Having less physical clutter around creates feelings of calm, peace, and lessens our ability to be distracted. Likewise, the same can also be said regarding what I call, mental clutter. While we may not think of the thoughts we are thinking in our heads as being clutter, studies show they create mental drain and fatigue.
Listen in to this week’s episode as I give tactical tools to help us eliminate many of the daily decisions that create mental clutter. As we remove those small, seemingly innocuous daily decisions, we will feel more calm and ease. Today we will declutter from these insidious mini decisions that cause stress and lead to decision fatigue.
Asking your brain to make the same repetitive decision night after night is a drain of your human potential. As a coach, one of my goalsl is to see how many big decisions I can make so as to eliminate harmful mini decisions. Our brain uses a great deal of energy making decisions. Making one bigger decision is better for us and our stress level than making multiple medium to small decisions all day long. Here are some examples of decisions I’ve made that reduce mental clutter in my life:
- I exercise every morning.
- We don’t eat out or order out during the week.
- I meditate every day for at least 5 minutes.
- We choose to have no TV in our bedroom
All of these decisions require energy when I make them yet, in making a bigger decision once, like not having a tv in my bedroom, I eliminate the need to make many minor decisions multiple times each day (Like should I have the tv on in the morning when I’m getting ready? Should we watch tv before bed? etc…)
4 Areas To Consider As You Remove Mental Clutter and Stress:
Undoubtably, this is an area where we can have a lot of mental clutter and stress. Choose to decide ahead of time when you are going to look at your phone. Break the habit of picking up your phone in every free moment. Bring some intention to your use. Here are some questions to help you:
- When will you check your phone during your work day?
- What exactly will you check on your phone? Texts? Facebook? A shopping app? The weather app?
Pay attention the next time your hands seem to work independently of your consciousness – you know, like when you pick up your phone and have clicked on app without you having the conscious thought of “I want to check on …” Which app do you click on? That’s great input to know where you can make a bigger decision and remove some mental clutter. Choose when you will you check the things you like to check daily: whether it’s weather, instagram, or some other tempting app. When you feel the urge at other times during the day, choose to resist it.
Scheduling and Exercise
Next lets look at scheduling and daily activities that are part of our wellness and adulting. I could go into a lot here – wake up time, morning routine, bedtime routine, but as I said todays show is all about picking 4 specific places where you can get a big bang for your decision making buck and so lets look at exercise.
As a coach, this is an area where I see a lot of unnecessary drama or mental clutter. What do I mean? I see people avoiding making a larger, more overarching decision like “I exercise every day before breakfast”, Instead they spend mental energy daily on small decisions like “what should I do for exercise today?” or even, “Should I exercise today?”
We leave a lot of wiggle room in our exercise yay or nay decision which leads our brain to reset to its’ default of conserving energy. Ultimately, what I see, is that we are working against the human brain (not helpful). Go back and relisten to the adult child brain podcast (link here) so you make sure you have reasonable expectations around the feedback your brain will give you when you are about to do something you decided ahead of time to do.
Knowing the brains motivational triad is hugely helpful so we can call ourselves out on our excuse making and little dance of failing ahead of time. If we leave the decision to chance, get ready for the what ifs: what if it’s raining, what if a kid wakes up early, what if my walking partner can’t go, what if I’m tired, what if what if, what if…. That’s all mental clutter and wasted brain energy.
Another area where families have mental clutter is around food and meals. If you’re wondering if you have some decluttering to do around food and food choices, you can begin by looking at which daily decisions you are making: are you deciding what to have for breakfast every day at breakfast time? How about dinners? Do you decide based on what your brain tells you? This is not a recipe for stress free living, pun intended.
When our brain is tired, we will make decisions based more on satisfying short term desire rather than long term goals. Sure, grabbing that bagel with peanut butter satisfies our short term desire to eat something quickly yet how does it satisfy our long term desire for sustained energy and stable blood sugar? One of the best ways to feel more ease and to declutter your meals is to make your choices ahead of time. For example: Choose one breakfast to have on weekdays and one for weekends. That way, when you go downstairs you don’t waste mental energy thinking: What will I have for breakfast this morning. Instead you think: get out spinach, get out eggs. Go.
This also helps with wellness and making choices that are best for our long term fitness. Instead of making the decision about what to eat in the moment that you’re hungry or surrounded by temptation, you have already made it. Same with lunch and snacks. The more you make a decision ahead of time, the less you’ll eat impulsively.
In the podcast this week I give examples of choices I’ve made ahead of time that make my life easier. Listen in to episode 191 here. Where do you waste mental energy by making daily decisions? Do you know what you’re having for dinner tonight? How about for the rest of the week? The clearer you can answer that question, the less stress you’re going to feel. Structure creates comfort for our brain.
Finally, our fourth area of decluttering is our finances. When we speak of creating calm with our finances, there are two specific actions we can take proactively, ahead of time, that eliminates a lot of stress.
First: Look at your systems with the intent to automate. If you are still paying monthly bills or getting paper statements in the mail, great news! You have a great opportunity to reduce stress. Please schedule 30 minutes, turn on a favorite playlist, and get online to set all your bills for auto payment and e-delivery. Following that, set an appointment in your calendar to review your credit card bills and home charges every month. When that appointment comes up on your calendar, keep it. Sit down, review your bills, and move on. It takes a whole lot less time that playing whack a mole when they come in the mail, plus studies show you are carry less stress in your body when you aren’t worried about whether you missed paying a bill or not.
Second: Our second proactive step of decluttering our finances is making sure we are not buying things we’ll need to clear out of our home later. Which stores tempt you? Don’t go in. Are there catalogs that tempt you? Stop them from coming to your house by calling the number on the back and asking to be removed from their mailing list. If you get emails, unsubscribe. Know yourself.
Finally, I discuss my certain rules and guidelines around shopping and bill paying on the podcast episode this week. If you’re the type of person who likes examples, listen in! These things work and I want to help you!
Mental Clutter Roundup
That’s it warriors. You matter so much to me and your physical and mental clutter influences our moods more than we realize. Everything we look at, everything we listen to, everyone we come into contact with influences us. Be discerning. Consciously choose what and who you are letting into your life. Choose one of these areas this week, let me know in the show notes or on my Instagram page. Lets clear some mental clutter. If you’re interested in accountability with clearing our clutter and you are a woman over 40, consider signing up for the monthly midlife warrior membership as this is our month of decluttering. Every day is a good day to join and work together with other awesome women, looking to feel calmer and better. Join us at www.smbwell.com/membership. I’d love to support you!