Mind & Body

Simplify Your Life to Take Control of Anxiety

TIMEApril 28, 2016

Most of us experience anxiety—moments when the stress we feel is out of proportion with the situation at hand and not helpful for dealing with the challenges we face.

However, even if our rational brain realizes this, handling these feelings in the heat of the moment can be very challenging.

Psychotherapist Julie Larson, of The YinOva Center, said that most of us manage some level of anxiety, whether it’s smaller things like being late for an important meeting, long to-do lists with looming deadlines, or bigger things like an illness, the yearning for a life partner, or financial worries. She has found that by simplifying on multiple levels, we can train ourselves to handle anxiety so we’re less affected by it.

Julie Larson
Psychotherapist Julie Larson.

She explained to the Epoch Times how this works.

Epoch Times: What is simplifying?

Julie Larson: Simplifying doesn’t mean taking a break or stepping away from the work of living. To me, simplifying means digging down deep and naming the values and priorities you use to define yourself and your “best life.” This becomes the foundation as you focus on the path ahead.

When you sit with this inner truth, you might recognize you have work to do requiring you to let go of others’ expectations or even standards you’ve set for yourself that feel false. It might mean saying no to obligations that fall outside of your priority roles. Simplifying might also mean standing up for yourself or asking for what you need.

Simplification often requires that you learn the skill of letting go and challenging assumptions. Based on what I watch in my office, my bet is that as you live your days thoughtfully guided by the intentions that are authentic and meaningful to you, you’ll notice you feel more energized and happier. And this energy can have a self-fulfilling effect in many different areas of your life.

Epoch Times: How can we simplify to reduce anxiety?

Anxiety hijacks our ability to enjoy or even be present in the moment. (SIphotography/iStock)

Ms. Larson: In my office, I hear about hectic schedules, epic to-do lists, and lofty expectations from others and ourselves. It is no surprise that I also hear about sleepless nights and anxiety.

When I talk about simplification, it’s about getting back to basics for how we live our lives and manage the day-to-day: how we breathe and ground ourselves through overwhelming moments, how we make a healthy habit of remembering our key values,  how we actively seek out perspective, how we make conscious choices and prioritize our time.

Epoch Times: Why is perspective important for simplification?

Ms. Larson: In my opinion, the act of simplifying includes seeking perspective. All too often, the pace of our days or the urgency of what we think must be completed overrides any opportunity for stepping back and taking inventory. When we begin to carve out time to consider a bigger picture, we ultimately feel more control and more confidence as we face the daily tasks ahead.

Epoch Times: What are some ways we can gain more perspective?


Ms. Larson: Perspective comes in many different colors. Perspective can be acknowledging what is working for you, alongside how much harder or worse circumstances could be.

Perspective is realigning expectations for yourself so they match your values and priorities.

Perspective is listening with an ear of compassion, working hard to understand where someone else is coming from.

Perspective can also mean taking a break, shifting gears, and focusing on a different area of your life. The act of seeking perspective is a skill. The more you exercise and build perspective-seeking muscles, the more nuanced you become at using perspective in meaningful and helpful ways during hard times.

Epoch Times: Urgent anxiety can affect us long after the intensity of the emotion has passed. Can you explain?

Perspective is listening with an ear of compassion, working hard to understand where someone else is coming from. (Shironosov/iStock)
Perspective is listening with an ear of compassion, working hard to understand where someone else is coming from. (Shironosov/iStock)

Ms. Larson: Anxiety hijacks our ability to enjoy or even be present in the moment. When anxiety feels urgent, it can drive people to be irritable, impatient, and easily frustrated. This feverish anxiety can also rob us of the ability to think logically. These consequences can impact relationships and more significantly, lead to strong feelings of guilt or regret.

Epoch Times: How can gaining more perspective help with urgent anxiety?

Ms. Larson: Becoming more aware of our experience of anxiety is the first step toward recognizing when we need to plug in our self-care tools. Then we can work on cultivating behaviors that help us simplify and ground those intense moments.

Epoch Times: What are some ways we can gain perspective around urgent anxiety?

Ms. Larson: Questioning the urgent thinking, “What happens if I don’t get this done right now?” “What do I worry will transpire between now and the time I can get this answer?” “Have I been in this situation before? How did that go?” Answering these types of questions might help you begin to let some air out of the intensity of the worry.

June Kellum
June Kellum is a married mother of three and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.