If you could describe your work week in just one word, which word would you choose? For most of us, chaotic, hectic, and busy may first come to mind. We all have so much on our minds are constantly on overdrive.
Do you have a million things to complete today, yet for some reason, you’re thinking about what needs to be done next Tuesday? Our minds are full of to-do lists, worries, and checklists. All of these create clutter – mental clutter. Not only is this clutter creating feelings of stress and anxiety, but also hindering productivity.
Just think about when you woke up this morning. Did you mindlessly brush your teeth, think of how good your coffee tasted, or how beautiful it looked outside? The short answer is probably a big no. Why? Well, because before you even make it the washroom, you’re checking your emails, mentally preparing yourself for the day ahead. Once you’ve checked your emails, you remember that you need to send out invitations for your upcoming Christmas party. What are you going to serve? Who’s going to babysit? Oh wait, you have a meeting today. Have you prepared enough?
You’ve been awake for seven minutes and you’re already feeling stressed. It’s important to recognize this mental clutter, as it is affecting your physical health, just as much as your mental. Before we focus on how to minimize this clutter, it’s important to understand why it’s so beneficial to target and organize that clutter.
Why You Need to Declutter Your Mind
There are a number of reasons why decluttering your mind should be a priority. The three main reasons are based on mental clutter’s ability to harm your health, reduce productivity, and make you miss out on the present moment.
First, your health. Mental clutter creates feelings of stress and anxiety, placing your body and mind in a constant state of fight-or-flight. When you’re thinking about the million and one things that need to be accomplished, you experience higher than normal cortisol levels, placing a strain on numerous bodily systems, including your brain and heart.
Secondly, if you are thinking about all the things that need to be done, why you’re mad at your boyfriend, and where you need to be tonight, how can you truly accomplish the current task you’re working on? Mental clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and in turn, sabotages productivity.
Last but not least, living and enjoying the present moment. If you’re constantly dwelling on the past and thinking about the future, you’re missing out on a whole lot. Instead of driving to work, thinking about how much you hate traffic, when you’ll get your oil changed, and what you’ll make for dinner, enjoy the present moment. Feel the sun on your face, breath in the fresh air, and bop to your favourite CD.
Now, the million dollar question, how do you minimize mental clutter? If you think this seems like an impossible task, think again. Here are some practical tips so that you can remove some of that built up cluttered space in your mind, allowing you to relax and enjoy the living in which you’re living.
1. Address the Clutter
We tend to repeat the same process, day in and day out. We’re aware that our minds are going crazy, yet what do we do about it? It’s important to sit down and focus on the varying factors that cause all this clutter. What is it that you can’t let go of? What is it that causes you daily mental distress?
Be mindful of your clutter when it surfaces. Are the majority of racing thoughts in relation to your career? Your marriage? Your worries about the future? If you find that your mind is often racing, make an effort to sit in silence once a day. Try to relax, breathing in and out, closing your eyes. As you relax, what thoughts pop into your head? Positive or negative, write all your thoughts down. Keep a mental clutter journal so that you can effectively address everything that’s building up in your mind.
2. Let Go and Take Action
As you reflect on the thoughts in which you’ve written down over the course of a week or two, you now have a list that you can tackle. Pinpoint the areas that are creating the most mental clutter and then create a course of action. That way, you can either let that clutter go or take action in order to achieve a set task or goal, allowing that worry or distraction to be eliminated.
Perhaps you’re stressed about your financial stability and often worry about bills and how you’ll pay for your child’s daycare next month. Instead of allowing these thoughts to eat away at you, causing daily stress levels to soar through the roof, you need to take action. Start to brainstorm solutions.
First of all, you could create a budget. Next, keep track of where your money is being spent and how much is coming in. That mindless $3 you spend every morning on a latte, five days a week, is $60 a month. When you start to take action and make changes, your mind will begin to feel lighter.
The same is true regarding thoughts from the past. You need to learn to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can control. If you resolve an issue from the past, don’t flip back and forth, only to allow that instance to rule with an iron fist once again. Once something has been decluttered and removed, allow it to remain that way. Don’t consider something to be resolved, only to allow it to affect you two months from now. Resolve it and be done with it.
3. Plan Ahead
Mental clutter is inevitable and in some cases, it may actually push us towards accomplishing certain goals. With that being said, you can plan ahead in order to reduce the mental clutter that affects you on such a regular basis. If you know that you stress about the holiday season each year, do something different this year.
Instead of allowing yourself to go crazy, plan ahead, asking everyone to bring something. Finish a large portion of your shopping in November and allow yourself to relax when you need it the most. Set aside 15 minutes every day, reflecting on the clutter in your head. Address your worries and concerns on a daily basis, instead of allowing months’ worth of worry to fall on top of you.
It’s also important to find something that allows you to clear your head. For some, exercising or going for a run allows them to unwind. For others, fishing or boating may bring them peace. Find whatever it is that allows you to exhale and feel as though your mind is not weighing you down, stopping you from being productive and experiencing joy and peace.
In this life, there will be people who do you wrong. There will be mistakes made along the way and instances that make you worry. As a human, this is normal and there will be many more things to come which are completely out of your control. You need to learn to harness what you can control and accept the things you can’t
The mental clutter that is wearing you down each and every day is something that you can control. You have the power to say to yourself, I don’t want to live this way anymore. When you become aware of your mental clutter and break it down so that it’s not as overwhelming, you re-gain control. Just as a messy closet or room will not clean itself, neither will your mind. You need to put forth the required effort in order to achieve the results you desire. Learn to let go, plan accordingly, and live for the moment.