Opting out = downshifting? (and some advice on how to deal with stress)

A common response I get from people when I tell them that I research opting out is a knowing look, a nod, and the comment “downshifting”.

And I answer, “Well yes, downshifting is a way of opting out, but it is not the only way. “

A few years ago, downshifting became quite the buzzword. It was trendy and you would see stories of people downshifting all over the media. According to Wikipedia, downshifting is defined as “a social behavior or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from what critics call the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce the “stress, overtime, and psychological expense that may accompany it”[…] Downshifting, as a concept, shares many characteristics with simple living.”

Granted, those who downshift – much like those who opt out – most likely go through a journey where they gain a sense of authenticity; they start to live on their own (simpler) terms and throw the pressures of career and consumerism to the wind. However, the thing is, of those I have interviewed, few if any have actually downshifted. Yes, they may consume less out of necessity. Opting out of a high-powered career will inevitably mean less income, hence the decrease in spending power. And yes, they might take their life down a notch from break-neck speed to a more healthy rhythm. But that does not necessarily mean that they have downshifted, that they have embraced the simple life. On the contrary, my research has shown that many don’t necessarily work less at all, but have more power regarding where, when, and how they work, which provides them with coherence and just makes their lives easier to handle.

Which brings me to my second point. Not only do many people assume that opting out is the same as downshifting, they also sometimes mistakenly assume that I am an expert on how to downshift. Not too long ago I was asked if I would meet for lunch at some point to help the person in question create a plan for how to scale down and slow down, i.e. downshift. I mentioned this to my family in the car the other day, and my kid, who is very perceptive, exclaimed, “But you don’t know anything about that. You need help with that too!”

I rest my case.

But then my husband suggested I just tell people what I have done to deal with the stress in my life, when asked for help. Excellent idea, why didn’t I think of that? Well here goes: about a year ago I started practicing yoga and I started with Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenge. And it has helped me. It gives me time to breathe, reflect, and accept, while also making me physically stronger and more grounded. So that is now going to be my answer when asked for advice: Google ‘Yoga with Adriene’! I’ve even added the link to save you some time: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

2 thoughts on “Opting out = downshifting? (and some advice on how to deal with stress)

  1. Nobody ever asked me…? I´m finlandssvensk M.sc. (hanken) and wanted to downshift when it was quite the buzzword in 2010. I changed careers ( new education), moved to the countryside – and because of all this I opted out a year ago. Middle aged no kids. I did yoga in the early 2000´s actively & regulary and when I moved from the big city I almost left it cause there were no proper teachers/few classes. Anyway I started to do it more again in 2014. All this mess with jobs and where to live lead to having no kids (i.e no partner for several years). When I chose to leave my career I found myself in a chaos. My life became very simple and routine as I did not have money to do almost anything, of course I had a mortgage, and felt the need to somehow conquer the chaos. I totally opted out so to speak, cause although I had studied for another exam, had ten years experience of responsible work tasks I got less and less power regardning where, when, and how to work. Now i`m on a-kassa and sell my expertise as a hobby. Nobody wants to hire me either, you know they say I´m too brave. But really I ask when I look for a job of my competence, what about working from home. Several employers that you would not explect say no.
    Yoga for me is a healthcare tool. If I had continued my career as before I ´d be on blood pressure and antididep medicines, and probably much more. But getting well requires a lot of yoga and so called biohacking.


    • Thank you for your comment and sharing your story! I recognize so much of what you say. Especially how although opting out or downshifting is romanticized, it really isn’t easy, and you have obviously been through a lot. Also, what you say about employers being so inflexible when it comes to creating solutions to accommodate their employees. I often hear about how companies are really changing, and it’s true that there are some that are doing great things and that get a lot of visibility. But on the most part I find that many organizations are just really stuck in dated ideas of what the ‘right’ way to work is. Like being completely inflexible about working off-site. Take care of yourself and good luck with your endeavors!


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