wasn’t available (they did have 10 meat options, so you know, really catering to all the Buddhists) so when I got to Chiang Mai I was starving.

- The first few apartments I looked at were out of the way and expensive. Walking from apartment to apartment in the 100F/38C heat was exhausting.

But then, awesomeness:

- I quickly found a great veg restaurant.

- I found a sweet apartment for $300/month (including Internet and weekly cleaning) with 3 veg restaurants within a 60 second walk!

- All the stress immediately melted away even though I felt like I just took a shower and thought I might faint. :)

Our goal in life should be to minimize stressful transitions to maximize awesomeness.

The reason I do what I do the way that I do it is to minimize stressful transitions, which makes the fun stuff even more fun for me.

Sure, I don’t see as much as other people who travel. But I’m not here (there, or anywhere) to see everything. I’m simply living my life in a way that makes me happiest.

The Game Changer: Minimalism

My secret to minimizing the stress of even stressful transitions is through minimalism.

Minimalism and Transitions

Less stuff = less stress! ;)

My stressful transitions are less stressful because I have less to worry about.

If you’re stressed, I guarantee adopting even a little bit of minimalism into your life will do wonders to relieve your stress.

I could write for days about minimalism, but here are some rock stars who have written a lot about it:

Everett Bogue – The Freedom of Living With 75 Things

Tammy Strobel – How To Unplug From Stuff

Leo Babauta – Oh, just read everything at Mnmlist.com and ZenHabits.net :)

David Damron – 15 Ways To Become A Minimalist In 2010

Colin Wright – All 51 Things I Own

Now that I’m so quickly settled here in Chiang Mai I’m going to:

- Work.

- Eat awesome food.

- Do some fun shit.

How about you? What do you do to minimize stressful transitions and maximize awesomeness?

Photo Credit

{ 52 comments }

mike

Hey Karol,
Thanks for this post. I am going through a tough work transition as I currently work overseas and the company I work for have just announced (negative) changes to my terms and conditions. As I lead a minimalist lifestyle with little stuff or commitments I feel much calmer than my colleagues who have loads of stuff and financial commitments and who are panicking about the changes.

keep up the great work

m.

Karol

Thank you Mike. Awesome to hear minimalism is allowing you to be less stressed during a rough transition.

Tom

Karol – great links on minimalism. I’m really getting into The Minimalist Path. And… great to see that your last post was an April Fool’s joke!

Karol

Thanks Tom! April Fool’s joke indeed. ;)

Abhishek

Congratulations on your new apartment and finding vegetarian food. I understand your plight as my vegetarian friends always face this issue when we travel to a new city.

Being a minimalist makes transitions easy. May it be travelling for business or just moving apartments. I always give myself enough time to organize after a move. If I estimate 3 days to finish move (including cleaning up the old apartment), I give myself a week. Not everybody’s job has that flexibility but my 9to5 is a little relaxed with time off.

On stressful days, a late night walk with my dog in the park along the river works wonders. We sit and stare aimlessly at the water. Well, she might be looking for squirrels. Sometimes we see a dolphin in the brackish water. Sometimes a manatee. It is an awesome experience and it costs nothing.

Karol

Thanks Abhishek! New cities where I speak or read the language are easy. It’s when I can’t make sense of anything that it’s a little more difficult. ;)

Good point regarding allowing yourself enough time. I think sometimes we may underestimate how long it takes to do something and that causes unnecessary stress.

Awesome way to relieve stress. I imagine I’d do the same if I had a dog. :)

Vanessa

I don’t have a whole lot to add to the convo, but I just wanted to say I loved this post =)

Karol

Thank you Vanessa! :)

poch

I was always a minimalist. Where my stress comes from is my environment.
And I need a stable job first before I could escape from it!

Karol

Our environments are usually our biggest stressors. But telling yourself you need X to happen before Y will happen is almost never beneficial. You can remove yourself from any environment if you really need to.

Mara

omg. i think you have just put together the words that make the lightbulb come on in my head: Our environments are usually our biggest stressors. But telling yourself you need X to happen before Y will happen is almost never beneficial. You can remove yourself from any environment if you really need to. all my life the X before Y has been the controlling factor, blinding me, preventing me from seeing my way through. i am still not sure how i will get past it, but this simple way to articulate the core problem is in itself a step forward. thank, karol. peace.

