Alison Edgar, aka The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, started her own venture when she was 46. Since then, she’s been voted one of the UK’s top business advisors, with invitations to both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
It turns out that sales (selling) is a surprising handy skill to have when it comes to overcoming anxiety.
We spoke about: – The importance of asking for help. – Making a change, even when it scares you. – How to avoid regret. – Why ‘real men’ do cry. – Dealing with anxiety, stress and pressure at work, and as an entrepreneur. – The pressures of money and debt. – Staying motivated through challenges.
Those obsessive thoughts running through your mind about your health or the health of the people closest to you just don’t let up.
What else could I be talking about but health anxiety?
My experience with health anxiety
After a while, I became relatively immune to the obsessive thoughts about my health. I was having so many negative thoughts about my health throughout the day, I began to think they were normal.
With this said, the thing that got me, each and every time, were the exaggerated obsessive thoughts. You know the ones I mean.
‘Is this headache the brain tumour I’ve always thought it was?’
‘Is this bit of chest pain the heart attack I’ve been expecting?’
I could have three headaches a day over the process of a month, and no matter how irrational it was, I’d still be convinced the next headache was ‘the one’.
It was the fear about the exaggerated thoughts that created the obsession.
The fear became my absolute focus and it consumed me, day and night.
It led to the endless trips to the hospital for ECGs, tests and scans – all coming back with negative results.
I’m reluctant to say ‘positive results’ because, at the time, I just wanted a diagnosis so I could move on.
Surely all these symptoms can’t be related to anxiety?
They were, but that didn’t stop the trip to A&E.
The trip to A&E
In my early 20’s, I left work early because I was convinced I was going to die. I ended up driving straight to A&E in total panic.
I approached the lady at the desk, quietly informing her that I was experiencing chest pains, and it felt like there was a tight band around my heart. (I still wasn’t sure whether or not there was something seriously wrong, so I was hesitant and slightly embarrassed. At this point, I also had no idea I was suffering from anxiety. I didn’t know what anxiety was at the time.)
I was sat down and told to take some pills while I waited. I think they were painkillers. I didn’t ask what they were, I just took them and waited.
I sat in the waiting area with the people around me bleeding and coughing. Their very real ailments kept me wondering whether or not my symptoms were real. There was no doubt the chest pains I was experiencing were real – but were they bad enough for me to be here? It just added to the confusion.
After about an hour and a half (which seemed more like three days) I was called through to speak to a nurse. I explained my symptoms, including the chest pain, and she took me through to lie on a bed, where I was strapped up to a blood pressure monitor.
As the nurse put the pads over my chest, I looked over at the monitor with the bouncy line and numbers. Did they mean I was dying? The unknown was enough to increase my heart rate tenfold.
As I laid on the bed, about half an hour passed, and I began to calm down as I appreciated I was in a pretty good place if anything serious was wrong. With the new state of mind, the chest pain and tightness began to subside.
The nurse came over to look at the monitor results. She didn’t say anything, which was a little concerning. Does that mean it’s bad news? She didn’t seem too concerned, which added to the conflicting feelings. I was reluctant to say anything – I didn’t want to know if it were bad news.
She came back five minutes later and reassured me that everything was OK. The test results were fine.
Although grateful for the news, I didn’t jump off the bed in delight. I was still confused by the whole experience.
She mentioned something about stress and something called a ‘panic attack’, but it was brief with no real substance. The focus was on the test results, and those being OK. I was confirmed as a free man – free to leave whenever I wanted.
I got up and started walking out of the hospital back to my car.
It was true. I was a free man – free from the hospital, that is. But the same couldn’t be said for how I felt inside. I didn’t feel free. For a long time after that experience, I remained a prisoner to the fear that something similar could happen again.
But, as with everything in life, if you choose to, you can just about get a positive out of anything. The positives I draw on this experience is the ability to share it, along with some of the answers that have helped me.
Here are three of the standout things I learnt from the A&E experience – and the many other health anxiety-related experiences like it.
Your mind is very powerful
Never underestimate the power of your mind. It can concoct all sorts of anxiety-related symptoms. You name it, your mind can come up with it.
It’s incredibly difficult, but it’s worthwhile spending some time considering whether or not the symptoms you experience are anxiety-related.
Get in the habit of questioning your symptoms, and not just accepting them.
When you experience numbness, is that anxiety?
