Clutter and anxiety often go hand in hand.
It’s a frustrating reality, but the link between clutter and anxiety is really no surprise. Clutter is a major stress for many.
- It reminds us of all the things that need to be finished
- It makes us feel like we will never just be done
- It makes us feel guilty (why did we let it get like this?) and embarrassed (when somebody stops by unexpectedly!)
- It interferes with our ability to focus
- It makes it difficult to find things when we need them
- It makes it hard to relax
- It leaves us feeling overwhelmed
And according to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, it’s especially true for women.
What are you to do in those moments when anxiety takes over?
The moments when you’re trying to make progress, and all you want is to be free from the clutter. But suddenly you feel swallowed by it all, and anxiety rears its ugly head. Progress is halted.
You can’t proceed, even though you want to. It feels irrational; you logically know what you should do. But in that moment, you just can’t. You can barely take a breath.
Although it feels like it might, it won’t last forever. You’ll work through the anxiety, and you’ll make progress once again. Chances are it will resurface from time to time. But with some strategies to help you cope, it will get easier to manage.
First, remember to breathe.
When you start to feel anxious, you’re not breathing effectively! There are breathing strategies you can practice that will help you when that moment hits.
When we’re under stress or in an emergency, we start breathing faster and taking shallow breaths from the upper lungs-this is how hyperventilating starts. Instead, we need to breathe deeply, through the lower lungs.
To practice this you can try these three methods:
Natural breathing: This is how we should naturally breathe, although we often don’t. With natural breathing, inhaling normally through the nose, and taking gentle and slow breaths fill the lower lungs. Practice gently and slowly inhaling; then exhale. Focus on filling the lower lungs.
Calming breath: This involves breathing through the nose with a long, slow breath, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Count to 3 while holding your breath, then exhale slowly through pursed lips, while relaxing the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
Calming counts: Find a comfortable place to sit. Take a long, deep breath, and exhale slowly while saying the word “relax” silently. Close your eyes. Take ten natural breaths, and count down each time you exhale. Pay attention to any tensions in your jaw or face, for example. Imagine them relaxing. After ten breaths, open your eyes.
Secondly, remember faulty thinking patterns are at play
Once you get your breathing under control, or even as you’re breathing, you can begin to assess your thinking patterns.
“Although the thoughts and feelings of anxiety and panic are all too real, the brain is being tricked into thinking that you are somehow in danger — when actually you are not. Part of effective therapy includes realizing this, and slowly changing ingrained thought patterns.” Dr. Thomas Richards
It begins to feel like it all has to be done right at that moment, or it will never get done. And it won’t be okay. That’s just not true.
We have lifetime patterns and predispositions in place, and it takes time and persistence to replace our habits. We need to remember that the clutter in our homes is not going to be conquered overnight-unless you want to take a drastic approach and have a “packing party” like Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists.
For most of us, even if that sounds like a great idea, it’s likely too radical for our family members. (But you can always box and label items, and clear out one peaceful space in your home).
One day at a time, focusing on one area at a time, it will get done. One day you’ll look up and wow yourself by how far you’ve come.
- Breathe and identify any faulty thinking
- Take a break and get out of the house to clear your thoughts
- Get some support. A friend, your family, a professional organizer, a Facebook community of people who “get” it, or a counselor. You are not alone
- Spend some time free-writing
- Remember to practice self-care. Some ideas:
- Give walking or running a try on a regular basis
- Spend some time in nature
- Diffuse calming essential oils
- Focus on creating one peaceful area in your home, then expand from there
- Do the basics: everything feels better when the dishes are done and dinner is planned
Do you have methods that help you? Please share in a comment below.