Cleaning can help with focus, managing stress


Christopher Perez/Guilfordian

I have dealt with stress in a similar fashion for as long as I have needed the extra time I save in doing so. I have found the most effective method to be in going back to the foundations of my life, repairing the very fundamentals needed for success and then letting that success follow. Less abstractly, this form of coping comes through making my bed first thing in the morning, doing my laundry, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, eating good and healthy foods and avoiding excessive drug use like caffeine, cannabis and coronas. In essence, I have followed a simple motto when I need to lower my heart rate and escape the clutches of indecision: clean up your room, clean up your life.

This “room” is as literal as it is metaphorical. In the outward terms, if where you live and work is messy and cluttered, it is a direct reflection of your mental operations and well-being. If you want your mind to be clear and focused, then the physical space surrounding it, most of all where you work and sleep, should be too. So cleaning up your room, whether it be your room, your apartment, your bathroom, or your backpack, acts as both a symbolic airing of your laundry and an actual airing of your laundry. You can sometimes forget how good a shower is until you haven’t taken one in four days.

In inward terms, cleaning up one’s surrounding space offers small victories at a low cost. The energy threshold to changing one’s sheets is much lower than writing an essay. So completing this small task of cleaning offers a casual reward for a little amount of effort, providing you a good feeling of hope and excitement while you move into more difficult tasks, namely writing that essay. Inward physically, forgetting to drink water or supplementing it primarily with coffee and alcohol ruins your ability to want to do anything, and the lack of endorphins and “moving blood” from a lack of exercise will induce feelings of lethargy.

One thing I have learned more recently is on the advantages and disadvantages of quick media. By this term, I mean phones and computers, and all the apps and opportunities they carry. It is a double-edged sword for having the world of information at your fingertips, but at the same time having the world of social media, short video clips and mass marketers behind the screen looking to keep you hooked on their content. This quick media is easy to obtain, easy to consume and easy to use all day, yet it lowers your desire and ability for more complicated and fulfilling activities.

For example, the Protestant Reformation is fascinating, a period filled with drama and despair, great ideas and great triumphs. Yet when the option is between having to read the 16th century humor of Martin Luther or cats jumping in and out of boxes, one will inevitably win over the other if you are not active in what you search for. So, I work to avoid this type of media, throwing my phone underneath my bed’s covers for the day and rarely using my computer for this kind of content as to not associate the two. And I maintain this thought. I can read Luther all day and still enjoy cat videos, but I cannot watch cat videos all day and still enjoy Luther.

Ultimately, cleaning up one’s room, or more importantly repairing and maintaining the structures of one’s life, does not do the work you’ve been avoiding for you, but it creates and boosts the conditions necessary for this work to be completed happily and with success rather than with resentment and stress. What does not work is trying to fill in the holes of these structures with duct tape. Cigarettes and nicotine lead to more headaches than paragraphs, alcohol leads to more slurred speech than sentences and excessive sleep leads to more sleeping, not more energy. One must go through the motions of their life if they are ever able to live it, even if they don’t truly believe the motions will ever really get them moving.