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Spring Cleaning Tips So You Can Clear Your Head Space

By Martha Michael

Spring Cleaning

While others are spending their weekends cleaning out closets and garages, donating old clothes, and tossing (or selling online) the tchotchkes that seemed like a good idea at the time, you can take care of a different kind of clutter. As important as it is to create order, organize household items, and reduce a growing tendency to hoard, there’s another spring cleaning project worth diving into: Clearing your mind.

Negative Emotional Impact

The purpose of mental spring cleaning is to let go of the baggage that handicaps your work life and personal relationships. Hanging onto your hang-ups can cause anxiety, exhaustion, depression, and a host of other issues.

According to Stephen Sideroff, PhD, in Psychology Today, when you dive into mental cleanup you confront interference by your unconscious, which attempts to keep negative emotions from reaching your awareness. But when you engage in that process, you catch explosive feelings before they bubble to the surface while also creating the emotional space for new experiences.

Some of the most common emotions that weigh us down are:

  • Hurt
  • Frustration
  • Sadness
  • Discouragement
  • Anger
  • Disappointment
  • Discontentment
  • Regret

Like dirty cupboards and grime between the tiles, we all have emotions that lie beneath the surface and benefit from our attention. They erode our happiness and run the risk of killing relationships.

Interpersonal clashes are complicated but there’s a simple tactic Sideroff uses to identify his own struggle to let go of his internal baggage. If you get increasingly angry or frustrated by an inanimate object, it could be a sign you have unfinished emotional business. When you go ballistic over a broken appliance or overreact to a loved one’s mistake, it provides evidence that you’re carrying around an overload of tension. To release the pressure, you need to uncover what lies beneath it.

Steps to Emotional Spring Cleaning

In addition to seeking the help of a mental health professional when your internal struggle becomes too difficult to control, there are some practical measures to lighten your load and maintain balance. Sideroff suggests drafting a list of grievances or other feelings affecting your ability to recover your mood.

Some of the experiences that can bleed into your enjoyment of other activities in life are:

  • Angry encounters
  • Disagreements with friends
  • Domestic squabbles
  • Job loss or failures
  • Financial burdens

An article in Reader’s Digest has a two-step process to tidy up your internal baggage.

Recognize it

Everyone has baggage, so you can leave your inner judge at the door when you look under the hood, according to Reader’s Digest. Just like repairing a car, the first step is to identify the problems. In the case of emotional spring cleaning, what you’re examining is simply a set of associations between an experience and a feeling.

“The worst kind of baggage is the discreet -- but bulky -- kind,” the article says. “When past experiences have caused you to create limiting beliefs about people, love, and relationships, you need to recognize this, and begin unpacking.”

An article on Medium.com offers a list of ways you can tell if your emotional baggage is ruining your relationships.

Neediness - Dropping your guard is part of forming a relationship, but when you’re excessively needy it tends to drive others away. Avoid seeking constant reassurance because it puts too much pressure on your partner.

Control - When you hound someone to get together and dominate your time together, it’s more than a little annoying. It may be driven by anxiety or insecurity and you want to deal with it so you can develop healthier connections.

Repeated patterns - If you have the same issues with your current relationship you had with the last, it may be a sign that the problem is you. Déjà vu is fun when it’s a happy memory or a dream come true, but it can darken your mood when it’s a recurring trauma or rift in a relationship.

Remove It

After sweeping for mines, you have to determine a way to deactivate them. Repeating unhealthy patterns doesn’t lead to emotional maturity or growth. But it’s not easy to alter course, says an article on the women’s wellness website Goodness. People with substantial emotional baggage find it difficult to change unhealthy habits, but you can do it with commitment to freeing yourself from the fallout.

Dr. Nakita O’Leary, clinical psychologist at The Lighthouse Center for Wellbeing in Dubai, offers some steps to take after you acknowledge the baggage you need to clean up:

  • Accept your circumstances and be kind to yourself - Remember that you’re human and that unraveling emotional challenges is a universal experience. Lean into it rather than escaping the consequences.
  • Address the problems - Here’s where you get down to brass tacks. Figure out practical ways to avoid a repeat of an unhealthy cycle of events. You can write your conclusions or talk to those involved and make changes.
  • Take a break from the situation or relationship - If you find yourself overreacting or if your impulse control is dragging you down, stepping away can give you space to redirect a downward spiral.
  • Forgive those who have wronged you - Seeking revenge doesn’t help you rise above the emotional toll, and it may even prolong the agony. Forgiving yourself and others for mistakes in the past can provide you with freedom from emotional burdens.
  • Seek professional support if necessary - When these and other steps toward wellness do not offer you the relief you need, reach out. Mental health experts can help you find a way to begin with a clean slate.

Unfortunately, there’s no cleaning crew you can call to do the work for you -- everyone has some level of emotional scrubbing to do on their own. Just like household tasks, ongoing maintenance is ideal -- and sweeping it under the rug just makes the annual spring cleaning task harder.

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