Karol

I’m glad that helped you out Mara! Thanks for letting me know. :)

paurullan

Good points dude.

Just as an offside joke, following some minimalist advice last winter I emptied my wardrobe: just three pants and a couple of shirts. The funny thing is that nobody has payed attention that I wear the same clothes one day after the other!

Take that consumerism.

Karol

hehe, exactly…nobody notices! :)

Erin S.

I noticed right away, but chose to not say anything.

Amelia

I feel you on the veggie food! Stessful travelling is hard enough without being starving to boot, but it happens all too frequently. To minimise this, I usually stock up on apples and/or dark chocolate every other day, so if I’m caught in a pinch I have something to keep my sugar up. If I’m well fed, I can take on ANYTHING. Well, almost.

Karol

Yeah, I had a ClifBar ration and some fruit. :)

adam

Karol-
How do you go about finding apartments in new cities?

Karol

You’re supposed to read How To Live Anywhere for that. ;)

Kidding: Couchsurfing, e-mail bloggers who have been here, google search, walking around looking for For Rent signs, asking people I meet on the street.

David Damron

Thanks for the mention alongside other great writers.

David Damron
The Minimalist Path

Karol

You’re welcome dude!

Moon Hussain

I am a minimalist in my own ways. I hate clutter in my apartment and tend to purge once or twice a year, which isn’t enough in my opinion.

I’m in a transitional period myself and really want to come out a winner out of this one. Who doesn’t, I suppose!

Karol

Thanks for commenting Moon. Good luck with your transition period!:)

Mike Long

I’m taking the first step toward removing a H U G E stress-inducer in my life today. Hoping it’s the beginning of the “life rebuilding” process. :)

Thank as always for the welcome additional insight Karol! :)

Karol

Awesome Mike! I can only imagine what you’re removing, but congrats! :)

Erin S.

I hear you about the guitar thing. We each can find that creative outlet, like music, or painting, or cooking, or whatever works for you; and it is empowering, and frees us from the daily grind. It allows us to soar. When utilizing this natural born, God-given talent, we receive a glimpse of life without boundaries. So to go without it for a time feels like we have lost that wonderful, magical thing about ourselves.

The world would be a nicer place if everyone knew their gifts and visited this facet of their existence everyday.

Karol

Thanks for your insight Erin! I agree the world probably would be a nicer places if we all focused on our gifts each day. :)

kelly

Less stuff = less stress? hmmm less stuff = less stress! I have too much stuff!!! (like many I wouldn’t count books)

Karol

Yes, less stuff = less stress! ;) Although I hate that it’s proprietary and my books are stuck on it forever, books on my Kindle mean I only have 1 small piece of clutter instead of hundreds of pieces.

Michael Crosby

Karol, on that April Fools joke. I actually mailed your post to a famous travel blogger. It inspired him so much, he just flew back from Zimbabwe back to US.

I wrote to him that it was an April fools joke. Here’s his response:

“While it’s embarrassing to have my life (and certainly life’s income) changed on someone’s joke, the travel life had indeed run its course…”

I tell you, I had to laugh at that idiot. Don’t mean to be mean, but what an idiot.

Karol

hehe Well, at least he’s living the way he wants. ;)

Sonicsuns

In response, a minimalist comment: Good stuff. =)

Karol

:) Thanks!

Chris McDade

Hi Karol,

Thanks for another great post – and amazing timing!

I’ve been sitting on the idea of relaunching my blog in a different fashion and after taking some steps to a more minimalist and simple life, your post appears!

Funny thing about the list of mimimalism blogs – I have a similar one in my post and your blog is on it! – I was going to point people to your packing list post but wondered if you would prefer I just point them to the main page?

Karol

You’re welcome Chris!

Any way you want to rock that link is stellar. Thank you for doing that!

Jed

Karol, you just summed up the ARGH that I feel when traveling with someone that wants to bounce from place to place to place. Most travelers, regardless of their length of travels, have this ‘tourist’ mindset of ‘do more activities, go more places, see more things’, which massively EXPANDS the number of stressful transitions they undergo. With this mindset, people disdain the idea of staying in one place for longer than a week.

