“The state of your environment is a reflection of the state of your mind. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, clean your space.”
This is something Legacies Life Coach Lindy Thomas has been telling me my entire life. It is some of the most valuable wisdom I have ever been taught, and the theory behind it has served me well throughout years of working as a coach and organization consultant for hoarders and not-quite hoarders who needed help tackling massive messes. The fact is, their messes weren’t the only thing those clients had in common. They were overwhelmed and anxious mentally and emotionally, as well.
It makes sense. Messes usually start with normal use of everyday items, or purchase of new items that need to be put away. Where they start to get away from us is when we are too busy or too tired to have the time and/or energy to put towards maintaining and tidying up behind ourselves. The bigger the mess, the more overwhelmed we get, but also likely the more overwhelmed we already were.
While I’m not going to give away all the trade secrets to overcoming massive messes, (but you can sign up for our Vanishing Mountains Workshop and get access to ALL of them!), I will tell you how to start clearing out some of the mental clutter that can make life feel overwhelming at times.
Think of your conscious mind as a desk. Ideally, it’s a space for you to take problems, look at them, work with them, and solve them. But if your “desk” is cluttered with too many problems at once, just like any physical surface, there is no room to work on any single problem on the desk.
Where do you even start?
Your mental “desk space” is finite. The first thing you need to do is stop beating yourself up for being a human with limited resources. Now let’s take control of those resources and start using them!
Start by picturing your desk, and imagine yourself placing a large box next to the desk. Now get a (real, physical, not visualized) pen and paper and take an inventory of all the problems that are cluttering the desk. If the visualization thing is working for you, you might imagine yourself picking up each item, adding it to your list, and placing them individually into the box. Or you might just make your list and sweep the whole lot into the box. Whatever works for you. The important thing is that list.
The problems haven’t gone away! They’re still right there in the box. But now that you’ve written them down, you don’t need to keep all of them visible to remember the attention they each need. So much of feeling overwhelmed by life can stem from fearing we will forget something important, so we try to keep all the important things at the forefront at all times. It’s about as effective as a traffic jam.
Look over your list and number the items by priority. Time-sensitive ones, health-related ones, urgent needs towards the top. Some things, such as making time to use the restroom, eating, drinking adequate water, and showering hold a permanent space at the top. I only mention this because you may need to take a moment and acknowledge whether these things are getting the attention they should as regularly as they should, and you do need to focus on that before you tackle the rest of your list.
Now again I want you to visualize going into the box and taking just one problem out, the one at the very top of your list, and setting it on your nice, clean desk.
Suddenly, you have the luxury of viewing your problem from every angle. You can interact with it, fiddle with it, come up with a solution, a plan to implement it, and genuinely solve your problem, leaving your desk clear again.
(If you have trouble finding solutions, or are unsure how to make a plan and implement it, that is exactly what a Life Coach does best! Give us a call! We’ll be happy to help you.)
Some problems may require you to create a shelf for them to revisit at a later date, or repeatedly revisit. But choosing to “shelf” a problem is an intentional action that keeps you in control, and allows you to maintain the “sanctity” of your empty desk space to think clearly about other problems that may have been eclipsed by the problem you have now shelved.
Now go back to your list, go back to your box, and get the next item. Repeat until your box is empty. You’re a human continuing to live, so you may need to re-do your inventory and continue clearing your desk every now and then, but the most important thing is this: One problem at a time. Even if you think are a capable multi-tasker, you can only solve one problem at a time.
And now that you’ve got a clear “desk”, one of those problems you tackle by itself without distraction can be that physical mess. Suddenly it’s a little more in your control, a little less daunting, isn’t it?