How to Reduce Stress by Sorting Your Mental Clutter


One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce stress is to get yourself mentally organised. Much is written these days about de-cluttering your office, garage and cupboards - but what about your head?

In our house when it's time to clear a space we pick an area and empty it's contents into a heap. The heap then gets divided into smaller heaps that sum up it's destination: send to charity shop, recycle, rubbish, keep. Once you know the rules it's easy to sort every item into it's pile ad then send it where it needs to go.

When it comes to the thoughts in your head you can play the same de-cluttering game by asking yourself one simple question: Can I change or improve this?

It's a simple yes or no question. If your answer is yes, you can start looking at what adjustments you want to make. But if your answer is no, why stress yourself by getting wrapped up in something beyond your control?

Examples of the things you can do nothing about include the weather, political outcomes, taxes, interest rates, the opinions of others etc etc

Everyone knows someone who can make a big deal of ranting about at least one of these areas. Some people take it very personally and get genuinely irate over the decisions and opinions of people they don't know and will probably never meet. And so they rage and fume and cause stress to the family and friends who have to hear of their perceived injustice.


Beware of Control Freak Outs

If you are around people who choose to stress over areas beyond their control you can choose to take a step back. You don't have to listen year after year to the same monologues. You don't have to add the second hand stress of others to your own load. Change the subject, walk away, visit less - you have the right to take care of yourself and your own stress levels. I learned this through a personal health challenge. It takes a lot of nervous energy for me to listen to other people's rants. If I can help them, I'll try. But if I can't, I don't have the energy to spare to get worn down by their drama, so I have learned a few little tricks to step away.


What if it's You That's the Control Freak?

If you can't change something why stress and waste mental energy over it? You'll notice the examples started with the obvious like the weather and then got a bit more subtle like other peoples opinions. There's an old saying that goes "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still" by all means you can discuss, share and debate, but why bang somebody else over the head with your opinion if they have a different view and it's dear to them. These are just examples, but I think you get the idea that broadening your understanding of the things you can't change means that you can de-clutter your head quickly and keep focused on the areas you can control or influence.


Stephen Covey calls this working within your circle of influence and it's a much more comfortable and effective place to operate from than stressing over things that are totally beyond your control. If you play this head sorting game regularly it will soon become very natural to you and you can rejoice in becoming one of those chilled out lovelies who can go with the flow of life.



Photo by Ana Santos