There is nothing more fun than parking myself in a foreign city for a committed period of time and letting it shake out. All the activities happen, usually in a much more fun/relaxed/social way, and there are usually many more friends to enjoy them with.

Also – I’ve found that when on a crazy ‘tourist bent’ with someone who cannot handle staying in one place (my wife…), it’s easy to spend money to avoid stressful transitions (think taxi vs bus, plane vs train), but usually at the sacrifice of great experiences. Say you had flown to Chiang Mai – it would have been more expensive, yet easier and faster. But you’ll never be able to say ‘I just took a 14 hour train ride through Thailand, and it was amazing.’

Karol

hehe, I have a tourist mindset (we’re all tourists, you know?), I just take my tiiiiiimmmmmeeeeee with it. :) And this is why I love solo travel.

You’re so right about it being easy to spend money when we’re in transitions. It’s crazy how much I spent on taxis, tuk tuks, and public transport in Bangkok. In relation to transportation spending when I’m settled down in a city, of course.

Speaking of flying to Chiang Mai. I think I’m going to fly to Bangkok instead of taking the train back. It’s only ~$60 (train is ~$25) and will make the transition of getting to Poland less stressful. :)

Thanks for adding to this Jed!

Sue Haddleton

Hey Karol
I loved this post!

I always have been a possessions de clutterer and since reading this thinking more about time (I have in the past tried to cram too much in) and situations de cluttering which I now think is just as important.

I read once that we are emotionally attached on some level to every single we own. By having less emotional attachments to possessions and other stuff that doesn’t work for us, the more energy we have to create awesome attachments and experiences.

Thank you for sharing!

Sue

Karol

Thank you Sue! You’re right on, we are emotionally attached to everything we own and by getting rid of the stuff we don’t need it allows us to focus better on stuff that rocks. :)

Michael Crosby

Hi Sue, what a thoughtful comment. I’ve never looked at it that way. I believe that’s quite profound.

Here’s another post similar and quite enlightening:
http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/04/05/spend-based-on-who-you-are-not-who-you-want-to-be/

Karol

Thanks for that link Michael. Great post!

sheryl

Awesome post, awesome comments.
Thank you Karol and everyone for your thoughts.

Karol

Thank you Sheryl! And yes, the comments are usually 10x better than my posts. :)

Ash

<3 <3 <3 it.

You know, I think that travel stress is a strange type of stress. In some ways, it's very different from any stress I experience at home. When at home, there's this tendency to feel like we've got to be doing a, b, c, r, s, t, z, y, z all at the same time or risk being underproductive, etc. etc. But when we're traveling, those pressures are relieved because we accept that the traveling IS being productive in itself. And I just love that. I love going elsewhere, because it's the one time I feel completely free to just BE. Working on changing that mindset while at home, too. But novelty in strange and foreign lands just does something magical to me. As does your writing.

Kudos, my love!

Karol

Thank you Ash! :)

Travel stress is different than any stress at home. Home = comfort, for the most part. Travel = lots of unknowns. There are probably very few people who don’t have at least a little anxiety about the unknown.

I’ve never really thought about the “underproductive mentality.” You’re completely right. It doesn’t happen so much in foreign lands. :)

Sue Haddleton

Thank you Michael! -that is the first time I have commented on a blog post.
That link is great and so true! thank you for sending.

Colin Wright

Thanks for the mention, brother!

I had no idea you BUILT a guitar. As a fellow guitarist (who also gets a bit stressed out when there is no guitar at hand to play regularly), I’m incredibly impressed by this.

Karol

No worries man, your site rules.

Yes, guitar was hand built using almost no power tools. A router and a dremel a few times. Turned blocks/pieces of wood into a guitar. :)

Shannon

I’m totally missing the point of transitional stress here but I really wish I was in Chiang Mai right now. I do so love it there.

Karol

haha…well, Chiang Mai is the most important part of the article :)

Josh

Yeah I agree “less stuff = less stress”. How about this “no stuff = no stress”???

Karol

err, no stuff = near impossible unless you’re living on an island by yourself and you can walk around with no clothes

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