Feature Archive

Exhausted? Stressed-Out?

Then simplify. More and more Americans are finding that scaling back may be the key to better health -- and fuller lives.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

High-powered careerists Steve and Kate Scopelleti sported all the badges of success: the Jeep Cherokee, the Nissan 300 ZX sports car, the Cadillac convertible, the Harley-Davidson cycle, the designer suits, and, being Southern Californians, the surfboards. Seven of them.

Many would have envied their lives. But beneath the veneer lurked a dark secret known only to the Scopelletis: They were stricken with "affluenza" -- an ailment characterized by swollen expectations, feverish consumption, rising debt, and constant fatigue.

"I needed caffeine to wind myself up at the start of the day and alcohol to unwind at the end," says Steve, 45. "I was grinding my teeth so much I had to wear a mouthpiece every night. My blood pressure was high. And both of us had back pain that I think came from being so stressed-out by this supposedly good life.''

Gradually the Scopelletis came to the same conclusion that many other Americans are reaching: Their health depended on a slower-paced life. As many as one in six American adults are trying to simplify their lives, according to the New York-based Trends Research Institute. Dozens of books and at least two new national magazines offer how-to advice, and in every state, small groups of advocates gather in "simplicity circles" to share ideas. Among them: replace TV watching with bird watching, exercise by taking walks instead of using costly equipment, resole shoes instead of getting a new pair, and never buy clothing that needs dry cleaning or ironing.