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  • Matt Gillespie, M.A., RP, C.C.C.,

Spring Cleaning and Self-Care Practices

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, days get longer, and folks collectively begin coming out of hibernation mode, we often start our yearly Spring Cleaning endeavour. For many, this ritual allows us to symbolically shrug off the mantle of winter, and to get a fresh start to the new year. As someone who regularly engages in this yearly practice, I’m quite familiar with the cathartic feeling of getting rid of a year’s worth of amassed junk, doing a full deep-clean and purge of the closets, and tackling the laborious task of organizing my Tupperware. However, each year I inevitably hit a point of frustration, usually about halfway through reorganizing and updating my bookshelves. As I’m sorting through things I forgot I had I start thinking “How did I ever let my apartment get this cluttered?! This is going to be impossible to sort through!”

And that thought brings me to my topic today: the importance of self-care as a regular practice, not a yearly scramble. It is so easy to put things off until tomorrow, next week, next month, or some vague point in the future. We assure ourselves that we’ll eventually get around to whatever it is that we’re avoiding, and justify our procrastination by rationalizing that we just need to relax for now, or not worry about things so much, or take it easy. The problem with this strategy is that, eventually, we end up with a year’s worth of cleaning that we try to accomplish in a day or a weekend, when this simply isn’t feasible. What before was a series of small, manageable tasks has grown into an enormous project. The more we put it off, the easier it becomes to do so, to the point that we are living in chaos and telling ourselves “this is fine.”

Spring cleaning is one example of this type of behaviour which is easy enough to visualize and relate to. However, this same type of avoidant behaviour can manifest in other areas of our lives and have similar consequences. As someone who engages in a lot of self-reflection, I’ve noticed a trend wherein I can often determine the state of my mental well-being simply by taking a look around my apartment. When things start to pile up, or I get behind on my laundry, or my Tupperware cupboard becomes a spring-loaded death trap, that’s when I know it’s time to focus more on my self-care and my mental and physical health. Because if I’m putting off vacuuming, chances are I’ve also been putting off my meditation, my exercise routine, my sleep hygiene practices, and even maintaining my social network (not the virtual one).

That’s one strategy that I’ve developed to help keep track of my health, and it tends to work quite well in reinforcing my self-care practices. By continuously monitoring the time I spend on my self-care, I prevent daily issues from building up and becoming larger, more difficult challenges to overcome. What are some strategies that have worked for you to do the same?

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