Organizing Stressful Thoughts Is Like Cleaning Your Room — Here’s How I Do It

06/09/2020 - 03:15 PM

You open your bedroom door to find your closet has exploded — clothing, makeup, and shoes everywhere. What do you do? Panic for a moment, take a deep breath, and pick a place to start.

I like to approach stress [1] and anxiety similarly. When I reach a place where my thoughts continuously bubble up like headache-inducing flashcards (for which I have zero answers), I do a brain dump.

I open up my journal and bullet point every thought that's been consuming my mind. I don't go into detail; short phrases keep me focused. Here, I'm confronting my messy space.

I always make my bed before a deep clean. It gives me a place to organize — plus, I feel inspired by seeing a portion of my room put together. When journaling [2], creating categorized lists and writing them out in a clear font has a similar effect on me.

My lists are usually categorized like so: personal growth, monthly goals, goal tracker, and recent accomplishments. Feel free to borrow these or get creative — but reserve a page for each subject.

"Personal growth" is where most of my overthinking happens, so I tend to start there. I return to my brain dump for inspiration and create two sublists separating productive ways for character growth from self-critiques that serve no purpose. (Think: practice more patience with yourself and others vs. your nails never look good.) These lists help me organize where to put and prioritize my energy and what really matters.

I view my "monthly goals" as a long-term checklist — make a dentist appointment, return my Amazon purchase that didn't work out, get a haircut. These "chores [3]" have no business overwhelming my day-to-day schedule but should be accomplished during free moments throughout the next few weeks.

My habit tracker list helps me incorporate wellness and self-care [5] rituals into my day that are instrumental for my mental health — like drinking 5-7 glasses of water a day, working out or stretching, and doing my skin-care routine.

I make a DIY [6] calendar for the month with checkboxes next to the three items, so I can hold myself accountable and gauge my progress.

If I was cleaning my room, at this point, my shoes are all lined up, I've KonMari'd my T-shirts, and my room is in much better shape — as a result, I feel clear, level-headed, and productive [7].

For the record, though, my room was neglected because I was busy accomplishing other things — bringing me to the final list, "recent accomplishments."

Take the time to recognize that you got stuff done while or before you were in a foggy place. Maybe you created a handmade gift for your friend, tried out new recipes you want to remember, spent time nurturing relationships, and explored new hobbies [8]. Don't let stress take that away from you.

And then, close your notebook (the equivalent of tucking yourself into a freshly made bed) and take a deep breath, knowing you've cleansed your space and set yourself up for a successful new day.

Click here for more health and wellness stories, tips, and news [9].

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