Spring Cleaning Our Mental Health to rē•calibrate For the Season
Taking care of our psychological well-being.
Each year, many of us decide to spring clean our physical space. We choose to declutter our lives of the things that no longer serve much of a purpose. This process helps to clear space for us to rē•calibrate and continue to live a life of intention. (Or, occasionally, to make room for new items that are more beneficial to where we are in life now). We deep clean our spaces, whether at home, at work, or even in our car — it’s a specific time each year when we are dedicated to cleaning our spaces for the greater good of ourselves.
What if we took the same love and care for our physical space and applied it to our mental health? What do we do with the mental clutter that’s bogging us down or causing a domino effect in our minds? How can we recognize mental clutter, even if we cannot see it visually like the clutter within our physical spaces?
Applying spring cleaning principles to rē•calibrate our mental health
When we think of spring cleaning, typically, this will involve a physical decluttering, a deep cleanse, a purge of belongings, and a way to rē•claim our spaces as we dive into a new season. However, now more than ever, it’s time to take the same principles we would apply to our physical spaces and rē•spin them to align with our mental health. Nawal Mustafa, Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Neuropsychology and founder of mental health blog The Brain Coach, defines a mental spring cleaning as “Taking stock of what isn’t benefiting our overall well-being and finding ways to cultivate clarity and peace in our mind. It means letting go of habits, patterns, and relationships that do not serve us anymore while simultaneously rē-connecting with things that bring us a sense of purpose and happiness.”
The idea of spring cleaning and decluttering may come naturally to some. This is especially true if you’ve been able to remove sentimental attachments to particular items. When applying the same practices to our mental health, however, there’s a chance we may fall short without fully understanding what taking stock of our mental health can rule and rē-calibrate. As Mustafa explains, our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act.
“It influences the choices we make, how we show up in relationships, our performance at work, and how we perceive ourselves,” she adds. “Good mental health significantly improves our quality of life, gives us purpose, and allows us to enjoy the little things in our beautiful world. Without it, we cruise through the world on autopilot, which is quite disheartening.”
Taking stock of our mental health
Spring cleaning our physical spaces allows us to quickly visualize what needs to be disposed of. But we don’t have the same visibility regarding our mental health. As a result, we may naturally sweep things under the rug or mark them as unimportant. Still, it’s essential to acknowledge these feelings in the moment. This may decrease our chances of unknowingly causing a build-up of unnecessary emotions that we need to rid ourselves of. But what are the signs?
Tune into your emotions. Mustafa explains that experiencing feelings of helplessness and being highly self-critical are red flags. In addition, losing interest in things you previously enjoyed or feeling depleted of energy indicates you may be experiencing psychological stress.
“Our emotions make us human and are not necessarily good or bad,” she tells rē•spin. “They are signals that teach us about our situation so we can make the necessary changes as needed.”
When these uncomfortable emotions build up, they can cause dysregulation within our nervous system. This can lead to erratic thinking, shallow breathing, inability to focus, and sleep and appetite changes. It can also increase heart rate, fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues. To begin to rē•calibrate these emotions, first, we must name them. Mustafa acknowledges that this task may not be easy. Many of us may struggle with identifying what we are feeling and experiencing in a given moment.
“We often repress emotions associated with painful and unpleasant experiences, such as anger, disappointment, sadness, and embarrassment,” Mustafa shares. “This may be because society has conditioned us to push these strong emotions under the rug, or we might have never learned to accurately express how we feel. Take a moment to sit with what you are feeling and try to name the emotions you feel. This will help you better address your situation and take action accordingly.”
rē•spinning our mental health care
In the United States alone, 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental illness. It’s not uncommon to struggle with mental health-related issues. It highlights the importance of recognizing what we are going through psychologically to address each issue head-on. Once we’ve had a chance to sit with our emotions, Mustafa recommends evaluating the root cause. Identify any habits, behaviors, or relationships in our lives that might heighten the psychological distress we’re feeling. She suggests asking yourself the following questions.
- Why have I been feeling this way?
- What do I need right now to feel better?
- What is preventing me from attending to my needs?
When we’re unclogging our psyche and deep-cleaning our mental health, Mustafa has four suggestions to help us rē•calibrate.
Create goals to rē•calibrate
Setting goals for ourselves gives us a sense of purpose, leads to higher self-motivation, and increases confidence. Try to identify what you value in your life that brings you closer to self-fulfillment. This could be spending more time with loved ones or engaging in effective self-care. It could also be actively contributing to your community or working toward a life dream.
Boundaries are crucial for our psychological well-being. They are our guidelines on how people treat us, behave around us, and what they expect from us. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence when setting a boundary. You do not have to explain yourself if you don’t want to. The important part is to use a kind and respectful tone. Although it is not easy to enforce them, setting healthy boundaries allows us to feel safe in relationships and ensures a mutually respectful and caring environment, thus leading to improved mental health.
Take control of your stress
Stress is an unavoidable part of adulthood. However, the way we respond to stress is what dictates our mental well-being. Learn strategies to effectively cope with stress and try to implement them regularly. Meditation, journaling, relaxation techniques, visualization, and setting realistic goals are all helpful ways to minimize the negative impact of stress.
Cultivate habits that rē•calibrate your mental health
Focus on the basics to rē•calibrate. These include prioritizing daily movement, getting enough sleep, and nourishing your body and brain with nutrient-dense foods. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are the golden triangle of good mental health.
It’s also essential to remind ourselves that our journey to holistic well-being is lifelong and is not just strung by temporary fixes. We must find sustainable solutions that we can adopt all year round for our mental health in the long term to continue our “spring cleaning” practice all year round. Mustafa suggests scheduling regular check-ins for your mental health once a month. These regular self-check-ins are a sustainable way to make sure that you’re continuing to hold yourself accountable and follow through with taking care of your mental health.
For your monthly check-ins, ask yourself:
- How am I feeling today?
- What has been stressing me out lately?
- Am I taking care of my basic needs?
- Have I been following through with my mental health goals?
- What is getting in the way of these goals?
Tackling our mental health head-on alone can be a difficult and overwhelming task. Keep in mind that tens of millions of adults in the United States suffer from mental health issues daily. We’re not alone in anything we do and have a community surrounding us, perhaps without knowing. Mustafa says, “Although there are many things we can do ourselves to improve our mental health, sometimes it can be too overwhelming to do it alone. If you are feeling stuck, I highly encourage you to seek out professional help from a mental health expert who can work with you to feel your best. It is okay to ask for help.”