When you feel sick, is that anxiety?
When you feel dizzy, is that anxiety?
When you’re at their mercy, anxiety-related symptoms will dominate you. You can only start breaking that pattern when you’re willing to question them.
When you’re prepared to say: ‘Wait a minute. Is this symptom real, or is it anxiety tricking me again?’, you naturally and instinctively up your level of self-awareness.
The panic that health anxiety-related symptoms create isn’t as powerful and doesn’t last as long when your self-awareness is higher.
Health anxiety will have a pretty hard time dominating you when you’re self-aware. It won’t be able to trick you as often. It will still have a good go, and even with a surge of rational thinking, it will succeed at times.
But those times will be limited, as long as you keep questioning.
The doctor’s surgery is an addiction
(I’m also going to include Dr Google in this example. When we’re not in the doctor’s surgery, we’re usually asking Dr Google.)
It’s the constant need of reassurance that does it. The ‘is it, isn’t it’ back-and-forth internal conversation we have about whether or not it is anxiety has us visiting the doctor (a lot).
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
And it’s hindsight that tells me, unless you have a genuine need to do so, visiting the doctor only fuels the anxiety further. Ultimately, you get nowhere. If your symptoms are anxiety-related, the diagnosis is always the same, no matter how many times you go. The visits only add to frustration and despair.
This is where rational thinking comes into play.
Rather than jump straight on the phone to make the doctor’s appointment, give yourself some space, sit down, and question whether or not it’s anxiety tricking you. If it is, it’s time to realign your focus.
(If you have any doubt, you should always speak to your doctor. Sometimes we need the reassurance to move on. Just remember that, if you’re seeking reassurance often, it is counterproductive.)
Focus is key
You have a couple of choices when anxiety-related symptoms are hitting you.
Allow the symptoms to keep the fear cycle turning. Sit still and let all the anxiety-related ‘what if’ type thoughts attack you. Focus on the fear of death, and allow it to consume you – including all the things you can’t control.
Realign your focus, and focus on what it is you can control.
If you feel like there is nothing in your life you can control, then I suggest you start there. There is always something existing or something you can create that can give you a higher level of control. Focus on that, and everything else, including your health anxiety, won’t play as big of a role in your life.
When I did #1, I stayed trapped. I focused on checking my body for imperfections and continued to worry about the headaches. I was obsessed with the ‘unknown’ and everything I didn’t have control of. The fear created was unbearable.
When I did #2 (which was more difficult), I regained a little more control each time. I focused on the things I could do something about, and that created a new mindset.
Health anxiety isn’t just about worrying about your health. It’s feeling out of control. The only way to balance that is to get some more control.
This creates the only question that matters:
What do you have, or what can you create, that will help you gain more control?
Can you get more control over your job? In a relationship? Doing a hobby?
Realign your focus, and with time and more control, you’ll deal with your health anxiety in an entirely different way.
Is there anything worse than being hit with anxiety as soon as you wake up? What can you do to wake up calmer, happier and less anxious?
It feels like that churning feeling in the pit of your stomach is there waiting for you as soon as your eyes open in the morning, followed closely by the instant ‘what if…?’ negative type thoughts that set off a chain of more anxiety-inducing thoughts.
‘What if that email didn’t come through?’
‘Have I paid that water bill?’
‘I can’t send Jamie to school with that hole in his shoe.’
The outcome: bags of morning anxiety and instant stress.
I’m going to be honest from the outset and tell you that morning anxiety isn’t something you can fix overnight.
The reason we wake up and feel instantly anxious is a build up of things that have been going on in our lives for a while.
If you’ve not slept well for a while, you can’t expect to fix that overnight. If you hate your job, you can’t expect to change that in a day. If money is tight, it’s unlikely the money fairy is stopping by anything soon.
But, with all this said, you can start to immediately improve things, including how you feel when you first wake up.
Right now, you can make a conscious decision to do something different when you wake up tomorrow morning. If you do that, you can start to make the changes you’re looking for.
Here are seven handy and simple tips to help you make your mornings better and less anxious.
Give yourself time
Feeling rushed and frantic is marvellous for upping your anxiety levels. If you want to get those anxiety levels down to a better place of balance, you need to give yourself time – so you feel less rushed and frantic. If you set your alarm for 7am, and you’ve got to be out of the house by 7.30am, is 30 minutes enough time to complete your morning routine? If it is and you’ve perfected it down to the minute, I’ll suggest to you that it’s not enough time if you still feel anxious. Set your alarm a little earlier, and give yourself some more breathing space. How you start your day usually dictates the rest of it.
