Oftentimes, chronic stress and indecision go hand in hand. What's the connection with clutter? People who accumulate clutter tend to have trouble deciding what to do with their stuff (“I'll keep this catalogue/insurance form/magazine article until I can find the time to deal with it”). In one study, when compulsive hoarders and nonhoarders were asked to make decisions about whether to keep or discard an item, MRI scans showed much more activity in brain areas that regulate decision making, attention, and controlling emotions in the hoarders. In other words, they had a much harder time deciding.
Keep a handle on your clutter and you'll likely discover a greater sense of control over your life. Conquering clutter is a constant battle with no finish line-you must continue to make those decisions, and not put them off, if you want to stay on top of things. Make it easier by getting rid of stuff you don't need.
2. Learn to focus and calm your thoughts
To quiet down the chatter in your mind, simply close your eyes and focus on your breath, “watching” it flow in and out of your nostrils. If thoughts pop up about the groceries, the bills, or the state of the economy, notice them and then redirect your attention to your breath. Keep doing this for 5 minutes. At first you might spend 20 seconds truly focused on your breath and 4 minutes and 40 seconds redirecting your thoughts away from your worries, but that ratio should improve with practice. This little 5-minute exercise-which, by the way, is mediation, though you don't have to think of it that way-has been shown to lower heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, anxiety, pain, insomnia, and the production of cortisol-pretty much a one-stop shop for stress reduction.
3. Listen to hypnosis CDs.
Hypnosis may sound like quack medicine, but some research shows that it can be tremendously useful. One Yale University study found that hypnosis cut presurgery anxiety in patients entering the operating room by more than half. Other research suggests that hypnosis may be even more helpful at relieving anxiety than cognitive behavioral therapy. To find a licensed psychologist certified in hypnosis, ask your family doctor or your regular psychologist for a referral. Be sure to discuss the different methods of hypnosis available, and which may be best for you. You might also consider investing in a hypnosis CD that your psychologist recommends.
4. Keep a gratitude journal.
If your worry book is a strictly functional memo pad, make your gratitude journal a beautiful, hardbound book with luscious paper-an object you love to look at and feel in your hands. Write in this journal for 5 minutes a day, jotting down the top three things you are grateful for that day. Make them detailed and specific. Instead of writing “I'm grateful for my family,” write “I'm grateful that my granddaughters came for dinner tonight. I love to watch them learn how to use proper manners. I'm grateful they live nearby so I can watch them grow up.” Over time, doing this routinely will help you start to notice the beauty and grace of each day as it happens.