Do you ever find yourself bombarded with thought after thought?
What am I going to eat for lunch?
Did I schedule that meeting for this weekend or next?
Where should I be headed in my career right now?
How do I address this with my significant other?
Did mom remember to take her medication?
I need to finish this project.
Did I just offend them?
I hope this works out.
Am I going to feel safe in this space?
Do I belong here?
Whoa! Let’s stop and rewind for a second…
Now take a deep breath and press play.
You see our minds and bodies have a limited amount of space to hold stress, so the thoughts we have cannot remain in our minds forever, otherwise we would be in a constant battle with them.
So remember, the more we avoid or ignore these thoughts, the more they can bring trouble to our physiological and emotional life.
Let’s call this phenomenon of competing, stressful thoughts “mental clutter.” In the same way Marie Kondo helps others to see the physical clutter in their household, I am here to remind you that your mind is also a kind of home that needs to be decluttered now and then.
What happens if you find your mind too cluttered?
- You may have high levels of anxiety.
- You may not get enough hours of sleep.
- You may multitask so much that it is not actually productive and nothing gets done.
- You may have low tolerance for others and yourself
- You may feel like an emotional mess trying to figure everything out.
Now that you have an idea about the effects of mind clutter, let’s find strategies to make our minds less messy. Below are some mind hacks that anyone can use to help tidy up our minds and soothe our souls!
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” —Bill Copeland
It is always good to have daily goals written down, as well as long term goals. Writing these down is the first and most vital step to decluttering your mind
Tip: writing your goals down and telling someone about them can help hold you accountable. It can also help you be more focused and intentional in your daily life activities and habits.
If you feel so overwhelmed that you cannot look past one week, set up 5 daily tasks and describe how you will go about completing them. Check yourself at the end of the day, how much have you accomplished? Your daily goal may not be something that can be done in a day, so make room for grace if you didn’t get everything done. Remember that the day brings random twists and turns, so don’t be surprised if you don’t always get a chance to finish certain tasks.
Journaling is another way to “get out of your mind.” Research has proven that writing can improve your working memory. Additionally, writing down your negative experiences can offer the benefit of decreased intrusive and avoidant thinking. Check out the research by clicking this link.
That movie Frozen was on point. WE need to “let it go, let it go.” There are some things that just cannot be, and it’s important to learn to let go of these things and give ourselves peace of mind. Creating a ritual to physically let it go such as creating a motion, making a declaration, or writing it on paper to then tear it up can help clear some of your intrusive thoughts.
No more multitasking
As I mentioned previously. Multitasking can potentially limit your attention span, increase your stress, and still not solve the issue at hand. If the purpose of multitasking is to “get things done”, but you are finding that nothing is getting done, then it may not be the best route ( find out more here —> https://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/)
Clear your physical atmosphere.
Take time to clear out your environment. Having a clean and peaceful space can make a big difference. This is where it’s helpful to watch Marie Kondo on Netflix to learn more about tidying up your living space!
Warning** this will not be done overnight. Make a master plan for days to weeks at a time. There is a UCLA study that followed families and the increased stress they had accumulated from having too much clutter. They could no longer fit anything in their homes or garages. Apparently, they are proclaiming it to be an “Identity garage crisis.”… “”The trend is fueling an “identity crisis” for the region’s garages,.””
“Trapped in an energy-draining work-and-spend cycle, many young dual-earner families seem to fuel their stress and frustration by buying more possessions than their homes can absorb, adding to their debt and routinely conscripting crowded garage spaces to function as chaotic storage rooms,” Arnold said. Find out more here https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-02/uoc–lrg022207.php
Deep Belly breathing
What we know about stress is that when we are experiencing it, our brain releases stress hormones, and we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. This is because our body is attempting to prepare itself for survival. Stress induces our bodies natural response to perceived danger and can cause a variety of symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heart beating, and body pain. To help out our own bodies, we must be mindful to learn how to stop, take a deep breath, and relax. Check out the video below for a more detailed demonstration on deep belly breathing.
Another way to declutter your mind is to add visualization to your breathing. Sometimes people think of a word that is repeated as they practice breathing, or they think of a calming, peaceful environment such as the beach or the forest. Adding the visual to music can further help your senses to relax. This exercise takes practice so it can be helpful to attend a meditation class or ask your mental health professional to support you.
Take a break
Now, it may be hard to take a break from your own mind, but if you can list activities that you enjoy, you can randomly choose one to complete. It is not good to make decisions while under stress. Breaks are essential! Take some time for you to do things that bring you happiness.
Clutter can bring about many delayed decisions. Meaning that having so much on our mind can prevent us from making timely and much needed decisions about important things. This means that we engage in procrastination. This can mean that maybe we cannot let things go due to the emotional attachment we have created. When it is not serving you, it’s time to serve it back by making a choice. When you have a hard time making a decision, try using a pros and cons list. Think, “what are the benefits and costs of my decision?”
Share the thoughts with someone
Before you do this, it’s important to answer the following questions:
- Are they trustworthy?
- Are they in a good mental space to handle what you are about to say?
Our thoughts are precious, even though they can annoy us at times. It’s important to identify a supportive friend that can listen and reflect on what you are saying. It can help to hear a different perspective.
Know your triggers
Knowing your triggers can help you resolve a lot of potential issues. For example, If someone approaches me with a raised voice, I know it is my trigger, and I have a pre planned strategy in which I will hold my space and keep calm. Have you ever made a list of the things that trigger you? Or a list of things you can do if you were to be upset from your triggers? It can be a good practice to do so. After all, prior preparation prevents poor performance!
Limit social media
If social media is a trigger for you then taking a break can really make a difference! Did you know your iPhone can detect when you decrease (or increase) the amount of time you spend on your phone using social media and networking? Track to see how your mood is for when you take that social media fast. If you notice improvements in your mood then it may be time to implement social media breaks into your weekly routine.
I would love to hear your feedback! Let me know if you have other ways to rewind and declutter your mind in the comments below!
LaTianna Williams is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Nationally Certified Recreation Therapist residing in Long Beach, CA. She currently provides rehabilitation therapy for the elderly and forensic population, specializing in the Dramatic Arts. LaTianna raises awareness in mental health using fashion, travel, her personal stories, and creativity on her blog and social platforms. In the past, she has performed in the Vagina Monologues to raise awareness and funds to domestic violence shelters in her community.
She has been working as a creative art therapist for over a decade, presenting drama therapy at Patton State Hospital and California Parks and Recreation Society’s Recreation Therapy Institute.
Her long term goal involves expanding her performance artistry and activism by writing and producing written works and plays that surround mental health issues and triumphs. In addition, she would like to continue her work in drama therapy and work with a playback theater troupe to perform stories told by the audience members.