Snooze you lose
Snoozing and staying in bed is just prolonging the pain. Why? Because when you’re sleeping you’re not taking action. It’s as bad as sweeping your problems under the carpet. The problems don’t go away – they grow under that carpet and get worse. Ultimately, there is only one thing that is going to ease your morning anxiety: Taking action. Action is the one thing that will help you overcome any form of anxiety – morning anxiety included. Know that when you stay in bed, nothing is changing. Be prepared to get up and take action.
Up your energy
If you’re feeling extra frisky, jump up straight out of bed as soon as you wake up. Start stretching your body out. Even better, do some exercises, like push-ups and star jumps. This might sound crazy and like it just won’t happen, but if you want to feel radically different in the morning, you’ve got to do something radically different. Even if you do it for 30 seconds, it could make all the difference. We’re talking about realigning your focus here. By doing this, you could ‘forget’ to be anxious – and that will set you on a different course.
Put your phone down!
The alarm on your phone goes off, and if you don’t hit the snooze button and roll over to go back to sleep, you’re straight on your phone checking your social media or news feed. News is generally news because it’s bad news, and social media is proven to increase your anxiety. If you’re doing these things as soon as your eyes open, there are no prizes for guessing what you’ll get in return. (Remember what we said about how you start your day?)
Prepare the night before
How you feel when you wake up is directly affected by yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. Don’t worry about the big stuff for now – just focus on the small step you can take. One of those small steps is to prepare the night before. If you know you’ve got stuff coming up for work, school, or whatever, prepare for it the night before. Get your bag ready. Get your clothes ready. Without getting too OCD about it, do what you can to prepare for the next day. Your brain likes routine, and setting yourself up by getting rid of the unknown will drop those anxiety levels in the morning.
Swap the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that will fuel your anxiety. If you’re using caffeine to keep you awake, you’re also indirectly using it to make your anxiety worse. Swap your tea and coffee for decaf options or herbal teas, like Green Tea and Chamomile Tea.
Get a better sleeping pattern
The reason I used to wake up feeling like a zombie had a lot to do with me only getting a few hours of sleep (if I were lucky). Getting your sleep pattern right is one of the most difficult things you can do, but if you can start to improve it, even just a little bit, it will go a hell of a long way towards you feeling less anxious in the morning. There are some myths when it comes to getting better sleep, and you’re best to check out my interview with Stephanie Romiszewski (Channel 4’s sleep expert) to get you going in the right direction.
Stay patient and give yourself time. Keep taking action, and with each small step, know that your mornings will continue to get better.
I know it’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but let me instantly reassure you – anxiety not having a cure isn’t a bad thing.
When I was desperately looking for a cure for my anxiety, I’d have done anything to get it. If you’d told me putting my head in a vice for two weeks would cure my anxiety, I’d have done it.
It took me many years of despair, frustration and kissing of frogs before I discovered a cure for anxiety doesn’t exist. I’m hoping I can save you anymore heartache. I know the pain of looking and hoping and not finding.
But as I just mentioned, anxiety not having a cure isn’t a bad thing. It just means we have to look at it in a slightly different way. Before we do that, here’s some random comedy to lighten the mood.
(‘Cause that’s the thing about anxiety. It has a habit of making things way too serious – hence us looking for cures for it every five minutes.)
Here’s what I mean about looking at anxiety differently.
If we had a life-threatening disease or condition, like cancer, we’d want a cure. We’d want rid of it. We’d want to say goodbye to it and hope that it never returns. Anxiety is different – however you look at it.
Anxiety is, and will continue to be, a fixed part of our lives. We don’t need a cure for something we depend on – something we need for our very survival.
Quick example: You’re crossing the road and a car is coming at you pretty quickly. What is it that tells you to run across the road rather than get hit? Your fight or flight, right? In other words, your anxiety (fear).
How does the prospect of getting rid of that sound now?
We don’t need a cure.
Anxiety might come with unwanted feelings, but it’s part of the life experience. It’s like when we get angry, sad, or just generally feel shitty about ourselves. It’s not nice, but it’s part of the overall emotional experience we go through as humans. We wouldn’t know what it was like to be happy if we didn’t know what it was like to feel shitty.
