If you were asked to name the stresses in your life, you might think first about all the tasks and responsibilities you are juggling. Or challenging relationships. Or financial difficulties.
Less obvious are the stressors in your environment that can tax your nervous system behind the scenes. “Junk stimulation,” like junk mail, simply overwhelms the brain for no real purpose.
Clutter and noise are two stimulants that create unnecessary stress.
- Clutter. Studies clearly show a link between physical clutter and stress. Clutter distracts. It calls for our attention and limits our ability to focus. Getting rid of clutter is like changing any bad habit. Start small with an area where you can see noticeable improvement. Consider five minutes to declutter one shelf or one drawer each day. Or dedicate an hour or two on a Saturday to declutter one room. Arm yourself with three boxes or sturdy bags: Trash, recycle, and give away. Remember the guideline: If you haven’t used it in a year, you don’t need it. (Or, following the advice of Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t spark joy, let it go.) You’ll be surprised at how clear your mind feels when you are not tripping on clutter, searching for “lost” items, or bombarded with overly abundant visual input.
- Noise. Stop and listen. Do the sounds you hear really add to your well-being? Loud noises. Unpredictable noises. Noises we can’t control. Noises with negative content. These are the sounds that distract our attention and disturb our ability to think or remember well. If traffic noise is irritating, can you open a different window to let in less street noise? Turning down the ringer on your phone can reduce that jangled feeling when the phone rings. If the TV is blaring, will the viewer wear headphones? Use closed captioning? Or could the TV be relocated to a room with a door? Eliminating unwelcome sounds is a great way to give your nervous system a rest.