Updated: Oct 19
What is Mental Clutter? This is anything that makes our minds feel as if they are on overdrive – weighed down with too much information, too many thoughts to process, and this can leave us feeling drained. It can also lead to increased anxiety and mental burn out, which severely affects our ability to make decisions and take care of our responsibilities in the way we would like.
Where does it usually come from?
· Negative feelings – these can include anxiety, worry, guilt, fear, anger frustration and others. Any feelings that don’t feel good, can really bother us and cause us to feel overwhelmed
· Expectations – these can be large or small. It can be when we want people to behave in a certain way, and this doesn’t happen. We can also have expectations of ourselves that go unfulfilled
· Information overload – in today’s modern world, this is a reality for most of us. From Social Media, to the news, to just our everyday lives – we can all experience information overload at times. When we have too much information to process, it can leave us feeling drained
· Tasks we are procrastinating on – bills we need to pay, appointments to make, unmade phone calls …these are just some of the tasks that can linger in the back of our minds, adding to that mental clutter
So, how do we clear mental clutter?
A great place to start, is with the physical clutter. If you have a lot of stuff just sitting around in your home, garage or garden, work at getting rid of unused items. Even just beginning this process can feel so good, like you are lifting a burden off your shoulders! If this feels overwhelming for you right now, start with a counter, a table or a closet. You’ll realize how good it feels and this may inspire you to continue on to other areas!
Let’s take a look at other ways to clear mental clutter.
· Sit with your emotions for a while – emotions such as anxiety and fear do not feel good and they can be scary. We tend to run away from our emotions and avoid tasks that bring up these feelings. We put things off (or procrastinate) and replace them with other things that feel easier (for example, watching TV instead of doing our taxes!)
Rather than avoiding certain unpleasant emotions, it can be so much more effective to just sit with them…feeling the sensations that these emotions produce in us.
After sitting with your emotions for a while, perhaps you can write about them in a journal, you can acknowledge them, realize where they’re coming from and why you feel this way. You realize they aren’t as scary as you may have thought.
The emotions eventually quieten down (usually any emotion only lasts 90 seconds) and you can shift your focus to changing the root of these feelings. They will eventually go away and you can move on.
Journaling is really an excellent way to transfer and sort out your feelings and emotions. It provides clarity and a safe place to go and just “be” with your feelings and thoughts for a while. (More about journaling in another article) Perhaps use journaling prompts.
· Let go of expectations that are not serving you – instead of expectations, it would be wise to focus your energy on what you can control. What can you do in the current situation to make it better, can you start with yourself and make even small changes to have a better experience in a situation you can’t change?
Recognizing the expectations that you have, perhaps even writing them down is a good place to start. Examine them and ask yourself : where did they come from and are they realistic?
Finding the positives in a situation is an important part of letting go of expectations. For example, if you didn’t get a raise, could you focus on what parts of your job you like?
Focus on the journey, not on what didn’t happen or what someone didn’t do! Enjoy the here and now and focus on small wins and successes. Do your best to be in the here and now (mindfulness) instead of focusing on what could have been or looking into the future.
· Dial down the information intake – today we have so much information coming at us form all directions. Screen time is a hot topic, and something that should be taken into consideration when it comes to mental clutter.
According to the American Psychological Association, information overload leads to less mindspace to process things, which means its harder to make good decisions and stay calm. Make the conscious effort to switch off phones, computers and tablets for certain periods of the day, especially before bed.
Instead, grab a good book (perhaps a light, fiction book), go for a walk, get out in nature or just sit quietly with your thoughts, without any distractions. Regular breaks from all forms of technology are vital for our mental wellbeing!
· Getting to those pesky tasks – making lists is one of the most effective ways to get past procrastination and to transfer all those thoughts that are buzzing around in your head onto something concrete – be it a piece of paper, or a list you make on your tablet or phone.
Make sure you prioritize tasks – tackle the critical tasks first, especially the ones you least want to do, and once they are completed they are no longer taking up space in your head. Refresh your list at least once a day.
Other things to consider decluttering –
v Your inbox
v Your phone (text messages and voicemails)
v Photos on your phone/tablet/computer/camera
v Your schedule