We accept that getting angry and sad is part of life, but we’re still hung up on getting anxious. We see anxiety as a weakness and something we need to get rid of.
If we’re going to change how we feel about anxiety, including our relationship with it, that has to change.
One of the things that confuse us the most is Dr Google.
If you pop in ‘cure for anxiety’ into Dr Google (and I don’t recommend you do), there won’t be a shortage of companies and people offering you one. They’re normally in the shape of medicines, programmes and methods.
With so much on offer, we can be forgiven for thinking we’re the issue. We’ll think, ‘Maybe I just haven’t tried the right thing yet?’. Add a money back guarantee, and you think you’ve got nothing to lose. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We end up jumping from one ‘cure’ to the next.
Some will help for a while, and you’ll think you’ve finally cracked it. That is until you face a challenge, and that familiar feeling starts coming back to haunt you.
All of this is because dealing with anxiety is a life’s journey.
As you grow, so do the challenges you face. In other words, the way you faced anxiety when you were fifteen years of age will be different to how you face it when you’re fifty.
Anxiety isn’t a one-size-fits-all.
It’s unhealthy and damn frustrating to keep jumping from one ‘cure’ to the next. You’ll never get anywhere. But when you change how you view anxiety, including your relationship with it, you’ll start changing how you feel towards it.
It’s all in the management and balance
The quickest way to change your relationship with your anxiety is to stop thinking and believing you need a cure and, instead, know that dealing with anxiety comes with managing it better. And that’s where balance comes into play.
When you’re dealing with anxiety (or high anxiety as I call it), you’re dealing with higher than normal levels of anxiety.
The key to overcoming that period of high anxiety is to aim to get back to a better place of balance.
Notice my terminology here: ‘period of high anxiety.’
All high anxiety is temporary. To some, this period of time might seem like a lifetime. And I hear you because I felt the same. But high anxiety is always temporary. There was a time in your life when it didn’t affect you as badly as you feel it is now. That means you know what it feels like, no matter how badly high anxiety is clouding your mind right now.
You have to know that, with the right answers and a bit of action, you can manage your anxiety better. You can change your relationship with it. You can spend a lot more of your time in a better place of balance. You can make your journey better.
Do yourself a favour and stop looking for that elusive cure. Stop going around in circles, trapped in a cycle that pulls you from pillar to post.
Start taking control and find those answers that will make the difference for you.
The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, shows us why 80% of our worry (and the anxiety that comes with it) is made up by us.
If you haven’t heard of the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle), the basic principle of it is that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Effects of what? Causes of what? I hear you say.
That’s the whole point of the Pareto Principle. It relates to anything – and it’s surprisingly accurate in relation to anything.
Seeing as I spend most of my time in the world of anxiety, and seeing as you’re probably here because you want to manage your anxiety better, I thought it might help us with managing our anxiety. And it does. Massively.
When I discovered the principle and how accurate it was, it helped me appreciate just how much of my worry, anxiety and stress was real and how much was made up by me.
In other words, it helped me see and appreciate that I was my own worst enemy!
How the 80/20 rule relates to overcoming anxiety
The Pareto Principle is such a powerful and accurate principle, it’s well worth us translating its meaning into overcoming anxiety. And that’s the bit I want to help you with.
When we link the 80/20 rule with overcoming anxiety, it shows us that 8/10 of your problems don’t exist.
That’s a decent bit of knowledge to have – especially when it comes to reducing our anxiety.
You’ll have about 60,000 thoughts tomorrow. If you’re dealing with high anxiety, most of those thoughts will be worrying ones. You know the type of worrying thoughts I’m talking about. They normally start with ‘what if…?’. They’re thoughts based on us trying to predict the future and worrying about the past (what’s already happened).
Summed up: Overthinking.
What the Pareto Principle shows us is out of all those worrying thoughts you have, 8 out of 10 of them won’t be real. 8 out of 10 of the things causing you anxiety is made up by you.
On the flipside of that, it means that roughly 20% of the things you worry about are worth worrying about. They’re the things worth spending your time on. And when you spend your time on those things, they make a difference to your life.
What does this knowledge do for you?
I’m hoping it does two things:
It helps you appreciate that nearly all of your worry, and therefore all of your anxiety, is made up by you. That means that when you start taking more control the impact can be significant.
