Stress Management: Clutter, Cleaning and Mental Health

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Can cleaning help you reduce stress? There are lots of different ways that we can manage our stress. We each have our routine that we reach for when we feel overwhelmed. Some may try yoga, or mindfulness exercises, maybe even head to the hairdressers or for a massage. For others, dusting shelves, wiping down the kitchen or organising is their way to deal with stress. Cleaning is just as beneficial for our mental health as mindfulness related activities. For some people, coming home to a clean and organised house helps them to unwind after an overwhelming day.

Clutter and Mess

It is important to look at your environment and think about if you are allowing yourself the best chance to concentrate and focus. If your workspace is filled with items that are not related to the task you are focusing on, you may find it difficult to concentrate. Dirty plates from breakfast, an overflowing bin, piles of laundry or the children’s toys everywhere. These can all raise your stress levels! They all act as visual clues for reminders of things that you are still yet to complete. Keeping clutter and mess at a minimum will have a positive effect on your focus, stress and mental health.

Improving Mood

Clutter and mess can be linked to negative emotions like confusion and tension. Whereas a clean and tidy home leads to positive emotions such as a sense of calm and well-being. By sorting and organising the clutter and mess around you, you can reduce any stress or anxiety you may be feeling and this will help you feel like you are taking control of your life. The physical activity of cleaning combined with the result of a cleaner home helps reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Cleaning can also reduce fatigue as having clean sheets and making the bed has been proven to give you a better night’s sleep. Which in turn is linked to a more positive mood. What is stress management?

Cleaning and Endorphins

Whether you think of cleaning as a meditative task, or an energetic throw yourself into it task. Either way, any form of exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins send messages to your brain that changes your perception of pain and will trigger positive emotions in your body. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and reduce anxiety, along with preventing depression. Cleaning will also have these effects on your body and mental health as long as these chores require some physical exertion and they last for at least 30 minutes.

Scents and Smells

There is a well known and long-established link between smells and scents and mental health, such as aromatherapy helping to reduce anxiety and stress. Particular smells can have a specific impact on your mind as well as your body, for instance, lavender is known to act as a sleep aid and would be a perfect scent for use in bedrooms. A musty and dirty smelling room is not going to have a positive effect on your mental health. Other scents that are linked to mental health are:

  • Pine = Often used in bathrooms but is known to lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Rosemary and peppermint = are both known to stimulate your mind
  • Citrus scents = known to give you a lift due to their energising properties

Improving Relationships

This one is particularly true if you share your living environment with other people. Whether you are sharing with a partner, friends, housemates, there is always a chance that you won’t all feel the same way about cleaning. Seeing someone’s dirty clothes around, unwashed plates or a messy bathroom can cause negative feelings of resentment towards the person responsible, and the negative feelings then in turn will have an impact on your mental health. You must discuss your shared responsibility for keeping your living space clean and tidy. Working together and finding compromises will be beneficial to your mental health, as well as others and will improve relationships with positive feelings.

How to Incorporate Cleaning Into Your Life

1 Start small and do a little bit each day. The thought of having to clean your house from top to bottom in one day can be daunting and will only add to any stress or anxiety you are feeling. Don’t make your to-do list bigger than what you can handle mentally. To begin with, choose one thing to do today, and then something else tomorrow and so on.  You won’t then be faced with a daunting feeling when you come to cleaning.

2  Try to get others involved including your partner or children. It shouldn’t be left to you at the end of a working day to have to tidy up toys or books etc. Teach the children about looking after their things and keeping their bedroom clean. Talk to your partner about which tasks each of you will take so it is clear whose responsibility is what.

3 Set a time limit so you have an end goal. This is very popular with online cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch. Having a set time (30 minutes for example) will keep you focussed on what you want to achieve. Get all your cleaning products organised and ready and refer to your list of what you want to achieve in that time. 

Cleaning the house and sorting out clutter may not be the answer for everyone, but if you are feeling stressed we recommend giving it a try! Not sure if the symptoms you are experiencing are from stress? 

All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.

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