Although it appears to be a mundane sort of thing, I find disorganization and chaos to be one of the biggest problems reported by depressed and anxious individuals.
The symptoms of feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to face the day often stem from not knowing where to start or not wanting to face the mountain of tasks that lay ahead. I have found folks to be so bogged down with even the everyday task of leaving the house on time that their entire day is a mess before they ever get started and they are frazzled by 8 am. There are children screaming, pets need walking, work begins at a certain time, the laundry isn’t done and available clothing is something picked out of the bin from the week before that didn’t make it to the dry cleaner. Stress chemicals are running rampant and irritability and panic set in as well as resentment of the household, job, family and whatever else.
What is worse is that typically if disorganization is a problem at home it is a problem at work as well. A cluttered desk, half finished tasks and deadlines not met are the work version of the problem and are with you all day. Does your automobile look like a homeless person’s shopping cart? If so, none of your major environments is peaceful. There is nothing pleasant about your surroundings and this is a major stressor.
The problem is not that you have too much to do or work full time, it is that you have not found a routine and organizational plan that works yet or you found one but are not consistent in following the plan.
Running around willy nilly, being chronically late, never being able to find things and having a dirty or sloppy house are stressful conditions and contribute to the anxiety depression cycle. Things scattered about affect your ability to concentrate and irritability sets in if not outright anger. Reflect on what your thoughts are while this is going on, those thoughts probably sound something like this:
“I will be late for work and get fired because it happens all the time.”
“My children will be late for school and marked tardy for the 5th time.”
“I can’t find that project that needs to be in by 9AM.”
“I am going to have to eat fast food because I don’t have time to make breakfast and I am already 20 pounds overweight.”
“I can’t find my keys so I can’t get to work.”
“I can’t even look at the sink because it is so full of dirty dishes.”
“The dog has a snarled hairball the size of Rhode Island and I don’t have time to get him to the groomers.”
“Whoops, I forgot the dog at the groomers.”
You get the picture. Not one of these thoughts brings about peace and serenity in your brain. They are alarming at best and exhausting at worst. Just think about if you have more than one of them each day just in the first hour of waking up. Your physiological response to each of these involves your brain chemicals and stress hormones and you can see why they are going to be off balance right from the get go. Cortisol is gobbling up serotonin at the speed of sound. Being organized with your things and your time makes you more effective, more peaceful, more efficient and more successful in general. Being organized feels good.
Look around your house. It should be your sanctuary, not a hell hole screaming your name to come clean it. The house and time management issues are all about the planning and execution of a schedule and routine. If something is not getting done or is causing you distress in the household it is because you have not found the right system for you.
Very simply, a place for everything and everything in its place is a good saying to live by and you should consider it your new mantra. Think of the simplicity of that statement. Yet this is the biggest bug-a-boo I see, not knowing where you left your car keys, clothing, sports equipment, check book, you name it. I use to struggle with these issues myself and after getting dressed in the dry cleaners parking lot, having to ask the grocery store to put my groceries aside till I got back with my checkbook that I forgot or lost for the moment and finding a year old half bagel under my car seat I realized there had to be a better way.
We often allow our emotional state to dictate these sorts of practical matters. “I am so depressed I don’t care what the house looks like.” “I am so nervous I can’t concentrate.” “I am so ADD, I will never be able to organize myself.” It does not matter if you are depressed or anxious, your house and time need streamlining and with that will come a lessening of your symptoms. You will feel an immediate shift just stemming from the empowerment you are giving yourself and the taking control of your life. If you really are ADD then organization and time management are the very set of skills that you require.
To get started take an inventory of the areas where you need organizing. Maybe there is just one area out of control or maybe the entire place needs an overhaul. Either way it can get done and not be overwhelming by breaking it down into sections and tasks. The major areas that cause disruption are your house, car, purse or wallet, finances and paperwork. Maybe it is just time management and not organization that will benefit you.
I am now going to take you through a general plan that you can institute immediately.
Get out a pad of paper and look around. Jot down room by room what the major problems are such as laundry everywhere, kid’s toys, paper clutter, etc… Where are the major stressors?
1. Now go to where these items would ideally reside. Is there enough room for them all to be put away at once? Do you need to get rid of some of it or do you need more space or better organization of it? If you have enough space then it is probably more a problem of time management and routine, if there isn’t enough space you may be keeping too much stuff or just not have the proper storage.
2. If you do not have an appointment calendar please get one now. If you live alone a portable one will be fine, if you have a family please get a big one you can post somewhere as everyone needs to be involved.
