Stress And Your Environment. There Is A Powerful Link

Aug 06, 2022

Stress and your environment. There is a powerful link

(Photo by Anete Lusina)

We've all done it at some point, you sit down to relax in your place and for some reason you find it to be impossible. Yes there's some stuff out of place, but you can always get to it later, right? Actually, clutter in your relaxation space can cause you to feel tense.[103] [211] You may even start to feel overwhelmed or full of nervous energy. These feelings may start to negatively affect other areas of your life.

This is because your brain logs them as unfinished projects, whether they are or not. You may feel as if there's something else you should be doing or something else you should be focusing on. Whether you're thinking about them or not, your brain is holding on to them as a task that still needs finishing. 

Here are some quick ways to get started, no matter the task at hand or the size of the "mess."

"There's just too much stuff…"

First off, let's talk about what to do if your area needs a bit more love than a quick pick-up. You may feel overwhelmed about where to start or how long it will take. 

Try picking one spot. One room, one corner, one pile, whatever you feel most motivated to clean. Set a timer on your phone for 5-10 minutes and clean or pick up until it goes off. Do you want to keep going? If so, set another timer for another 5-10 minutes. Clean for as long as you can but don't push yourself until you're exhausted or you hate it. 

Even if you only cleaned for 5 minutes, that's 5 minutes closer to your goal. It's time that you spent on making your space more comfortable for yourself. It's you telling yourself that you're worth the time. You'll feel the positive effects of taking control of your environment and the pride that comes with it.

"What’s the point?"

The point is that you're setting a standard for yourself, you're making a choice for yourself. You're telling yourself that you deserve to live in a clean environment and to be comfortable in it.  

Try to break it down to the basics. What spot makes you the happiest to see clean? Mine is the kitchen. I can't cook anything unless the kitchen is spotless, so if it's cluttered it kills my motivation. Now I know I have to clean it, cook, then clean it again. That's reason enough for me to just eat snacks or order food. Really think about it. There's probably at least one area in your place that you feel good when it's all nice and clean.

Once you find your most important spot, start slowly. Give yourself a reasonable goal and an achievable amount of time everyday to focus on it. Once it's clean, set up practices to keep it clean. What I do is I clean up the kitchen before going to bed so that when I wake up, it's ready for me to start my day.

"Who has the time?"

Time is our most expensive commodity, when it's spent it's gone. Our time these days is at a premium too. Between work, family, friends, hobbies, and everything else, you probably don't have much to spare. And when you do, you likely don't want to spend that time cleaning.

But cleaning and organizing can be scheduled in a way that makes it less overwhelming. Likely just knowing that it's coming up will make it easier than if you all of a sudden have to clean the dang bathroom again. Make a list of all of the things that need attention in your space, then break them down by how often they need to be done. At the end, you should have a list broken down by daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and bi-monthly.

Daily things should be simple 5 minute tasks, like quickly picking up an area. Everything else is up to you and how much those things being clean is important.

"I'm running around like a madman..."

I personally have a habit of starting to clean a room, finding something that goes in another room, taking it there, then starting to clean that room. I end up with a few half-cleaned rooms and I get a bit discouraged. Running around from room to room makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. But as much as piles may seem like just adding more clutter, I've started to use them as a helpful tool. Anything that needs to go into another room, I start a pile in the direction of that room. If I have a box or basket handy, I put it in there.

Then when I finish in the area or for the day, I take the piles/boxes/baskets to the rooms they need to be in. If I still have energy, I put them away wherever they go. With this method, I don't get distracted, I get at least one clean room, and I keep my momentum up by staying in one place. 

How cleanliness can help with productivity

Even if you just have a little bit of visual clutter, these methods can be helpful. Like a few dishes from the day before, or mail that needs to be dealt with. It’s all about how you want to feel. Does your area make you feel empowered and in control, or does it make you feel or think negatively? 

The space that we inhabit links to our overall mental state. Taking time to keep one in order can significantly impact the other. By having a place to really relax, you will be able to recharge your batteries and be more productive. When you aren't surrounded by "unfinished projects," you'll have the mental room for actual projects you want to do.

This, like most things, will take time and practice. As long as you keep it up and recognize the value, the practice will pay off in the end. Remind yourself that putting money into your relaxation bank pays out with motivation. And always give yourself credit for trying.

If you're struggling with cleaning in a shared space, click here for some tips.

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