No matter how ruthless we are about keeping our clutter in check, sometimes there are things that affect us more than others. These things are known as ” stress triggers.” Something that you are particularly tempted to buy or a thing that annoys you greatly are examples of a stress trigger. Consider some personality traits of those in your home, such as leaving the seat down when using the bathroom. Or, maybe it’s pencil tapping while working. For me, it’s the tendency of certain family members to leave their stuff everywhere instead of putting it away. It’s important to keep an eye out for this type of clutter or things that stress you out so that you can address them and keep them from derailing your progress.
Stress Triggers: Identify and Avoid
Triggers don’t necessarily have to be physical. There are lots of behaviors, associations, or beliefs that can trigger you also. For instance, maybe a really stressful day with the kids can send you on a shopping spree to relieve the negative feelings. However, what you end up with are things you don’t need and that add to your clutter. This retail therapy also rarely makes you feel better long-term. Instead, you often end up feeling guilty and the added clutter just adds to the stress. This creates a cycle that feeds a physical stress trigger. An example of a physical trigger might be noticing the stack of boxes that are piling up in your garage because you haven’t been able to face the pressure of sorting through them. Retail therapy only compounds this problem. And, it can cause financial and relational stress if you accumulate debt because of it.
What’s important is that you learn to recognize your triggers. Knowing the problem is essential to dealing with it. In order to truly know it, you sometimes have to do some deep emotional digging. This can be painful, but it’s worth it in order to help eliminate these triggers that upset you. I find writing things down or journaling helps a lot in spotting triggers. Write down any negative feelings you associate with a particular item or other influence. Ask yourself why you might feel this way and keep asking yourself questions until a pattern begins to emerge.
One way to do this is to keep asking, “Why?” For example, Why am I frustrated/angry/uptight/resentful? Why does that thing cause me to feel that way? Why do I believe that? Sometimes, through repeated questioning, we can reveal deep emotional scars or ingrained lies we believe. We can take these to the Lord for healing. It also allows us to learn more about our own hidden weaknesses and stress triggers so we can deal with them in a healthy way.
Dealing with Stress Triggers
Once you discover your stress trigger and its source, it’s far easier to deal with the issue. Identify the problem, make a list of possible solutions, and choose one to act upon. If it doesn’t lead to a satisfying solution, choose another option and give that one a try. During our 30-Day Challenge, we’ve talked about a lot of ways to get stress relief.
Let’s look at our example above of the boxes in the garage. Sorting through them might require facing painful memories or it could force you to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to give away. Regardless, you now know your trigger’s source. You can then examine these feelings more logically. Decide which is worse, having piles of clutter face you each day when you go in the garage or dealing with your trigger. This is usually enough to spur you into action. Understanding and being aware of your triggers is an important part of managing your clutter, whether physical or mental. Once you master this process, you’ll feel more in charge and better prepared to deal with future stress triggers of all kinds.