By Chaviva Freedman
Around this time of year, I take the time to do something that seems to come with the return of the warm weather: spring cleaning. I find it therapeutic to take everything out of my closets, drawers, and armoire (can you tell I have a lot of space in my room?), dump everything onto the floor and go through every single item I own. By the end of this long, arduous process (it tends to take a few days, usually over the Pesach break), I am left with three piles: keep, throw out and give away.
Although I am great at spring cleaning my room, it’s not so easy to spring clean elements of my life. It’s difficult for me to separate school from friendships. It’s a struggle to divide my time between my school work and my family. Everything just jumbles together into a mess and for some reason, I can never seem to get myself to straighten everything out in my mind, leading me to spiral into a tornado of feelings and misunderstandings.
I’m wondering if there is a way to do a mental version of spring cleaning. How do I figure out a way to weed out the people that bring me down instead of picking me up? How do I break down what things are more important than others? It’s something I struggle with a lot lately. In fact, it’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time and I’ve reached a point where I’m in desperate need of some sort of detox to bring more positivity back into my life.
I started to scour the internet for some really simple ways to go through an emotional spring cleaning of sorts, and here are the three best tips that I found:
- Pros and Cons list. This method is one which we are familiar with. We look at a situation, write down both sides and then come up with a (hopefully right) decision. Take each friend you have and make a pros and cons list about your friendship. What are the things you love about them? What are the things that annoy you? Is there something that could be worked on or is the friendship unfortunately at the end of the road? It might seem difficult or even a bit harsh (trust me – I tried this recently and I found myself feeling like a piece of my heart was ripped out), but sometimes the hardest things to do are the ones that lead to a more fulfilling life in the long run.
- Breathing techniques. This is something that I love to do when my anxiety shoots through the roof. There are various ways to calm your brain, such as the 4-6-7 method (breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for six seconds and then exhaling for seven seconds in a four-time cycle) or the Headspace meditation app (you can read more on the Headspace app here), to name a few. This seems sort of silly, especially because this seemingly doesn’t have to do with spring cleaning… but it does. By simply breathing in, I somehow find a way to relax, which lets me see things with a clearer mind.
- Take some time for yourself. I know we’ve all been told this in various forms. Although this usually is more applicable when you’re stressed out from your extracurricular activities, I say that this is also really helpful when you feel like you’re in those ruts that you can’t seem to dig yourself out of. Trust me when I say that sometimes taking a step back and reflecting on all the things that seem off to you or the people that seem to be bringing you down really gives you a different perspective than being knee deep in the routine. Sit down with a cup of tea and watch your favorite episode of This Is Us. Do a DIY spa night. Take the time to take care of you–it will do you wonders.
As I type this, everything I own is categorized into the three boxes that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. I glance at them, feeling lighter than I did when I set out on this big project. But it doesn’t mean that just throwing your life into three mental places will give the full effect of spring cleaning. It may take days, weeks, months, or even years to mentally de-clutter. By just taking the first step, you’ll be on your way to an easier, more relaxed way of life. And who knows? Maybe you won’t have as much on your plate by the time the next spring cleaning comes around!