By Emma Hopson & Ted Hagen
Can you imagine trying to clean your home or hold a dinner party with moving boxes stacked up all over the place? Picture how you’d be limited in walking from room to room.
That’s exactly what it’s like to have emotional clutter in your brain. Too many worries, fears, unresolved issues and pressing chores will make you feel frozen.
When you try to think creatively and come up with good ideas for changing things, the old stuff will crowd out any creativity.
In order to make your life flow better, it pays to do some mental decluttering.
Tossing out what you no longer need is a good idea. This is kind of like defragging your computer. Also, making some bold decisions to deal with a stressful issue might help as well.
Clearing your brain of past failures and ugly scenarios, like your ex-spouse who cheated, is a good idea. It’s easy to waste years on reliving hurtful incidents and bad experiences.
Taking control of present-day stress is critical, too. Make up your mind to stay in the driver’s seat and find solutions. Otherwise, your brain will subconsciously try to deal with issues all day and all night.
“When both my parents were in a car accident, my life got really complicated,” says a young executive we’ll call Jenny. “With all their problems, my own three kids, and a killer job, I was mentally going downhill fast.”
Jenny says her husband Todd tried to offer advice and help. But, he got completely overwhelmed, too.
We advise individuals in these types of situations to do the following:
– Engage at least three people to help you cope. Jenny asked her sister, her niece, and her best friend to assist her for a couple of months. They are helping her with babysitting, grocery shopping and checking on her parents.
– Say no to demands on your time. If your life is in a tailspin, don’t jump into helping the kids’ school do a fundraiser. It’s okay to step back and take care of you.
– Lower your standards temporarily. Clean your house every three weeks instead of every week, if that’s what your schedule allows. Rely on fast food when necessary. Do pay bills and make sure the kids are taken care of, but don’t worry if you have to forego certain chores or activities.
– Take care of yourself and don’t feel guilty. Go to bed early on certain nights, if you can, and sleep a little later than normal on the weekends. There’s nothing like physical rest to declutter the mind.
“I try to spend a few minutes every day clearing old problems out of my mind,” says an attorney we’ll call Reed. “I tend to worry about cases I’ve lost for way too long. Nowadays, I try to push the rewind button just once or twice to review my work. I tell myself I did the best I could, and I refuse to dwell on my flubs.”
Reed confesses, he once had four or five mixed drinks to wind down every day. That, however, was eating into his time at home with his family.
“I now turn on some great music and jump in the spa,” Reed explains. “Feeling good, versus feeling tipsy and sleepy, will rejuvenate you better than too much alcohol.”
Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.