If it feels like you have too many tabs open in your brain, you’re not alone. Clutter isn’t just physical items in your environment, your head can be filled with unnecessary items too. But what is mental clutter and how can you clean house?
Mental clutter usually presents as worrying, overthinking, unfinished business, a mental to-do list, and unaccomplished dreams and goals.
When your mind is cluttered, it creates confusion and disorganisation, which prevents you from moving forward. Here’s how to free up some headspace:
Create a mental inventory
Write down all the things you need to do, the things you should do and what you want to do. This concept comes from the creator of the Bullet Journal, Brooklyn-based product designer Ryder Carroll. Once you’ve written everything down, consider your ‘why’ for each. Eliminate anything that doesn’t serve you or make you happy, or isn’t a responsibility. Spend 10 minutes every day updating your inventory.
Tackle what you’re avoiding
List all the goals or commitments you find daunting. This includes things like ongoing debt, a dream you’ve had but have never put into action or a challenging work task. Break them into bite-sized, actionable goals.
Cut down on your media intake
Every time you scroll on social media, respond to a text or read an article, you’re overloading your mind with information. Set a time limit for your online activities with digital wellness apps like SocialX or in-built smartphone ones. Be mindful of the content you consume by unfollowing negative accounts.
Doing more than one task at a time may seem productive, but it makes concentrating difficult. This could result in careless mistakes, forgetfulness and missing important commitments. Before tackling your daily tasks, create a list of priorities ranging from most important to least important. Ensure that this list is realistic and simple.
Actively try to ‘let it go’
From personal or professional failures to relationships that have ended and goals you haven’t achieved, the past can be haunting. If you don’t work through your issues and let go of what’s bothering you, it can harm your mental health. Here are some ways to try and move on:
Accept that you can’t change the past but you can work towards a better future.
Know that you can’t control the actions of others but you can control your own.
See mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Work through your negative emotions to resolve them instead of avoiding them and pushing them to the back of your mind, thus adding to your mental clutter.
Note: If you’re struggling with consistent spiralling thoughts that affect your daily functioning, talk to your doctor and they can refer you to a mental health expert.
When you constantly put off decisions, your brain becomes jumbled with pending realities. So whether it’s an email you haven’t responded to, finally sorting out your taxes or having a difficult conversation, set a deadline and stick to it. For delicate decisions (e.g. involving a relationship or a work issue), make a list of pros and cons first. It’s also important to talk to a mental health professional if these decisions affect your day-to-day life.
For more advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:
Chatting with a co-worker, making a cup of coffee or putting in a load of washing may seem like procrastination, but it can be beneficial. Read our article to learn what microbreaking is, why it differs from procrastination and how to practise it effectively.
Being glued to your screen is not necessarily the best strategy for productivity, and taking a breather now and then can help you to bounce back from fatigue and disengagement during work.
Microbreaks are short intervals you take from work throughout the day. It could involve anything from standing up to stretch, doing some desk exercises, making a cup of coffee, chatting to a colleague or refilling your water bottle.
Microbreaks vs. procrastination
Microbreaks aren’t procrastination. The difference is that microbreaks can help you to recharge. And unlike procrastination, which can cause you to put off or avoid a task, microbreaks can help you to produce better work.
What’s more, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology reveals that microbreaks can help workers to be more engaged and maintain their energy levels throughout a working day.
They’re so effective because they enable a process called ‘psychological detachment’, where you’re able to mentally disengage from work, allowing your brain to rest.
Schedule them. Add time to your daily calendar to take microbreaks. You can choose different times using phone alerts or an app such as Stretch Reminder to prompt you.
Take a break when you’re distracted. You won’t be truly productive if you aren’t focused. Whenever you’re feeling distracted, use it as your cue to take a microbreak. This could be as simple as stretching your legs.
Try the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management strategy where you work in blocks of 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. An app like Tide can help you with this.
Learn to normalise it. There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking microbreaks since they will help you work more effectively.
For more work-related advice, read these helpful articles:
Cancer-related PTSD can occur at any point from diagnosis to surgery and/or treatment and can impact the survivor’s reintegration into their home, work and social lives. Here’s more about cancer-related PTSD and how best to deal with the symptoms.
Cancer survivors navigate emotions that range from hope and joy to trauma and trepidation as they deal with diagnosis and treatment, as well as adapting to life post-cancer. This journey is taxing and could result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For example, nearly 1 in 4 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer experienced PTSD.
Cancer experiences that may trigger PTSD vary but include:
having PTSD or other psychological problems before being diagnosed with cancer
using avoidance to cope with stress
Previous trauma could also contribute to cancer-related PTSD, says Dr Eugene Allers, a psychiatrist at Life Glynnview. According to the South African Journal of Psychiatry, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD for countries with a history of violence stands at 10%. And in South Africa, where violence is rife, it stands at 2.3%.
Signs and symptoms of cancer-related PTSD
Nightmares or flashbacks where the content of your dreams is related to the trauma
Frightening and unwanted thoughts
Self-destructive behaviour such as abusing drugs or alcohol
Trouble sleeping and concentrating
Strong physical reactions (e.g. a racing heart) when reminded of traumatic events
Loss of interest in activities and relationships you once enjoyed
Hypervigilance and constant feelings of distress
What to do if you suspect you have cancer-related PTSD
Life Healthcare Oncologist Dr Louis Kathan suggests the below if you suspect you have cancer-related PTSD:
Connect with other survivors. Spending time with those you can relate to can help you to feel supported and understood. You can join cancer support groups or cancer-related educational programmes.
Talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a mental health specialist such as a counsellor. You can specifically ask for one who has dealt with cancer patients and survivors. Sharing your distress with your oncology team can also help them to support you more effectively and put you at ease.
For more cancer-related advice, read these helpful articles: