The act of cleaning provides a sense of control over your environment
Art by Saii Shah | Photo by JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash
If you’ve noticed yourself cleaning more during quarantine, chances are you’re not just doing so to keep your home tidy but also to keep your mental health in check. The stress and anxiety that come with the COVID-19 pandemic may make you feel overwhelmed, which is why you turn to self-soothing rituals like cleaning.
One clear reason why is that it gives a sense of control. A study in the Journal of Mindfulness showed that people who wash dishes are less likely to be nervous and see an improvement in their mental state. This is because the routine allows skin to absorb the warmth of the water and inhale the scent of the soap, making you 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 to negative emotions like irritability, stress, worry, tension, and confusion because it triggers the stress hormone cortisol.
Meanwhile, having a neat environment helps boost your sense of well-being, happiness, and calmness. It also gives you something to do while self-isolating. At a time when everyone is experiencing heightened stress, people crave structure and familiarity and cleaning can give just that: the feeling of productivity.
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 other coping mechanism you have during this trying time.
Make it 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 “beginnings.” Mornings are also when your mind is fully energized and less occupied. If your goal is to clean the entire house during 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.”