Mental Health Awareness Week takes place every May. Since 2001, the campaign has raised awareness of topics including stress, sleep, relationships and loneliness – and this month we’re looking at how cleaning can help anxiety.
Harriet Knock runs the Instagram account @making_ahouse_ahome and is a full-time mum to her two boys, Freddie and Edward. We spoke to Harriet about how cleaning helps her anxiety, so keep reading to find out more.
Meet Harriet and her family
Being a stay-at-home mum to two energetic boys under the age of two is hard work. And, says Harriet, it can also be ‘incredibly isolating’ – particularly if you also suffer from anxiety.
Harriet takes up the story: “I suffer from anxiety which affects my everyday life, and so I find it hard to leave the house without my partner (who works full time), meaning I spend most of my days on my own at home with my little ones.
“We are in the ‘2 under 2’ club so I often have my hands full with them both being so young, but it’s absolutely amazing having them so close together in age with such a small age gap – and I wouldn’t change it!
“Before we lived together on our own…me and my partner didn’t have a clue about maintaining a nice home and we weren’t house-proud at all. Cleaning didn’t really come naturally to us, so I needed to pick up as much as I could along the way.
“I turned to Instagram for inspiration and tips on cleaning and keeping a nice, tidy home for our family. I was then inspired by other cleaning influencers to set up my own account!” she adds.
How cleaning helps Harriet’s anxiety
Having discovered the home and cleaning community online, Harriet quickly found that cleaning helped her. She explains: “I love cleaning and find it very therapeutic for my mental health, as I suffer from anxiety.
“I can focus on something to take my mind off how I’m feeling, and I also feel a sense of achievement after cleaning! I really enjoy it and it feels uplifting to me. It enables me to be productive at home and turn any negative energy into something positive.
“Having a clean and tidy environment makes me feel satisfied and peaceful, the saying ‘tidy home, tidy mind’ really does resonate with me and I believe looking after your environment can really benefit your mental health.”
Harriet adds: “Cleaning is a coping mechanism and outlet for me, just like exercise is for some people!”
So what specific advice does Harriet have?
“My mantra is to focus on achieving just one task a day, even on your bad or unmotivated day,” she says. “This helps to keep on top of things, as once you start falling behind with the housework it soon becomes very overwhelming and daunting.
“Achieving just one task a day, no matter how big or small, will keep you moving in the right direction and doing something productive every day. The act of achieving something in the house makes me feel much more positive and happy,” she adds.
Get support from the online cleaning community
While cleaning helps Harriet to manage her anxiety, the online cleaning community also provides invaluable support.
“The cleaning community gives me a sense of friendship and belonging,” Harriet says. “There are people I have something in common with and people I can communicate with and connect with from within my comfort zone.
“The online side of it means I’m more likely to interact with others than I would be face-to-face due to my anxiety. I find it really hard to make friends and meet new people in real life, but the Instagram cleaning community just makes it so effortless to reach out to others and start a conversation.
“You know you’re never alone – there’s always someone you can message for support, it’s also great because we all inspire and motivate each other!”
Advice if you’re feeling anxious or stressed
Harriet also believes that talking about how cleaning helps anxiety can have a positive influence on others.
“The more we talk about mental health problems the less taboo it becomes and the more lives we can save, as people won’t be so scared to talk about how they are feeling and won’t be as scared to reach out for help.
“Me sharing my story may just inspire someone to speak up about how they’re feeling, and if it could help just one person to feel less alone and more normal then it’s so worth it,” she adds.
And what advice would Harriet give someone who is feeling anxious or stressed?
“Know that you can find a safe way to cope with how you’re feeling and that asking for help or support does not make you weak,” she says.
“Support is vital when feeling stressed, anxious or dealing with any mental health problem, so make sure you have people around you that you can rely on and who bring out the best in you. Focus on the things you enjoy (for me that’s cleaning and writing) and do more of that!
“Also, if things are getting bad it’s never shameful to get professional help. I had counselling in the past and it helped me massively. I’d always encourage people to speak to their health professional and seek adequate support.
“The best advice is simply: don’t go through it alone. Please just talk to someone, so many lives have been lost because people have been too scared to speak.
“Locking feelings in is so extremely damaging, and if you have no one to turn to you could always message someone you don’t know – my inbox is always open to anyone who needs a listening ear or shoulder to lean on.”