The Mess of Stress

by Lila Lazarus 

If you want to know my stress level, look at my closet. Seriously, it’s the best gauge of my mental state. If you see Mt. Wardrobe—that huge pile of unfolded but clean laundry in the corner—I’m stressed. And if it looks like a bomb went off, chances are my anxiety level is really off the charts.

And while I’m not always sure which came first, the stress or the mess, I do know one thing:  Change my closet, change my life. I’m not kidding. Organizing the closet is truly an antidote to anxiety along with five other techniques I’ll share with you. But let’s stick with the closet for now, as it is often the most neglected de-stressor.

Conquer the Clutter
When life seems too chaotic, the first order of business is to find a sense of control—and the closet, no matter how topsy-turvy, can be handled in short order. Align the soles of your shoes and it does something to your own soul. When things are in order it gives you a sense of peace. Clutter, on the other hand, like Mt. Wardrobe, adds to your stress. It impacts how we feel about our home and ourselves. It’s the same with the clutter on the desk or in the car.  All that stuff out of its proper place is a big distraction from the things you really want to focus on, and reminds us we’re behind and have things to do that we aren’t doing. And while we may resist cleaning the mess, it really is the simplest stressor to fix! Once you have a sense or organization, you start to feel more in control—which is the key to handling stress and anxiety.

But if cleaning the closet isn’t enough to do the trick– then try these:

Power Off
All the beeps and links and likes you get from your cell phone may make you feel more popular with others, but they disconnect you from yourself. All that focus on what’s happening out there in the world of social media adds to anxiety and stress. It’s important to take time in your day to power off.  You have to have at least a few moments when you don’t feel the need to instantly respond to others and can focus on yourself. And definitely turn off all screens including the television an hour before bedtime.

Stop wherever you are, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe. You don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes. Even five minutes can make a difference. Just focus on your breath and when your thoughts distract you, just come back to your breath. Study after study indicates the toxic dangers of stress on your system.  Meditation has been proven to lower your stress. And the benefits go far beyond those five minutes. Now that I’m meditating on a regular basis, I can really tell the days that I’ve meditated and those when I neglected to just take a moment and sit in silence.  Meditation leaves you with a sense of focus and calm that will stay with you for hours afterwards.

If you really want to change your world—just go for a walk. Exercise in any form is the most powerful cure to stress and anxiety. It’s the easiest way to pump up your endorphins and boost your joy. It will also help you get a better night’s sleep which is another crucial weapon in the battle against stress.

The Nose Knows
Once your space is de-cluttered, you’ve taken time to breath and gotten some exercise, it’s time to smell the roses or the lavender or lemon or jasmine. Your sense of smell has a powerful impact on your nervous system. And the fragrance of flowers triggers a physical reaction in your body that’s been shown to relax and calm you. Lavender has been proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate and lead to a better night’s sleep.  And speaking of sleep…

Go To Bed
If I seem cranky, distracted, out-of-sorts and high-strung, there’s a 99% chance I’m not sleeping enough. Nothing kills stress and anxiety like a solid eight hours of shut-eye. By the same token, I may be so stressed that I can’t sleep. It can be a vicious cycle. If that sounds like you, turn off the world, try organizing, meditating, moving and smelling something yummy. Not necessarily in that order. Hopefully you’ll get some rest and at least start tomorrow with a cleaner closet.

Lila Lazarus PhotoLila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.




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