Autumn Awaits: It’s Time to Take a Mental Inventory
A monetary approach at understanding mental health
Many agree that post-summer blues are some of the lowest points of the entire year. As usual in the US, Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer. It’s well known that businesses receive around 40% higher call volume the Tuesday following that long weekend, as consumers scramble to accomplish their end-of-summer needs. It can be relatively easy to slip further into a “summer slump” but alas, productivity (and consumerism) awaits.
In addition to the start of a new fiscal year, new classes, and fall foliage, autumn often brings new ideas. After a few months of brim-full whimsical ventures and summer joy-inspired experiences, what better way is there to kick off a new season than with a clear mind and fresh perspective?
It’s important to note however, welcoming this new wave of ideas can be quite difficult if our mental space is cluttered in its current state. Thankfully, the solution can be simple. Just as we plan to declutter our closets and tone down our wardrobe from bright yellows and reds to deep browns and mauves, perhaps our mental spaces could use some re-organizing as well.
Inventory at the office, the annual one at least, is as simple as updating an Excel sheet: deleting a few line items and extending some expiration dates. I’m convinced a mental inventory can look quite similar. There are things in my brain that I believe are currently utilizing a lot of my mental energy, both consciously and subconsciously. Logging these items, similar to how I would log items in an Excel sheet, can help provide clarity as to how much mental energy I’m currently spending and what value I’d like to adjust that to, moving forward.
It can help to think of mental energy as currency. Not in the same sense that capitalists refer to time as money, but rather in a more approachable sense. Currency as we know, can be defined as a medium of exchange for goods and services. Consequently, any time I award an inconvenience (regardless of how insignificant) with mental energy, I’m essentially welcoming its stay. Think of it like this: my brain is a storage facility, and I pay a fee for every piece of furniture I ask it to house.
With this perspective, I can think of my brain not only as a space with limited capacity, but an entity whose space is of significant value and worth. Moreover, by drawing a parallel to a literal physical space, I can appreciate the need for organization and cleanliness, as opposed to clutter and dysfunction.
It’s crucial when creating line items in a mental inventory to keep a few things in mind. This includes:
- The date of registry: Note that this may not necessarily be the day in which the incident/inconvenience/conflict occurred. This merely refers to the date you began renting mental space for this item. For example, have you ever noticed some things only truly bother you upon reflection? Almost as if at first, you recognized its insignificance, its lack of need for space, and showed it the door; but with deliberation, you welcomed this clutter into your prime real estate and gave it a key to come and go as it pleases.
- The energy usage: This can be more accurately measured by the amount of time you spend thinking about this item. Logistically, a useful measurement to make inventory with would be how many thoughts per day you have pertaining to this item. Realistically, it can be nearly impossible to obtain this information. Instead we can reflect on each item’s percent usage. For example, every guest in a hotel is occupying some amount of space, right? A percentage would be a useful figure to look at just how much space each occupant takes up. A guest in a 1st level room with 2 twin beds may only take up about 5% of space where as a guest in the penthouse suite is taking up around 20%. We can apply this same logic to the items we store in our mental space. What percent of your total clutter is contributed by each individual item? Is there one major item taking up about 50% of your capacity? Maybe this item deserves much more attention than you’ve been giving it. Are there a few 5% items on your list? Maybe these items aren’t that significant after all. You can use these percentages to rank your items, and give you a sense of prioritization, a key component in inventory taking.
- The current activity level: This figure refers back to your percentage values, except in this instance, you must compare your current percentages to your previous amounts. Has an item previously at 5% jumped to 30%? Has a 40% item dropped down to 10%? How preoccupied are you now with this item, in comparison to its date of registry? There are many cases in which we itemize an entry, rent out a space for it, but never go back to see if it still requires that space. Sometimes items can go inactive, or dormant, if you let it sit for a while. And while this is helpful in the sense that the issue may have resolved itself, it’s crucial we take back the key and send in housekeeping to clean up any spills left behind. This can look like deleting photos from a previous relationship, removing certain contacts from your phone, or conversely, unblocking certain numbers as you choose to re-open certain doors in your life.
- The resolve methodology: This is the fourth and final thing I choose to keep in mind when taking a mental inventory. While the numerical figures in the inventory are useful, the values will likely remain the same unless some action is taken. It’s helpful to brainstorm some methods to reduce item occupancy by reflecting on each situation’s best course of action. It’s also helpful to make notes of methodologies for deleted line items as similar items may reappear in the future. Here’s an example of a mental inventory:
One of the only ways a mental inventory will work is if you are comfortable with identifying yourself as both the culprit and the authority figure. You are both the welcomer of dysfunction, and enforcer of cleanliness, so to speak. You operate as both the rental manager and guest liaison.
During your mental inventory, it will be imperative you uphold both of your positions. As guest liaison, you have a responsibility to your items. They demand attention, and it’s your duty to ensure their needs are met with care and respect. Granted, not every item will require diligence in their response, i.e they will not require a space rental, but they are entitled to closure: every last one of them. This can take place in the form of meditation, a quick confrontation, or just- acceptance.
Simultaneously, as you note the items which require additional addressing, or a space rental, as rental manager you must see to it that their stay is manageable. This involves giving each item a designated space, one in which their concerns can be voiced and subsequently addressed. Their space should be sufficient such that there isn’t overcrowding from other items. Additionally, some items should be given the freedom to sit unbothered for some time. As noted previously, not only can certain situations self-resolve, some items may not require that much attention to begin with.
Unfortunately, it can become quite cumbersome to update a mental inventory which hasn’t been refreshed for a long while. Items left unaddressed for too long may manifest into greater issues, requiring much more attention than it would have needed previously.
It’s crucial, and helpful, that you preform routine check-ins. This can happen monthly, seasonally, or as you see fit. The more frequent you conduct these mental inventories, the more likely your rental space will have a higher turnover rate, allowing for less space occupancy overall.
So as we gear up for autumn, and finish off our last stretch of 2019, let’s welcome this new wave of perspective as open-mindedly as possible. Let’s even get a jump start on next year’s resolutions. Anything’s possible with a clear mental space!