Does your brain need a break? A day off?
If you’ve ever felt like your brain is working overtime, it’s probably because it was!
Every day, hour, and even second, our brains process massive amounts of information.
In any given moment we are bombarded with sensory information: sights, sounds, smells. Even tastes and textures. We assess temperature and moods and environmental activity. We interpret non-verbal cues.
We assimilate on both a conscious and unconscious basis. We create meaning and understanding.
We interpret behaviors of others and make instant decisions about what we should do. If someone is rushing toward us we make rapid decisions to identify it’s a threat or a friend that hasn’t seen us in months. We assess safety and act accordingly.
We multitask at work and in our free time.
Does this sound familiar? You get home from work and plop on the couch, turn the television on, read news stories or look on Facebook on your tablet, snack on something delicious, and chat casually with your honey. Your night flies by and you head to bed, just as exhausted as when you got home, even after five hours of ‘down-time’.
While your body may have been quiet, your mind wasn’t. Our brains get overworked taking in and processing all this stimulation, working non-stop from the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep.
The result is we are fatigued, checked out and aren't able to fully participate in our life.
It’s challenging to schedule a vacation for your brain! How exactly do you turn off your brain if you’re accustomed to a go-go-go existence?
Slowing down and unplugging our minds from the stimulation is one way to give it a break. Check out a few ways you can implement this.
One thing at a time. This is where I give you permission to NOT multitask!
The times where multi-tasking are necessary are very few. In actuality, when we try to manage three things at the same time, we aren’t being more efficient, we are distracted and not giving our tasks our all. Often this results in us not really being aware of what we did or having little investment in the outcome. Mark Morford sums it up best in his article “Hurry Up, Get More Done, and Die”. This is worth the read!
Put down your phone. Connecting with others during a conversation has almost gone by the wayside. When I watch others in public, most have their devices out and frequently check emails, Facebook or texts instead of interacting with the person they are with.
Commit to putting your phone on silent when you are with a friend, have dinner at a restaurant where you don’t check your phone once, create a basket in your home where everyone places their phones during family game/movie night. There are some powerful things that happen when you disconnect from electronics. For more ideas about ways to unplug check out this post.
Turn off the TV. It’s a habit most Americans have, walk in the door and turn on the television. Rarely are you sitting down and only watching a television show or movie. Most of the time the television is background noise, just static behind multi-tasking.
For one day, try to turn off the television when is it is not your focused activity. That means that if you’re on your computer, talking on the phone, doing something else around the house, playing a game on your phone… turn off the TV. See how your attention shifts and if it changes your connection with what activity you were engaged in. Then turn the TV back on when you want to make watching a show your prime focus.
Breathe. Spend a minute or two breathing and only breathing.
Most likely this will be a challenge. Your mind will push you to jump back to your lengthy list of must-do’s. When this happens, know that it’s OK and don’t worry about what ‘should’ be happening as you breathe.
The RAIN process can be helpful with helping you let your mind unwind. RAIN stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification (or non-judgment). As you’re sitting there breathing, recognize the thoughts and feelings that are popping into your head. Allow whatever happens to happen. If you feel anxious with all the tasks you need to complete today, pay attention to how that anxiety feels in your body and let it be there and return to your breathing. If your mind starts running away with thoughts, recognize what your thoughts are, investigate what is prompting the thought, allow it space in your mind, and return to your breath.
I believe the non-judgment step is the most important part of this process. It’s easy to get hung up and judge yourself for having a busy, active mind. Criticizing yourself for having a restless mind isn’t doing you any good, it’s not helpful at all, so catch yourself when you’re judging yourself and let it go.
With the over stimulation that our brains experience daily it can initially feel uncomfortable to start to cut out the white noise. When you decrease the outside sensory information your thoughts may seem busier, or louder, when there is nothing else to distract you from them. That’s OK! It takes practice to slow down the thoughts we have. Remember non-judgment is your friend.
I’d love to hear where you are in your journey toward quieting your mind. Have you tried any of these techniques and want to share what has worked? Send me a message here. If you have any questions or are ready to dig in deeper to a mindfulness practice you can schedule your free telephone consultation here where we can discuss how I might be able to help. I look forward to connecting with you.
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.