The summer is the time of year when we have long days, lots of optimism, and the fire-energy support from the universe to get a lot accomplished. Many people are making plans to move, or have other huge projects that they want to put into gear. While this is a great time of year to get things done, it’s also easy to over-do it and burn out. How can you calibrate your energy so that you have a good mix of that powerful push without getting overwhelmed?
In order to not get totally fried when you’re organizing your home, it’s important to be aware of what your central nervous system is doing. Since your nervous system controls everything you do such as breathing, walking, thinking, and feeling, you’ll need to keep it in check as you’re working. When you’re sorting, decluttering, and organizing your stuff, it’s very likely that big emotions will come to the surface. You may come across old photos, memorabilia, paperwork, or whatever else that reminds you of a difficult (or even traumatic) time or part of your life. It’s very normal to run across something that makes you feel sad, angry, guilty, or shameful. To be able to process these sorts of items/thoughts/feelings in the most healthy way possible, you’ll need to do it from a grounded and centered place. If you don’t take time to get grounded and re-center each time you come across something that’s emotionally charged, these charged memories will add up in your body and mind, and will lead you to hitting a [metaphorical] wall and shutting down. The more often you take the time to rebalance your nervous system, the quicker you’ll be with being able to organize your house. When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break to re-center yourself. Don’t force yourself to keep going when you’re flooded with emotion. By doing this- stringing together emotionally charged challenges in between calming and centering practices, you’ll be able to increase your duration and mental/emotional durability with processing the hard stuff. This is how you build resilience.
Your autonomic nervous system helps you deal with stress in life. Your sympathetic nervous system is the “fight/flight/freeze/fawn” side of your autonomic nervous system. It’s helpful when you’re in an emergency, or when you really need to feel motivated to get your house organized. Your parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” side of your autonomic nervous system. It keeps the basic functions of your body working as they should. Your sympathetic nervous system helps you deal with threats. Ideally, once you’ve dealt with the threat, you can return to your parasympathetic nervous system which will allow you to relax. Your parasympathetic state is a peaceful baseline. When you can return to your parasympathetic state, this will help give you the ability to tolerate more stress in the future. When you stay in the sympathetic state for too long, it will have major consequences to your health and to the organization of your house.
To take care of your nervous system, it’s important to do the basics: make sure to eat right for your body, get adequate sleep, and move your body on a regular basis. Ideally, you’re doing all of those things on a regular basis. Sometimes, life gets crazy and you may not feel like you can do all of those things. The important part is to remember to be compassionate with yourself and to do your best. If you’re beating yourself up for not eating right, getting enough sleep, and spending too much time being sedentary, that just compounds the problem.
For this post, I wanted to give you some ideas about how to take a break so that your brain and body can unwind and assimilate or process the emotions that have bubbled up before you add on more stress.
Let’s say you’re organizing your garage (kitchen/office/closet…whatever) and you can feel that your brain isn’t tracking what you’re doing anymore. You forget which piles are which, and things are just getting more and more mixed up. You may feel like you have low blood sugar, a major headache, or are extremely tired. These are all signs that you’ve hit a wall and it’s better to stop and take a break before charging forward. Here are some ideas about what to do:
- Drink some water, possibly with electrolytes in it. My friend just introduced me to the brand LMNT, which has a delicious chocolate-salt flavor. By drinking water with electrolytes, you’re giving your body much needed minerals so you will feel less depleted (physically and mentally).
- Get a healthy snack. Something sugary may be really tempting, but make sure to eat a snack with protein, fat, and fiber before you indulge in anything too naughty. This will help you have sustained energy and will help prevent you from becoming overly reactive. Alternatively, a nice warm cup of homemade bone broth is incredibly stabilizing to the nervous system.
- Do a meditation. I love laying down to do a guided or timed meditation. The Insight Timer is a free app with has lots of great options.
- Exercise is an excellent way of completing the stress cycle. Go for a short walk outside, or do some jumping jacks or stretches inside. The idea is to do something for a short amount of time that will help you reset your system without losing focus of your goal and getting completely distracted doing something else.
- Change the trajectory of your negative thinking by repeating out loud (or in your head) “I’m safe, I’m safe, I’m safe…” or using a positive “what if?” question such as, “what if everything works out just fine?”
- Play! Find a kid, a pet, a friend, or just play by yourself. Blow bubbles, fly a kite, paint a picture, shoot hoops, just do something silly fun that puts a smile on your face.
- Generate the feeling of accomplishment and renewal by cleaning something. Wipe the windows down, vacuum the carpet, mop the floor, clean the bathroom. Don’t get stuck in a cleaning frenzy, but just do something that helps you feel good and lets you get back to the job at task- organizing.
- Do a breathing exercise. I love doing the 5-5-7 breath. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for 5, and then breathe out for 7. Repeat 10 times. Or look up “Wim Hof” and do one of his breathing exercises.
- Let the Emotional Freedom Technique work for you. “EFT”, also known as “tapping”. Tapping is where you tap on specific meridian points on your body to help reduce stress. For instructions, click here.
What techniques do you like to use to soothe your nervous system? Please share in the comments!
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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