Thursday, May 11, 2017

Messy Spaces and Anxiety

Our environments have such a huge impact on our mental wellbeing but I find that sometimes we neglect to be mindful of our spaces due to being busy all the time. A simple example of this: a messy living space. Maybe it's your bedroom, your living room, your backyard, or your whole home. 

Things get thrown on the floor, maybe we get too caught up in work or our day-to-day and don't get a chance to vacuum or clean. Papers, books, documents pile up on counter tops or tables, and before you know it you're living in clutter. 

I experienced this first-hand over this past month. Moving into a new house (which is actually a 40-year old home) and having to fix it up and do renovations has been crippling on my own personal mental health. Worst of all, it took me too long to realize it. 

A messy, cluttered space sent my anxiety screaming at full volume, putting me into breakdowns and panic attacks on a regular basis over the past few weeks. I can't remember the last time I felt less like myself. 

When did it all click? As soon as my partner and I threw out the garbage, took out the recycling, cleared off the tables, and swept the floor. Garbage and dishes drive me nuts, but a dirty floor sends me spiralling! 

Maybe that's because I have a certain relationship with the floor. With most floors... and the ground. I have this thing where I feel better being grounded. I like sitting on the floor. I like being barefoot in the grass or on the sand. I like the option of being able to drop to the ground whenever I feel like it and doing a planck and downward dog, literally stretching next to our dog; Sitting on the kitchen floor giving her puppy massages and rubbing her belly. The ground is amazing because I have the power and strength to push myself back up again (whether with or without using my arms/hands).

The ground makes me feel steady. So having it covered in dust, debris, drop cloths, painting clothes, drywall, pieces of wood, and multiple empty cans of Perrier made me feel like my world was crashing. 

I didn't have a space -any space. Everything was chaos. And when our surroundings are chaotic we emotionally feel the chaos. 

Some of you might not understand this at all. Perhaps you're like my partner and just deal with it. You know everything is going to be fine in the end; It'll all get cleaned up eventually, right? So what's the problem?

The problem is with those of us who really are sensitive to their surroundings. Even if you're not, you might notice that just by cleaning and decluttering you feel better - almost lighter. 

Back in my undergrad and graduate studies, I would always do a huge house/room cleaning before studying. I couldn't sit and concentrate if things were messy or dirty. Cleaning my space and introducing some fresh air through open windows would make all the difference in the world. I could focus, I could concentrate, and I was at my best. 

Yes, there are things out of our control. I can't control how much drywall dust gets on our floors on a daily basis because of home renos, but I can clean up a space for myself. 

I encourage you to give it a try the next time you go to sit and work on a task, or even before you take some relaxation time. Clean and organize your space first; get rid of all the old shit you don't need. Clean out your closet(s), donate old clothes, and towels. File away all those papers or documents that have been piling up. Dust off shelves, or sweep/vaccum your floors. And lastly, if the weather permits, open up a window or door for a few minutes and bring in some fresh air. 

I don't want to encourage manic or obsessive cleaning here, but just an activity to try when you're feeling frustrated, unable to be at rest, or to concentrate on a task. Getting messy and dirty is amazing, and a ton of fun (like running outside in the mud and dirt or stretching on the ground), but a clean space can make a more clear happy mind.