It instantly reassures you to know that your problems and worries aren’t as big and overwhelming as you thought they were. When you focus on the 2/10 things that count, it gives you the confidence to know you can handle it.
Try it for yourself.
If you’ve read this and think the 80/20 rule is a bit of a crock, or you’re still not convinced, try it for yourself.
When you wake up tomorrow, have a piece of paper and pen handy, and write down every worrying type thought you have throughout the day, no matter how big or small.
At the end of the day, go through your list and tick all the thoughts you had that were made up – all the worrying thoughts that were not real – things that didn’t happen.
I’d be very surprised if at least 80% of those thoughts on your list weren’t ticked.
BTW – If you’ve got all your predictions for the future 100% accurate, please get in touch. You and I can make some serious money.
Channel 4’s The Secrets of Sleep expert and leading Sleep Physiologist, Stephanie Romiszewski, gave us some big insights into sleep problems and insomnia related to anxiety.
Stephanie is a rebel.
You have to admire anyone who is willing to take a big subject, like sleep, and challenge the status quo.
Sleep, like anxiety, is one of those things where lots of people have lots of different opinions. One ‘expert’ will tell you something different to another ‘expert’.
What I liked about Stephanie’s approach is how open she is to all methods and solutions for sleep problems and insomnia, but rather than just blindly practising those methods (like most other ‘experts’ do), she is keen to add a new approach.
By having a new approach, Stephanie is breaking some of the myths around sleep problems (including anxiety-related insomnia) and giving us some real solutions we can work with.
Here are the top three myths about sleep problems, insomnia and anxiety we uncovered.
Myth #1: Relaxation and sleep are connected
When we think of sleeping, we think of relaxing. The two things naturally go together. But they’re not actually connected. I know, crazy, right!
When I asked Stephanie if she recommended any sleep apps, including sleep trackers, she said no, not really. Why? Because there is no research to suggest that relaxation will help you get to sleep.
We should be aiming to relax in the day, rather than when we go to bed at night.
If you want to use apps and methods to help you deal with stress and anxiety, they’re more useful in the day than at night. And when you think about it, it makes sense. How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you start your day feeling relaxed by controlling your anxiety and stress from the get-go, your day will continue in the same fashion, and you’ll go to bed feeling the same way.
That will put you in a much better position to sleep well, rather than try to force relaxation when it’s sleepy time.
Myth #2: The time you go to bed is more important than the time you wake up
The media have done a great job at scaremongering us into thinking we need to go to bed at the same sensible time every night, which is why most of us hit the pillow and don’t feel sleepy.
I don’t know about you, but I hate going to bed and feeling pressurised to sleep when I don’t feel tired. Sometimes, it almost feels like I’m forcing myself to get those eight hours.
Going to bed at the same time every night is not the key to good, consistent sleep. It’s the time you get up in the morning that is more important!
Stephanie suggests that the best time to go to bed is when you’re ‘sleepy tired’ – when you’re literally nodding off in your chair. If you do that and wake up at the same time every day, that will build up enough ‘awake time’ to get a good consistent pattern of sleep.
The key to making this work is getting up at the same time, every day.
Myth #3: Sleep deprivation is the same as insomnia
I can relate to this, big style!
Feeling fatigued (like crap) is a common symptom of anxiety and stress. The overthinking and worry zaps your energy, so you feel like a zombie.
When anxiety was crippling me, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. And I did. Some days I’d sleep for sixteen hours straight. That’s why on the Rebalance Scale in Anxiety Rebalance, sleep is at the bottom of the scale – because it represents low mood (depression) and low energy.
On the flipside of that, I also went through long periods of sleep deprivation. At the time, if you’d have asked me why I looked like a drooling zombie, I’d have said it was down to insomnia. But it wasn’t. I was sleep deprived, and that is a different thing.
Where I went wrong is I didn’t get the pattern right. I was either sleeping too much or too little. I had no routine or benchmark to set a better pattern.
The conclusion and action to take.
If anxiety is preventing you from going to sleep, try going to bed when you feel ‘sleepy tired’ – when your head is nodding. It doesn’t matter what time it is, go to bed then. The trick to making this work is getting up at the same time every day. Set your alarm and don’t sleep past it, no matter how tired you feel when you wake up. That will build up enough ‘awake time’, and if you stay patient and do this consistently enough, you’ll eventually sort out your sleeping pattern.
