As unbelievable as it sounds, when you dig into it, there is actually a strong connection between our mental health and how clean our spaces are.
If you’ve ever had a bout of depression, you know that you can let things get to you as dirty dishes, laundry, and dust start to take over as you wallow. (If that sounds like you, watch this tiktok videos with handy tips on how to start cleaning your space!).
On the other end of the spectrum, anxiety can cause high energy outbursts that can only be resolved by… a deep cleanse! If that sounds like you, you might be an “anxiety cleaner.”
What is anxiety cleaning?
Different things will work for different people when overwhelmed. For some, it’s hitting the gym and working up a sweat. For others, it’s deep cleaning their homes from top to bottom.
And there might be something in cleaning that makes you feel better. According to one studywomen who described their space as cluttered or full of unfinished tasks were more likely to be tired and depressed.
The researchers also found that women with messy or cluttered homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Why do we clean when we are nervous?
“While anxiety can affect different areas of the brain, these fear and anxiety networks are linked to the part of the brain responsible for movement: the cerebellum,” Nicole Amoyal Pensak, a clinical psychologist in New Jersey, told Romper.
Experts point out that when we’re nervous, we have a restless energy that we don’t know what to do with. So some people resort to cleaning to relax and clear their minds.
The theory is that it’s all about taking control through repetitive behaviors, such as washing, mopping, cleaning and dusting.
“We want to be able to do something when we get anxious, and what we really want is to be in control and take action,” Alicia H. Clark, a licensed clinical psychologist, told Good Housekeeping.
“Although sometimes we have to accept some situations in life, we don’t have to accept an untidy home.”
What are the benefits of cleaning for your mental health?
Researches has found that cleaning can help you feel more in control of your space, and the repetitive cleaning can actually have a calming effect on your brain and help reduce your anxiety.
Cleaning, whether it’s gutting your fridge and refilling it with fresh food, or getting rid of the dirt and hair that accumulates in your bathroom, can help you feel fresh, clean (ironic) and almost lighter.
It’s the same feeling you get when you have a purge and get rid of things you no longer need.
Cleaning has also been shown to improve your mood and give you a sense of accomplishment and general satisfaction. There’s no feeling like a job well done!
When can obsessive cleaning become unhealthy?
If you feel like nothing always clean enough and you notice every little bit of dust and dirt, then you may be dealing with something bigger than simple panic cleaning.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can lead you to want to control areas of your life, focusing excessively on how things are organized or look.
People with OCD can sometimes be obsessed with cleanliness, and it can start to feel like it’s taking over your life.
Trauma can also affect how you feel about how tidy your home is, especially if you grew up in a chaotic environment.
If this sounds like you, talk to your GP about interventions and mental health strategies that can help.
Help and support:
Mindopen Monday to Friday, 9:00-18:00 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a 24/7 listening service, on 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
Calm (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) have a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58and online chat services.
The mixture is a free support service for people under the age of 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email email@example.com
Think again about mental illness offers practical help through its helpline which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More information can be found at rethink.org.
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