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Stress-Free Zone | Simplify Your Life

Just Let the World Recede Into Silence

July 20, 1998|ELAINE ST. JAMES

Stress is a major factor in many of our health-related problems. A key way to reduce stress is to simplify. By reducing clutter, commitments, tasks and expenses, your life will streamline into the Stress Free Zone. Elaine St. James tells us how.


Several months ago, a friend started getting up early on Sunday morning to drive across town to a new-to-her church service. She enjoys the quiet gathering of acquaintances and strangers, and often finds the words from the pulpit thought-provoking. But when she analyzed what has kept her involved in this weekly ritual at this point in her busy life, she discovered a delightful surprise. What she savors most are the two minutes of guided silence that precede the weekly service.

Two minutes of deep, imposed, gloriously uninterrupted silence. When she's there in that place, there's nowhere else she can go, nothing else she can do. There's nothing she has to listen to, no response she has to make, no one she has to be but her very own self for those two sublime moments. She is amazed at how long two minutes can be; each moment is an eternity. She finds herself craving that two minutes of silence all week long. So far, it's the only complete and total downtime she has been able to carve out of her hectic schedule.

Of course, as I pointed out to her, if she made it a priority, she could discover many other occasions each week, and even each day, to create that silence. We all know this, but we forget in the midst of our hurried lives. If you're longing for a bit of quiet time, here are half a dozen opportunities, any of which you can adapt to your own circumstances:

1. When you get up in the morning, go out to the front porch or the back patio, or find a chair in a quiet part of the house and sit quietly for two minutes.

2. Take two minutes when you sit down to breakfast before you start to eat or after you've eaten.

3. If you drive to work, take two minutes after you get into the car, before you start the engine. Or once you've reached the office and have parked the car, take two minutes before you open the car door to rush into the office.

4. Plan to arrive at your office a bit earlier than usual and take two minutes before the phones start ringing, or co-workers or your boss finds you. (But do this only if you know you won't be interrupted.)

5. At the end of the day, when the TV's off, the lights are out and the kids are asleep, sit quietly for two minutes before you crawl into bed.

6. Put the paper down right now and embrace two silent minutes before you do anything else. Close your eyes and take a couple of long, slow, deep breaths. These could be the most rewarding two minutes of your day. Make them golden.

If you have kids, include them in these quiet moments whenever you can. Be patient until they catch on to the luxury of silence.

Unearthing two minutes of silence throughout your day is easier than getting into your car and driving to a specific place at a specific time for this specific purpose. At the same time, having the aid of a guide, the companionship of others and a sanctified space can make the implementation of these silent moments easier, especially in the beginning. And, of course, there's no reason you can't do both.


Elaine St. James is the author of "Simplify Your Life" and "Simplify Your Life With Kids." For questions or comments, write to her in care of Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111, or e-mail her at

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