The Cluttered Mind: How Fear and Anxiety Impact Our Health

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There is definitely a connection between our emotional well-being and decluttering. I want to show you how the negative effects of fear and anxiety can have a profound impact on both our physical and mental health. 

Fear and anxiety are the culprits to most things

What is fear?

Before we dive into the details, it’s essential to understand what fear and anxiety are. Fear is a natural human emotion triggered by a perceived threat, potential danger, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a more prolonged, generalized sense of unease or worry about the future. Both emotions can become overwhelming, affecting various aspects of our lives. Both fear and anxiety can have negative consequences in our daily life.

The mental clutter

When fear and anxiety take hold, they create mental clutter. Racing thoughts, irrational worries, and an inability to concentrate become common occurrences. Sometimes panic attacks occur. This mental clutter can hinder our ability to make clear decisions, plan effectively, and stay organized.

A study published in the Journal of Anxiety, Stress, and Coping (Taylor, 2019) found that individuals experiencing high levels of anxiety had a significantly harder time managing their daily tasks and maintaining an organized living space compared to those with lower anxiety levels.

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Procrastination and avoidance

Fear of the unknown and anxiety often lead to procrastination and avoidance. Tasks, especially those associated with decluttering or organization, can feel huge when you’re overwhelmed with these emotions. I’m not saying jumping in and taking foolish risks is advisable. There is a happy medium though and fortunately I have found it.

Some totally stressed out folks tend to put off tidying up, organizing, and even decision-making. This makes a person’s ability to move forward almost impossible. I was just the opposite. Cleaning calmed me. I think the bigger plus was seeing that I achieved something and in essence moved forward.

Research from the Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry (Sirois, 2016) shows that individuals with anxiety tend to engage in avoidant behaviors to cope with their negative emotions. This avoidance can extend to cluttered spaces in their lives, perpetuating the cycle of disorganization.

Physical health consequences

The impact of fear and anxiety isn’t limited to our mental health or a panic disorder. We suffer physical symptoms as a result too. Chronic stress resulting from prolonged fear and anxiety can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, digestive disorders, and weakened immune function.

Worry

I am certain the reason I experience some very rare immune disorders is because I spent half my life way too stressed out about stuff that never came to fruition. It has taken me years of practice to find a far less stressful way to live my life.

One difference between then and now is stark. Back then I used to awake thinking ‘Oh no, what is going to go wrong today?’. Today upon waking my first thoughts are ‘I intend to be joyful today and the following is what I plan to do to insure this day is filled with joy’. BIG difference!

The American Psychological Association (APA) has documented the link between chronic stress and physical health problems. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones, such as cortisol, can have detrimental effects on  our adrenal glands the body over time (APA, 2019).

Decluttering for mental clarity

Now that we’ve explored how fear and anxiety can negatively affect our health, let’s shift our focus to the positive side of the equation-decluttering and organization.

Stress reduction

Decluttering your physical space can be a therapeutic process. It provides a sense of control and accomplishment, which can help alleviate stress and anxiety. A clutter-free environment fosters mental clarity and peace.

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Vohs et al., 2013) found that individuals in an organized environment made healthier choices and exhibited reduced stress levels compared to those in a disorganized space.

Enhanced Focus and Productivity

A clutter-free environment makes it easier to concentrate on tasks and everyday life in general. As a result we are more productive. With less mental clutter, you’re better equipped to tackle challenges and make decisions efficiently.

Emotional well-being

Many of us associate clutter as having too much stuff in our physical spaces.

When I posed the question ‘Do you want help to declutter your space or your mind?’ (to about 400 people) the answer was about 75% for both. Most people, when introduced to the idea of a mind being cluttered, chose to have their cluttered minds decluttered.

Living in a state of constant fear has a negative impact on our immune system. I am living proof of this. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help manage anxiety and fear, leading to improved overall well-being.

I have come to find deep breathing plays an important role in my life. Practicing breathing, for me, calms down my heart rate and the part of the brain that calms me down mentally. This leads me to be less distracted, more focused and productive and overall peaceful.

Regarding decluttering and organization, it’s crucial to recognize the profound impact that fear and anxiety can have on our physical and mental health. By understanding these negative effects, we can take steps to combat them through decluttering our physical and mental spaces.

