Higher, faster, farther: the more ambitious one’s goals are, the higher the stress levels and, at the same time, the desire for a simpler life. Having a fancy car, a bigger house, a prestigious job come at a high price. But does it have to be like that? How can we get out of the stress treadmill? Psychology expert Benjamin Martens explores the benefits of “downshifting”, which entails switching a gear down and going back to “real” life.

Stress leads to longing for a simpler life
“Downshifting does not imply painful constraints,” explains Martens, “but a conscious return to things that are really important, including the decision for a less complex but more fulfilling life.”

Downshifting is designed to help you to slow down and focus on things that really matter. Although it may not be suitable for everyone, Martens suggests that “everyone has to find their individual way,” and highlights that “basically, in every area of ​​life it is possible to shift a gear down and tackle problems at a slower pace.” Having a cut on our salary does not sound very tempting, but studies prove that the benefits are not just for you, also for your close circle.

A routine lowers the stress level

Another strategy recommended to reduce stress levels is related to how we manage our tasks. A tidy and organized workplace can take away substantial amounts of stress at work as we don’t need to spend time searching for papers or documents and trying to find things or to remember where and when meetings are happening.

A well-structured day, with a set routine, does help to lower our stress level.

Martens also advises that it is possible to work less, even if it means for a lower salary. Of course, we need to evaluate how possible it is to make ends meet with a part-time job. However, if managed wisely, this can still leave a substantial amount of money in our account, and the newly gained leisure time, if used sensibly, may improve our quality of life.

Go shopping less often

If you spend less, you can also afford to earn less. It is for this reason that from time to time it is sensible to examine our consumption habits. “Shopping takes time and money,” says Martens. “Downshifting in this area is worth twice as much.” The more you plan your meals, the less you will spend by avoiding things that will ultimately go to the waste. Besides, it will also take the stress of thinking what to cook before every meal.

After work, set priorities and do only what you really want to do. “The choice of friends is also crucial,” Martens points out. “We shouldn’t spend our time with people we don’t really like.”

Another recommendation to lower our stress is to allow ourselves from time to time to just do nothing; to chill out, relax, and let go.

From time to time, we should all allow ourselves to do nothing - to chill out and let go Share on X

Get enough sleep

Constant stress usually causes lack of sleep, which sometimes can last for weeks. By sleeping poorly our body has less time to regenerate. A few restless nights won’t do much harm, but ongoing sleep deprivation will affect our wellbeing and health in the long run. Also, sleep deficiency leads to an increased release of a stress hormone called cortisol. You can see that this may create a vicious circle, where stress affects our sleep quality and a poor sleep quality leads to more stress.

Avoid Smartphones and other technologies

Modern technology such as smartphones, tablets and laptops make life easier for us in many respects but, ironically, they often become the cause of stress (how many times have you found yourself checking work emails during your free time?).

If you feel overwhelmed, overstimulated or tired, then try to do without those gadgets for an entire day. If you find this as “too extreme”, at least try not to carry the phone with you for a few hours a day (hey, we used to live without mobile phones two decades ago; it can’t be that hard).

Physical activities reduce stress levels

Sport is probably the stress killer par excellence, and rightly so. Particularly recommendable are endurance sports like jogging, swimming or rowing, which put the body into a kind of meditative state. However, activities like walking, hiking or just strolling around are enough to switch off. If you need a special motivation to overcome your weaker self, you can try using a step counter or motivational activity monitoring apps on your smartphone.