The act of cleaning provides a sense of control over your environment
By Nicole Ganglani | Art by Saii Shah | Photo source from JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash
If you noticed yourself cleaning more during the quarantine, chances are you’re not just doing so to keep your home tidy but also because it helps with your mental health. The stress and anxiety that come with the global pandemic may make you feel overwhelmed, which is why you turn to self-soothing rituals like cleaning.
The reason why you turn to cleaning when you’re stressed or anxious is that it gives you control. A study published in the Journal of Mindfulness showed that people who mindfully wash dishes are less likely to be nervous and see an improvement in their mental state especially because the routine allows skin to absorb the warmth of the water and inhale the scent of the soap—making you feel more calm and collected.
Another reason why cleaning has a positive impact on mental health is that when you clean, you get rid of clutter. According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, a psychologist and author of “High-Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout,” unwanted clutter is linked with negative emotions like irritability, stress, worry, tension and confusion because it triggers the stress hormone cortisol.
Meanwhile, having a clean and clutter-free environment helps boost your sense of well-being, happiness and calmness. It also gives you something to do while self isolating. In a time when everyone is experiencing heightened stress, people crave structure and familiarity and cleaning can give just that: the feeling of productivity.
The reason why you turn to cleaning when you’re stressed or anxious is that it gives you control
But don’t use cleaning as a distraction to your problems
While cleaning is a healthy way to clear the mind and take a break from stress, it shouldn’t be used as a way to escape from emotions or problems. If you’re cleaning to avoid feelings of discomfort, those feelings can come back. To make sure your cleaning ritual remains healthy, don’t use it as an avoidance tactic but rather as a stress reliever. It’s also important to schedule your cleaning sessions during certain times of the day so it doesn’t take over time for rest, exercise or whatever coping mechanisms you have during this trying time.
Make cleaning a healthy daily habit
Maggie Vaughan, a New York-based psychotherapist, says that the best time to clean is first thing in the morning since it marks the “beginnings.” Mornings are also when your mind is fully energized and less occupied. If your goal is to clean the entire house during the lockdown, what you can do is to set one task per day instead of doing it all in one go.
Ultimately, cleaning is a healthy way to cope during this pandemic because it helps you feel in control and gives you some sort of accomplishment. Of course, what is a cleaning article without mentioning Marie Kondo? But she did say it best, “Tidying is the act of comforting yourself; cleaning is the act of comforting nature.”
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