Addressing fear and anxiety through decluttering and organization

Start Small

If the thought of tackling a cluttered space feels overwhelming, start with small, manageable tasks. Know there are many different ways to declutter. Don’t consider decluttering your whole home in a day or a weekend. Think of this as changing your habits.

We all know giving up self defeating habits has its challenges so go easy on yourself.  It has likely taken a long time to get to where you presently are. Set achievable goals, like organizing a single drawer, sorting through a box of old papers, or decluttering one shelf. These small wins can boost your confidence and motivation.

If achievable to you means decluttering one object at a time, be it one item a day or one item a week this is what you should do. You know better than anyone what your capabilities are.

Declutter Mindfully

When decluttering, pay attention to your emotional responses. Fear and anxiety may surface as you decide what to keep or discard. Memories of stressful events can be triggering. Sentimental objects cause the most stress when decluttering.

Be gentle with yourself, and try to understand the underlying reasons behind your attachment to certain items. Are they linked to memories, guilt, or fear of the future? Mindful decluttering can help you process these emotions.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family members, or professionals. Decluttering can be an emotionally charged process, and having someone to share the journey with can make it more manageable.

Consider seeing a professional therapist specializing in anxiety and cognitive behavioral therapy. Learn how cognitive behavioral therapy can help you. If you need help finding a professional a good place to start may be the APA- American Psychological Association.

Create a Routine

Establishing a decluttering routine can help you maintain a clutter-free space and manage anxiety over time. Routines form habits. Forming good habits is essential to maintaining a clutter free lifestyle after you have worked hard to declutter.

Set aside dedicated time each day or week to tackle decluttering tasks, so they don’t pile up and become overwhelming.

Practice Self-Care

Alongside physical decluttering, prioritize self-care practices to manage anxiety and fear. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or spending time in nature. These practices can help you maintain mental clarity and emotional balance.

A simple brisk walk or a stroll around the neighborhood with my precious pups works like magic for me. A wise friend once told me ‘ move a muscle and change a thought!’ This works!

Monitor Progress

Track your progress as you declutter and organize. Celebrate each achievement, no matter how small it may seem. Documenting your journey can serve as a visual reminder of your accomplishments, reinforcing positive feelings and reducing anxiety.

Find a simple way to chart your progress that works for you.

Stay Committed to Long-Term Wellness

Understand that decluttering isn’t a one-time task but a continuous process. Consistency is necessary. Regular maintenance of your organized spaces, along with ongoing self-care and anxiety management strategies, will contribute to your long-term mental and physical wellness.

The negative effects of fear and anxiety on our health are undeniable, and they can cast a shadow over our lives. However, through the practice of decluttering and organization, we have a powerful tool to combat these emotional burdens.

Declutter Your Mind

As you embark on your decluttering journey, remember that it’s not just about tidying up your surroundings; it’s about decluttering your mind, nurturing your mental health, and creating a more peaceful and harmonious life. Your mental and physical physical response to things that pop up will be more constructive.

By acknowledging the connection between emotional well-being and decluttered spaces, you can take meaningful steps toward a healthier, happier, and clutter-free life. Embrace the journey, and may your decluttered spaces pave the way to a brighter future with a quieter mind.

Professional Help

This author is not a medical professional. I have a lot of experience decluttering and organizing physical spaces and excavating the clutter in our mind.

I urge folks suffering from clinical depression or chronic anxiety and stress or any strong emotions to seek professional help. There are wonderful health professionals making it their daily mission to help people. Please let go of any shame you may have and find help. Life is so very short to not seek help.

Decluttering isn’t just about tidying up; it’s a powerful tool for enhancing our overall well-being.

So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, consider taking that first step toward decluttering. Your health and happiness will thank you.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America offers a free online health testhttp://Mental Health America Mental Health America offers a free online health test

References:

  1. Taylor, S. (2019). Anxiety sensitivity and its importance in treating anxiety and depression. Journal of Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 32(3), 267-269.
  2. Sirois, F. M. (2016). Procrastination and stress: Exploring the role of self-compassion. Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 52, 144-152.
  3. American Psychological Association (APA). (2019). Stress effects on the body. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body.
  4. Vohs, K. D., et al. (2013). Order in the office: The effect of office cleanliness and order on office workers’ productivity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(11), 1383-1396.

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Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed! We will have a few laughs too!

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