Mid-March I became a different person…a nesting person. Not only did I “celebrate” another trip around the magnificent sun, I also compulsively began to clean and re-clean and decorate and redecorate and organize and reorganize. My Iowa-girl heart couldn’t keep her hands out of the soil and there wasn’t a weed to small for my trowel. I vigorously cooked and chopped and juiced and froze until our pantries and freezers and refrigerators were full.
I couldn’t stop.
Driven by an inner compulsion I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t rest without thinking of a hundred things in my house that had never needed done before and yet they needed done NOW. On our second round of tree-trimming, my perceptive spouse finally stopped and looked at me and asked in a very tired tone, “Why are you nesting?”
Why was I nesting?
That was an amazing question. He named the constant drive exactly. I hadn’t felt so close to Marie Kondo since before my children were born…the last being 17 years ago. I was nesting…as a 48-year-old women at the beginning of a pandemic, while my family all began schooling and working from home, before my second son moved out, and before my oldest son’s wedding. Could I be stressed? Check. Check. And check.
Birds build a nest so they can have somewhere to live, somewhere to rest, and somewhere to have a family. People (predominantly women) nest as a way to prepare for when a baby comes home. It’s a burst of energy right before a birth that helps the parents to create a loving environment for the child to come home to.
Stress nest much?
According to an article in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, anthropological data shows us that having control over one’s environment is a primary feature of preparing for childbirth. However the same basis can be applied to times when we need to feel a little more grounded in our space. Taking control over our environment helps our hearts feel more in control of our lives when everything else around us is falling apart…in perception or in reality.
Stress nesting can also bring calm to our soul because we are creating a more exciting or more cozy environment for us to come home to or remain at home in. It stimulates our creativity, makes us feel productive, and gets our bodies moving in ways we never “had time” for in the past.
Nesting is community-building.
Also, if you are working with others, you are creating closer relationships because you are shaping an ambiance together, creating memories, and releasing dopamine. Dopamine is a lovely brain chemical that when released makes you feel calmer and happier. You are building your community. You are controlling your inner calm by creating your own orderly environment wherein you can breathe and process the world.
We aren’t birds.
With all this talk of nesting, we need to acknowledge that all the cleaning and decorating and gardening and cooking cannot take away the cloud of stress that is driving the compulsion. Avoidance rarely makes stress go away…it just kicks the immediate effects into the future. I had to eventually stop all my cleaning and decorating because 1) I’d already spent too much money and 2) I was driving everyone in my house crazy.
Just like birds’ nests can clog downspouts and chimneys, compulsive nesting can cause our true emotions to be buried. While buried, we are creating masks that cover our feelings and our compulsive thinking. Stephanie Eddleman has a fantastic article on this from our April 26, 2020 post https://thewespot.com/outta-your-head-saying-no-to-the-tyranny-of-compulsive-thinking/. Check it out.
Nests are for rest.
I eventually had to calm down. This nesting compulsion was driving me to surf Pinterest for hours and feel more and more unhappy with my self. I was not just improving my environment, I was beginning to judge my home and my stress against other’s picture perfect homes/gardens/decks/etc. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” was said by Theodore Roosevelt and it’s true.
I declared my house done. No more nesting for now…I am comfortable in my home, I am safe in my surroundings, and I am delighted my the beauty I see and create. My garden is thriving for the first time in five years…nothing dead yet. I have a beautiful little yoga studio/writing space on my deck to unwind and enjoy. The nesting is over…I’m letting the incubating of my dreams begin.