I suppose now is as good a time as any to discuss anxiety-cleaning. I know, for a fact, I’m not the only one who experiences this. So, let’s talk about what this is and why we do it.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am speaking purely from my own experiences, perspective, and research.
Anxiety-cleaning is much more than that — it’s a que of high-functioning anxiety. High-functioning anxiety is a term that describes the behavior of people who experience anxiety, but instead of being crippled by it, they utilize it to maintain their lives at a high level. This is not inherently good or bad — it just is what it is.
Those who experience anxiety-cleaning might keep continuous, seemingly endless to-do lists, refuse to do leisure activities in a messy home, refuse to get rid of things, or blow household issues out of proportion. All of these “symptoms,” and several others, are attempts to control your environment. This can be brought on by experiencing a lack of control in your life, it can be brought on by having too much control, or it can be a combination of both.
High-functioning anxiety tends to work in my favor. My job requires me to operate at max capacity for long periods of time, a lot of jobs do. Being a student requires me to operate at max capacity for long periods of time, most classes do. But what happens when I’m at home and I don’t NEED to be operating at max capacity? High-functioning anxiety collects it’s dues.
I feel this need to control as many aspects of my life as possible because I have no control in several of my life sectors — despite the fact that I’ve constructed an illusion of control for myself as a coping mechanism.
At work, for example, news is constantly changing and so are my day-to-day functions. None of my days look the same and I am constantly working on something new. I never have time to settle and get used to something. I keep a planner to list my reoccurring meetings and my normal weekly tasks (this is the illusion of control that I’ve created at work). But the fact remains, I have very little control in this sector of my life.
Another example is my personal relationships with certain family members. The last few months, especially recently, I’ve had personal struggles with some of my relatives. I have no control over what they do, how they respond to me, or how they feel about me. What illusion of control have I constructed for this situation? I have built a wall between myself and them to pretend like their absence and their actions do not bother me. But the fact remains, I have very little control in this sector of my life.
So, what do I do?
I go home and clean, cook, and plan obsessively. I cook dinner, prepare my daughter’s and my lunch for the next day, clean my house, make a cleaning list for the next day, and plan out every other detail that I possibly can for the next week (yes, I do this daily. Yes, this means I plan the same things more than once).
There are studies that show how anxiety can bring on obsessive, repetitive cleaning. If you are a victim of this like I am, hopefully some of those studies will bring you some piece of mind.
Check in with me next week to read about how I deal with my anxiety-cleaning. Perhaps we can find a solution together.