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Are You In Order? The link between anxiety and your surroundings.

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Have you ever walked into a model home or a clean, uncluttered space and instantly feel calm, relaxed and inspired? Not only does this type of environment look beautiful but something very real shifts within us and quiets our spirit and calms us.

The remedy: order and predictability. No chaos but orderly calmness and simplicity. Our physical order plays a significant role in our emotional order. The two are tightly linked and you may notice that when your physical environment is a mess and chaotic you too feel the same disorganization within and most likely...anxious.

This is something that people don't naturally link together but it is a significant contributor to anxiety. The brain is flooded by excessive stimuli (olfactory, tactile, visual) and works harder to process the environment to search for order and predictability. It's looking for homeostasis. In short, it's looking for safety from the possible threat of danger.

This goes back to our instinctual reflex of "fight or flight" when the amygdala in our brains

(or limbic system) becomes triggered to run (to protect us). Anxiety comes from a stimulated amygdala which creates the precursor for action. If there is too much stimuli to process through

(loose papers all over, dirty dishes piled up, clothes strung all over the house, mountains of laundry and clutter as far as the eye can see) this over stimulation of the brain makes it harder to "run" when the danger signal rings therefore increasing anxiety. This overwhelm tells our brains that we may possibly be unsafe if danger calls therefore naturally the amygdala fires off and prepares for flight.

In treating anxiety disorder in clients, I often ask them to describe their homes or bed rooms and often I hear them unfold the familiar description of a cluttered and disorganized physical environment. We work on putting their environment in order and the result is always a calm to the limbic system and decrease in anxiety.

Not only are people surprised with their shift in decreased anxiety but are also impressed by their ability to think more clearly, to be inspired and to ultimately be more creative.

Physical order not only leads to emotional order but to mental order as well. When the brain isn't overwhelmed by sensory overload it is open and available to work more efficiently and effectively and do more existential reflection, or higher thinking.

Next time you feel anxious, overwhelmed or in need of inspiration look around you. Are your eyes beholding a clean, uncluttered, peaceful space or is your brain overstimulated and thinking about taking flight? Take a moment, clean up and watch as things shift inside.

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