Dr. Nicola McCaffrey

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Spring Clean from the Inside Out

Clutter is mentally exhausting.  Perhaps that is why I enjoyed being outside this weekend in the fresh spring air, the sun starting to peek from the clouds and spread its warmth over the newly cut grass. Being outside allowed me a chance to reflect on the inside and how much we have accumulated as a family over the past few years. Babies come with a lot of stuff, most of which they grow out of in the blink of an eye, yet I am left with the gregarious plastic walker and old basket of toys requiring new batteries long after they have been played with and enjoyed. Clearly its time to spring-clean. The dusting, hovering, wiping, washing mopping part, that’s fairly easy…the recycling and throwing away all of the things I have to dust, wipe and wash not quite so easy! Cleaning out my closet and Tupperware drawers might be a tedious task, but it is inherently rewarding, allowing for a fresh start, a new beginning. We spend so much time focusing on our external environment de-cluttering and refreshing, yet few of us take the same time to direct that spring-clean internally. How many of us have taken the time this year to look at our psychological well being and clear out the cobwebs, throw out the old unhelpful stuff that is just taking up space and refresh our mindset? Our well-being certainly deserves the same attention as our homes and yet it seems to get lost somewhere amidst the ‘to-do lists’ and the laundry.

Taking a little time to reflect on our psychological well being can help us to recognise what is working in our lives at present and what is not. It can help us to think about and shape our future goals. It can motivate us to make changes we haven’t had the space or time to recognise that we even need yet. Here are a few areas that might need tidying and how to address them:

1.     Clean out negative thoughts: A great deal of our time is spent thinking about others, how we speak, act and behave towards them. Now is the time to do the same for yourself. Bring awareness to your thoughts and that internal narrative. Understand the habits of your own mind and recognise those unhelpful thought patterns. Bring compassion to yourself and acknowledge that you are trying your best. Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t dwell too long on the negative. There is always another way to see things. Ask yourself would my husband/friend/colleague see this the same way as me? And remember you ARE trying, you ARE deserving, you ARE growing. 

2.    Suss out those time drains: How many times have you sat down to have a quick check of Facebook or Pinterest only to look up at the clock and find the best part of an hour has slipped between your clicking fingers. Suss out the time drains in your life. Be mindful of activities that are time consuming but don’t leave you feeling energised, productive or with a sense of achievement. If you simply cannot bear to be without your phone then allot yourself a period of time each day for checking emails or social media. Don’t let it eat up all of your spare time. You can also try charging your phone in a place that is less accessible to you so it is not in your pocket all day begging to be interacted with.

3.    Stop saying yes to everything: There are lots of reasons why people find it difficult to say “no”. Sometimes we worry what others will think of us or perhaps you have a view that saying no is in some way impolite, or that you might appear aggressive or overly assertive. Others are so brimming with can do positively that the word no is simply not in their vocabulary. The reality is however that saying yes to everything can result in feeling overwhelmed adding not only to that dreaded ‘to do list’ but also to our sense of failure when we inevitably don’t manage to achieve everything. Saying yes to everything and everyone also forces us to change our priorities and perhaps puts those things that are important to us and we want to spend time on much further down the list than we would like them to be. Instead of saying yes to everyone else start saying yes to your own needs. Recognise what it is that you yourself need and want to achieve with the time you have today. Say yes to the things that matter most to you. Granted we all have to do things that we might not otherwise like to spend time doing, for some this might be work, whilst for me its those tedious household chores, but outside of that say yes to spending your time the way it best serves you and your own psychological well being. Saying yes to yourself doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you human. You are just as deserving of your time and care as those around you. Try saying yes to your own life for a week and see how it feels.

4.    Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being popular or productive:  Many of us confuse activity with accomplishment. If we feel busy then we must be being productive. Whilst that may feel like a logical conclusion to draw, it is not strictly true. Being busy can feel good. It gives us a rush of endorphins and adrenaline. But are you putting your efforts into the right areas on your life? Remember you can do anything but not everything! A good tip for reflecting on your day is to not comment and acknowledge how busy you felt that day, but instead to ask yourself how much closer you are to accomplishing your most important goals. 

5.     Cultivate a sense of gratitude: The human mind has a habit to wander and needs a lot of taming to focus it on what we want it to. Often our focus is on the negative and this isn’t just something that you have learned over your lifetime, but a bias that is actually built into our brains from the very beginning. This capacity to weigh more heavily on the negative developed for a very good reason too, to keep us safe and out of danger. Our brain developed systems to keep us safe and out of harms way, and being aware and focused on these dangers has helped us to survive. Talking about and ruminating on our problems however has become one of our greatest addictions. Change that habit and start to talk about your joys, your achievements and all of the things in your life to be grateful for. These don’t have top be big things, to be honest I am grateful for a warm cup of tea and five minutes of stillness! If you were to build a wall made of bricks of gratitude what would your wall look like?

Take a few moments today and reflect on how you could spring clean your mind. Remember each day is a fresh start and an opportunity to spring clean your mental well-being. Don’t forget to check out my website at www.nicolamccaffrey.com or call me on 94261605 for more information and free resources. I can help you achieve the best spring you’ve ever experienced! Have a happy, healthy spring this year everyone.