8 Ways I Took Back My Sanity

An inexhaustive list of ways I reduced stress and increased happiness

Sia Karamalegos
Sep 26, 2018 · 7 min read
This is not me but my spirit woman. Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash.

Our lives aren’t our lives anymore. We distract ourselves with social media. We stress about negative news and discourse. We avoid the tough problems.

Over the last eight years, I’ve made a sea change in my levels of stress and happiness. I’m sharing my discoveries in the hopes that it can help you in your own journey to contentment.

Let’s be honest, this is a work in progress. No magical cures for stress or pathways to happiness exist. It makes a catchy title, but it also takes a lot of work. Yet, the rewards are worth it.

No phones (or TVs) in the bedroom

This may look cool, but don’t do it! Photo by Tony Lam Hoang on Unsplash.

Write morning pages

Writing my morning pages gives me the opportunity to get all my worries out. Then I move on with the rest of my day without them holding me back. The pages also give me an opportunity to contemplate issues more deeply. I often come up with more creative solutions to my problems on that final page. The length is important — the first page and a half are easy. It’s the final page and a half where both the real work and the real benefit come in.

Because I’m an organizational freak, writing also helps me organize my day and prioritize tasks before I get caught up in email and social media. The back of my notebook has all sorts of to-do lists and notes (including my notes for this article).

It may or may not be against the rules to make coffee before writing. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

List 3 joys daily

Put your joys to pen and paper. Photo by gabrielle cole on Unsplash.

Just say no to social media

Unfortunately, I have to stay active on Twitter for work reasons. I’m a freelance developer and conference speaker. Twitter is my best source of networking and learning what’s new. Sarah Drasner helped me make my timeline loads more positive and relevant with this suggestion:

Luckily, I can stay far away from Facebook. I haven’t deleted my account because I have so many relatives around the world on it. I reassure them that I am still alive by cross-posting to Facebook whenever I post to Instagram. And, I’ve curated my Instagram feed to show the things that bring me joy — great photography and creative inspiration.

Trade in social media for real social interactions.

Call that college friend you haven’t spoken to for three years. Go for high tea with your old work colleagues. Schedule a monthly wine and cheese Google hangout with your sisters.

PSA: Please don’t post your fun events only on Facebook. Many of us have cut the cord on it, but we still love you and want to come to your parties.

Don’t believe the hype. These people are not happy. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

No screen Sunday

It used to be difficult to fill our time. Without the distraction of screens, we do the things we missed doing for so long. Depending on your addiction level, you may experience a brief withdrawal process. Yes, even cleaning my ceiling fan was rewarding. My next goal: apply this to some of my work evenings as well.

What fun could be in store when you turn off the screens? Photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash.

Declutter your possessions

The obvious benefit is drawers that open and close again and a closet where you can actually find your favorite clothes. What you might not notice until later is that your stress levels decrease. You no longer wear the things that you didn’t like. Also, you start buying fewer clothes because you finally realize you should only buy the things you love. So consumption and waste go down, and money goes up! WIN + WIN

After reaching clothes nirvana, applying KonMari to the rest of your possessions becomes easier. I no longer want “stuff”. I’d love a great dinner and wine with my sisters over a sweater or new kitchen gadget.

Don’t underestimate the power of a sane closet. Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash.

Call family regularly

For a brief moment, I resented my mom because she didn’t do this. But then I realized that the problem was with me. I needed to make that change if I wanted to be closer to her. That simple task of starting to call her at least weekly changed our relationship. I’m grateful.

As a corollary to this rule, make your peace with your loved ones now. A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, and we lost him only four harrowing months later. To this day I am still grateful to the counselor at MD Anderson who told us not to wait to say our last words. So, we had “the talk” while he was still healthy enough and responsive. I cannot imagine how much regret I would have today if I hadn’t taken her advice. You can read more about our story here.

Reaching out can feel scary. Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash.

Walk twice a day

Let’s be real — the doggos also help. Yes, they make life a bit more complicated, but they are always so happy to see you. I can’t imagine my life without the multiple moments daily they make me laugh or smile. They helpfully remind me when it is time for a walk. Just don’t let Harry kiss you. He likes to eat poop. Also, read this awesome comic by the Oatmeal.

Pro tip: A dry dish glove is the best way to remove pet hair from clothes.

Hoomans need walking too. Photo by Meg Sanchez on Unsplash.

In Conclusion

Since then, I’ve re-evaluated my life every few years. I make sure I’m doing the things that will make me happy and have the fewest regrets. This has meant some tough choices in terms of career and income. I’ve chosen a path with less income but increased happiness. I’m definitely lucky, and not everyone has the same privileges. But some of these choices cost nothing.

When you are on your deathbed, will you regret not spending more time on Facebook? Not earning more money?

What will you regret?

Stop what you’re doing and do that now.

Shout-outs to Gant Laborde and Glynnis Ritchie for helping make this article even better!

Clio + Calliope

Our expert team builds clean, beautiful, and easy-to-use…

Clio + Calliope

Our expert team builds clean, beautiful, and easy-to-use websites and mobile apps. Let’s create something together.

Sia Karamalegos

Written by

Google Developer Expert in web technologies, traveler, code teacher, endurance racer, speaker, dog lover, crochet pattern designer, New Orleanian

Clio + Calliope

Our expert team builds clean, beautiful, and easy-to-use websites and mobile apps. Let’s create something together.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store