You might feel tired and drained in the day, but if you can get through that pain barrier, you’ll want to sleep at night. You’ll get a decent night’s sleep and getting up in the morning won’t be the heavy task it was before.
The first step to overcoming stress is to get into a less frantic, more relaxed state of mind. How can we relax when we’re feeling stressed, and what are the best relaxation techniques to use?
When we’re stressed, we’ve got a couple of options.
Stay frantic and let the stress continue to pile up and get worse.
Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take control.
Overcoming stress is an impossible task when we’re feeling overwhelmed and frantic. We need to get into a better mental place to start dealing with it.
You can’t deal with stress unless you’re in a good mental space. Trying to overcome stress with a stressed mind is like trying to fight fire with fire. (Pointless.)
That’s why creating a more relaxed mental space is crucial for dealing with stress – it gives us the very best chance of overcoming our stress and managing it better.
Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and stop stress from taking over. Let’s get the control back.
Here are seven popular relaxation techniques you can use to overcome stress and stop it from controlling you, including videos to help.
#1: Deep breathing
When you practise deep breathing, you breathe in slowly and deeply, while expanding your belly, allowing your diaphragm to contract. Breathing in this way sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, which makes it effective for dealing with stress. It is a simple and versatile technique that can be learned and used immediately.
#2: Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a great technique for releasing tension in your muscles: you tense a muscle for a few seconds and then relax it. For example, try clenching your fist for a few seconds and then letting go, releasing the tension so your hand is as loose as possible. Your hand should feel relaxed after doing this a few times. You can use this technique on any muscle in your body, so if you have a particularly tense area, you can concentrate on that. The typical areas of the body that affect us are the neck, chest, face and shoulders. If you do this daily, you will condition your muscles to relax much more freely and naturally.
#3: Physical exercise
You need an outlet for your tension so it’s not trapped inside you and used to create more stress and negative energy. Physical exercise is a great way to release tension, due to the fact you burn energy and feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Here’s a little trick to help you get to the gym more often.
Yoga and tai chi are known to improve breathing and relaxation and are therefore good for stress and tension. If you’re more of a football or boxing fan, join your local club. The aim is to find a physical activity you enjoy.
Here’s a top tip: Try a group exercise class. Being around other people gives you extra motivation, and you achieve more. Plus, you get to meet new people.
#4: Mental exercise
You can channel the release of tension through healthy mental exertion. I can, however, think of a few board games that increase tension rather than reduce it, so if it becomes counterproductive, avoid it! Sitting down to do a crossword is relaxing for some people, and stressful for others. Use your common sense: if it’s not helping you reduce your stress, try something else.
Although I don’t practise meditation or mindfulness, I make sure I find a moment to relax every day, especially if I’m busy and find myself dealing with extra stress. People have told me meditation and mindfulness has helped reduce their stress and anxiety, improved their mood, and been good for their insomnia – so it could do the same for you. Meditation takes time to perfect, but if it’s something you would like to explore, you’ll find apps and videos on YouTube that will help get you started.
#6: Have a clear-out
It feels very therapeutic to have a good clear-out. The more possessions we have, the more emotional attachment we have to them. This emotional attachment isn’t always negative, and you’ll probably have possessions that bring you great joy and comfort, like your favourite jumper or chair. At the end of your clear-out, I don’t expect you to have an empty home! However, there will be some items you just don’t need (or want) any more. A good clear-out can make you feel lighter and clearer. I do it regularly. When I looked at my wardrobe I noticed I tended to wear the same selection of clothing all the time, so I packed up all the clothes I hadn’t worn for a year and sent them to a charity shop. eBay is marvellous for raising some extra funds from unwanted stuff. You might be surprised by how much you can raise. Maybe you could put the money you raise towards a trip, or course?
The TEDx talk by the Minimalists, A rich life with less stuff, explains this well.
#7: A change of scenery
If you’re constantly looking at the same four walls, talking to the same people, or doing the same monotonous tasks or job, you’re not presenting your brain with the variety and challenge it needs and deserves. Predictability is boring, and boredom leads to unwanted feelings, including feeling trapped, leading to stress and tension. So spice up your life a little. Take a relaxing break, change your scenery, and do something out of the ordinary.