3. On your pad of paper list every activity for the week that has to be performed and how long it takes. For instance work-9-5, travel time 30 minutes each way. That is 9 hours of your day plus how long it takes you to shower and get ready. Ballet lessons for daughter one hour plus travel time on Wednesdays only. Put everything down and then write them in pencil on your new calendar. This shows you where your free time is going to be.
4. Dedicate some of that free time to getting yourself together. It won’t take that long although it seems daunting right now.
5. List all chores that require travel such as groceries and dry-cleaning. Can you do those on your way home from work? Can you do them all at once in order to be more efficient rather than make multiple trips? Decide on a good time and put that on your calendar also.
6. Think through your morning routine, this is usually where the day starts to go downhill. How much time do you need to get yourself ready? Pets? Kids? Breakfast? Pick up house before you leave so as not to come home to depressing mess? If you have a family I suggest getting up 2 hours prior to when you need to leave or when they need to be out the door. This gives you time to get ready, get them up and ready, prepare and have breakfast as a family and squeeze in a 30 minute walk or exercise of some sort. In order to do this you will need to have already planned the night before for things such as:
d. Projects of your own
e. List of priorities for day, knowing exactly where to focus your energies on any given day.
f. Gas in car
7. Now think through your evening routine. How do you get the above things done? Is there too much stuff in your evenings? Maybe the kids are in too many activities or you need help getting them around. Are you eating healthy food at night? Are you eating too late and not cleaning up because you are exhausted? Then you have to get up to a mess and again it’s all downhill from there. Remember you are in control of your schedule and your life, and sometimes too much is just too much. Even though you are trying to provide a quality of life by having many activities available for your family it is not a quality of life if you are depressed and agitated and the house is a mess and you are eating at drive thrus every night. Think about the memories you are creating.
Now you know where the problems areas are and where your time may be being wasted. Here are some general guidelines that will make a world of difference immediately if you put them to work for you.
1. Keep dishes and plates put away all the time, fill dishwasher after every meal.
2. Do a good cleaning once a week. Enlist the family, including children, to help especially in their own rooms. Many people feel guilty making their children learn chores but there is nothing to feel guilty about. They are simply participating in the household and will have to run their own households someday. If they learn now they will not have to struggle with these issues later.
3. Keep money matters in one place as well as files for all your important papers and issues such as credit card information, taxes, medical, legal, travel, etc… It is very nice to be able to put your hands right on something the minute you want it.
4. A place for everything and everything in its place. It’s really that simple.
5. Go with a schedule for cleaning, weekly daily, monthly and seasonally and stick to it.
To be a financial mess is very depressing and anxiety provoking. It also can damage relationships if you and your partner have a very different style of organizing finances. You have to take control of your finances. If your wife or husband does all the financial recording and planning for the family, still make sure you understand what is going on, what accounts you have and whose name is on them. What happens to them if the other person dies or in the case of divorce? There is never a reason in a marriage for each person not to be fully aware of family finances. If you and your mate keep separate finances that is fine, just be in control of yours and ones that your name is on at all times.
Many of us do not learn about money as children or just have never made it a point to learn it as an adult. Some of us feel uncomfortable with it. But every day we have to pay for things, we have to eat and live somewhere and it takes money to do all these things. Saying you are not good with money is like saying you are not comfortable with buttoning your clothes. There are great books and websites written on financial matters, find the system that works for you and utilize it.
Does your car look like you live in it? This too is very stressful and carries chaos from your home into your driving. You will be more distracted and harried while driving if your car is a mess.
1. Clean it out daily from anything you may have eaten, wrappers, coffee cups, etc…
2. Wipe console free of dust and grime with a wipe made for this to free your view of dirt.
3. Take it to car wash once a week if finances permit or at least every other. Allow them to vacuum it and wipe it down.
4. Each child riding in car is responsible for their own seat area if old enough.
5. Dog nose prints on window wiped off daily.
Another war zone, filled with extra papers, bunched up money, cough drops, candy with dirt embedded in wrapper, year old receipts, hair items and cosmetics, this is a virtual dumping ground of things we collect daily. None of them should be here.
Go through all purses and wallets and take out all junk.
Vacuum or wipe out purse.
Chances are you need some help in this department also. Taking on too much as well as not being organized definitely places you on the road to depression and being overwhelmed. There is only so much time and only one of you. In order to manage time effectively you have to take control of it and yourself, and not allow things to get in your way. Prioritize what has to be done on any given day and do those things first.
Work routines are very important also. Studies have shown that significant amounts of time are wasted daily by excessive email and social media use. If you are checking your face book page you are not getting your tasks done and they are building up, ready to cause you more stress. Set daily goals and priorities, then finish them.
As stated before, these are just general guidelines to gaining peace and control of your life, but they will get you started and provide immediate results as well as significant reduction in your symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.