Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Have you ever felt like your mind was full of clutter? So much that you weren’t sure how to sort it out enough to find your way forward?
Take a look at what might be cluttering up your mind: Anger at someone who disappointed you. Frustration about promises you made to yourself and haven’t followed up on. Fear about the future. Anger at what feels like lack of progress at work. Maybe you’re feeling a little burned out on what you have to do to manage your diabetes. And on and on…
What can you do about all that clutter? Well, how about rolling up your sleeves and doing some reorganizing? Deciding what should go where. What should stay. What shouldn’t. And what needs a little polishing up.
Ready to unclutter your mind? Here’s how to get started:
Let go of resentments. Sure, you have a point. You shouldn’t have been treated that way. But it happened. And all that resentment is taking up a lot of valuable space in your mind. You can’t go back and rewrite the past. So how about letting it go? You need that space for something a whole lot more positive.
Look for the message in procrastination. It’s all too easy to criticize yourself for not taking action on goals you’ve set for yourself. But here’s another way to look at procrastination. Is it possible that you have taken on commitments that, in your heart of hearts, aren’t all that important to you? Have you been saying yes to someone else’s expectations for you but without a real commitment of your own? Or, have you made promises that may not be so realistic? Invite your procrastination to sit down for a talk and see what you can learn.
Toss out what doesn’t belong anymore. If there’s one thing a hoarder doesn’t like to do, it’s toss things out. But that’s exactly what you need to do to unclutter your mind. Along with tossing out those resentments, consider outdated beliefs about yourself, habits that get in the way of being your best self, and unrealistic expectations for others. It’s time to clear out the cobwebs!
Set priorities. One of the best ways to unclutter your mind is by setting priorities. What’s most important to you in terms of where you most want to spend your time and energy? Family? Work? A project you want to take on? Get specific with yourself about what each day, week, and month needs to look like. Visualize your priorities as items you want to keep in your mind, while those that are less of a priority can be placed into storage. Offsite.
While you’re setting priorities, make your self-care number one. Taking the best possible care of yourself is the foundation for making everything else in your life possible.
Reconnect with supportive people. When you’re stuck in the middle of all that mental clutter, it’s only human nature to let a few things slide. Like spending time with people who are important to you. Having some fun together. Giving and receiving support. So if you’ve been isolating yourself a little too much and hiding behind all those piles and stacks, it’s time to reach out and reconnect.
Stop worrying about what you can’t control. Humans want to know! But a lot of life is not knowable. We have to take things as they come along. When you give up the need to control, then you free your mind up to focus on what you can control. Again, priorities.
Open yourself up to change. One of the biggest contributors to a cluttered mind is avoidance of change. Even as uncomfortable as that all that clutter can be, at least it’s familiar. You know what each of those dusty crates contains, even if you aren’t that excited about what’s inside. No surprises, no risks. How about considering the possibility of empty spaces and bright light?
Open yourself up to uncertainty. You have to give up the familiar way of living–and all that familiar clutter–if you want to move into a new chapter in your life. As the saying goes, when a door closes, a window opens. So open a window and let in some fresh air.
Get your mental house in order. Reduce the clutter. Do some rearranging. Let in the sun and the fresh air. Life is good!