A busy mind? Here’s how you can clear your head!
Does this sound familiar: your thoughts all blending together and becoming one big, loud mess in your mind? We know it sucks, but luckily it is preventable. There are a number of different techniques and tips that can help you clear your head.
Where do all these thoughts even come from?
Feeling pressured can be caused by both an overactive or underactive brain. Wait, what? It may sound odd, but it’s true! In some situations, your brain goes into overdrive; for example when you’re nervous or when you get spooked by something. This makes you alert, which can be really useful in some situations (for example just before and during a job interview). But after this triggering situation your brain should calm back down. If it doesn’t, your brain remains stuck in the highest gear, and you end up feeling wired. Dealing with stress can be difficult in these situations. But the opposite happens too: your brain never starts working hard enough in the first place. When this happens, information is processed slowly or ineffectively, causing stuff to ‘stick’. That makes you feel restless just as much as when your brain works too hard!
Be aware of the disquiet
We deal with so much white noise and chaos on a day-to-day basis that we’ve gotten used to it. And that’s really handy, because otherwise we would always be on edge. But it doesn’t make our brains any quieter. To make your head quiet again, you need to be aware of the disquiet in your head first. You need to be able to recognize the feeling, just like you can recognize the feeling of being tired so you can decide to go to bed early.
To do so, you need to know the signs: trouble concentrating, thoughts that run in circles, difficulty falling asleep or feeling pressured. Ask yourself: how does it feel when I have a busy mind? Self-reflection, aided by Chapters, will help you figure this out. Then you’ll be able to start clearing your head with the help of exercises and practical tips.
Exercises to clear your head
You’ve taken the first step and know how to recognize what a busy mind feels like. Now it’s time to do something about it! One of the things you can do to clear your head is a braindump. Take some time to write down literally everything that occurs to you. Don’t think about what you’re writing down or how you’re writing it down, just keep going. Write with pen and paper to prevent being distracted by spelling checks, autocorrect or notifications. The only goal is to move everything from your head onto the paper.
Another thing that can help you calm down is meditation. How you do this is completely up to you. If you want to keep it simple, just sit down for a little while and focus on your breathing. You can also do some meditation exercises with an app or even sign up for a meditation course. Whatever, you choose, remember that it’s not about controlling your thoughts. Thoughts are a part of us; they’re not necessarily negative and they can even be a part of our personal development. Meditation is all about observation and acceptance, without being ‘kidnapped’ by your thoughts.
6 tips for a clear head
Besides doing tailor-made exercises, you can also do small things while you’re going about your day to clear your head.
1. Stop multitasking
If there’s anything that will clutter up your mind, it’s doing multiple things at the same time. It may seem like you’re working on and finishing everything at once, but in fact you’re continually switching between your tasks. This isn’t very efficient and takes up a lot of energy. Time to stop doing it! Instead, set yourself a realistic goal to be completed within a certain timeframe. For example: I will finish my presentation in the next three hours. Then, and only then, it’s time for your next task.
2. Break the vicious cycle
If you’re noticing that you’re just thinking in circles and not having any new ideas or insights, it’s time to do something else. Do something that requires barely any thought at all. Going for a run, reading a book, having coffee with a friend; anything that relaxes you works.
3. Limit the amount of information
It’s not necessarily the information itself that causes a busy mind, but rather the way in which you deal with this information. Whenever we read, hear or see something, we automatically give meaning to it. Before we know it, our mind’s going a mile a minute with lots of different thoughts running through each other. In other words: less information means less thoughts. Create moments for yourself where you consciously avoid information sources such as social media, the internet and television.
4. Make a plan and stick to it
To create as little room for distraction as possible, it can sometimes help to make a plan for the day. What are the most important things on the agenda? What do you want to achieve in order to go to bed satisfied and content? Use your morning energy to think about this and create a schedule for yourself before opening your mail, social media or news app.
5. Write it down
When something suddenly occurs to you in the middle of the day, such as an idea or an errand you need to run, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Write down this thought if you want to hang on to it, but it’s not the right time to act on it. You can then later look back on it to remind yourself, and because you’ve written it down you can let go of the thought while you’re in the middle of doing something else.
6. Acceptance: let your thoughts come and go
It can be difficult to let go of thoughts that are keeping your mind busy. Sometimes it’s better to accept it rather than worrying about it. Remember that your thoughts are not necessarily true, and not every thought needs to be acted on.
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