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Rebooting the Brain: Clearing the Mind
by Ryan Polly
Over the past few weeks my life took an unexpected turn. I can’t go into details here due to the sensitive nature of the situation, but let’s just say that I’ve been dealing with a family crisis that has required me to rearrange much of my existing structures and schedule. It’s been tough, and for the foreseeable future, it will likely continue being tough! I’m sharing this now because I know many people rely on me for inspirational and motivational posts, words that get you moving or stop you from eating that donut. I don’t intend to stop posting these things, but for now, I don’t have a lot of inspiration to share. I’m working on hanging on….keeping myself from crashing into old habits and working on keeping the stress in my life as low as possible. That being said, over the years I’ve picked up various stress management and mindfulness techniques that have helped (and continue to help) me navigate life when things around me are chaotic. I’d like to share one of those with you now and I may share a few more over the coming weeks. Clearing the mind One of the problems I have when life gets crazy is that my mind doesn’t want to shut off. I start to hyper-focus on the problem and spend hours of mental energy trying to find a solution. Of course, often there isn’t a solution to be found and only time and patience will change the situation. But, that doesn’t stop me from over focusing on it. The challenge is that when I let this one situation consume my entire mental capacity, I have little to offer anyone else. This is an issue when my work world demands rigorous thinking and when I need physical energy to care for the kids, help around the house, and give myself some time at the gym. Can you see where hyper-focusing starts a downward spiral for me? Suddenly I’m exhausted but yet I haven’t worked out. I grab a soda or candy to help pick me up and get me through the day. I, naturally, blame the exhaustion on my Hypoparathyroidism rather than on the fact that I’m mentally tapped. This leads to more sugary confections and less time at the gym. These choices, of course, mean that I become frustrated and mildly depressed and then unavailable for my family. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger until finally I snap out of it (thankfully!). A trick I’ve learned and honestly should practice more often is to clear the mind. It’s like doing a reboot for the brain and helps you get focused on the task at hand. This can really work when you need to focus (I did it before writing this blog post) or when you find yourself hyper-focusing and need to move on. Here’s what you do:
- Grab a piece of paper and write down every bit of the endless chatter that is going on in your brain. Write down the good, bad, and ugly. Get it ALL on the paper.
- Once you are convinced you’ve done a mind dump (this could take like 5 minutes depending on how much is going on in there), take the piece of paper tell yourself, “I’m setting this aside so that I can focus on what’s in front of me.” Now, you can either fold it up and put it in a drawer, or you can do what I like to do which is rip it into hundreds of pieces…the ripping action feels great!
- Now, focus on the one thing that is in front of you. You should find that all the extra baggage that was stealing away your mental energy has been diminished and may even be completely gone.