Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Time for spring cleaning
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Spring is in the air … and is officially here! Of course, for many of us, immediately after rejoicing over that notion is the reality burst of the next thought that surfaces: spring cleaning time!
For me, that is an “ugh!” When the blinds are raised and the windows are thrown open, the sunlight tickles the indoor atmosphere and illuminates all the countertops, shelves and nooks and crannies where the winter’s closed-in-cocooning tended to hide the accumulation of dust and clutter.
Therefore, for me, spring also rings in the tasks of scrubbing floors, dusting surfaces, de-cluttering junky piles, and spit-shining all those areas that have lacked my attention!
But did you know that a cluttered, unkempt, messy environment actually can have a great impact on the sense of control one feels, on the organization of thoughts and mental clarity that one senses, and on the general well-being on one’s overall mental health?
Yes it does! Many have found that the state of the home reflects the state of the mind!
On a more serious note, it is amazing to watch one who has labored in the depths of depression begin to establish a sense of control, hope and rejuvenated spirit as he/she begins to tackle the disorder with therapy and tools. Emerging from depression, one begins to feel a renewal of energy and vitality that quite often is reflected in the new order and freshness in the home environment!
Which comes first, the release from the grip of depression or the new focus on one’s surroundings? I don’t know, but I do know they are related! Let’s dig deeper:
Mess can cause Stress! It’s true! We can see a clear link between stress and mess! Clutter and disorganization can result in feelings of frustration, heightened stimulation of the senses, overwhelm and a reactive temper. It can be hard to mentally relax when one is surrounded by junky clutter! Yet when we begin to focus on the need to get order and organization, the emotions can begin to soften and we feel less reactive and more in control.
Dust Bunnies are NOT Cute! True, too! And … frustrating! You’ve likely experienced this: You give your home a good spring cleaning, then as you sit on the couch to admire your work, you see those rascal-y dust monsters hiding in the corners under a low shelf or piece of furniture! They can disrupt and distort all the hard work you just tallied up. Good, solid mental health is very similar. Left unchecked, it is easy to fall victim to brooding, ruminating, distorting and the replaying of events that are so unsettling, they have become monster-size and can have the power to disrupt anything positive going on around you. Don’t let that dust bunny become the size of a monster! We have a choice!
Clutter can Contaminate! Also true! Do you have some clothes in your closet that no longer fit or are hopelessly out of style? Get rid of them! They do not serve you any longer. The same goes with a thought. If your internal conversations don’t feel good, then they don’t fit, either – just like those jeans that are too tight and too short. Emotional clutter can be even more harmful that physical clutter, so it’s even more important to get rid of them, too! As you de-clutter your home, why not take a moment to inventory your inner messages, the hurtful voices from your past, the negative condemnation – even if subtle – that you’ve harbored inside and make a clean sweep! Those things certainly need to go to the dump!
Spring cleaning is about refreshing and rejuvenating your physical space! Why not take the same time with your inner space? It might be time for one big clean sweep! Feel better already?