Do you ever feel like your brain is so full of junk that you can’t focus? You have so many thoughts swirling around your head. There’s an ongoing checklist in your brain, maybe on paper too, that is never completed. You always have something to do. It’s exhausting and stressful.
Yep, this is me, often. Over the past few years I’ve had to learn how to better manage my thoughts in order to remain positive, productive, and release stress. I have a tendency to set very high expectations of myself. If you’re reading this, you probably have high expectations of yourself. It’s one thing to hold yourself to a high standard. It’s quite another to hold yourself to an unrealistic expectation of performance. This is a form of perfectionism, and it can be toxic.
I discovered, in a recent coaching conversation, that I often hold myself to ridiculously high expectations as a way of getting attention. This is a by-product of my relationship with my mother. She suffered from mental illness. I would describe my mother’s personality as one of two extremes. She was either incredibly happy, supportive, and loving, or she would shut me out completely. I remember a time when I was in Junior High that she didn’t speak to me for a week. It was as if I didn’t exist. Growing up, this was incredibly confusing and upsetting. When she was in a mood, I would try to engage her in conversation, but would be ignored. In hindsight, I can see that she was going through a difficult time and could not process her emotions in a healthy way. This behavior created a need in me to be noticed. What’s interesting, is I never realized this need manifested into unrealistic expectations of myself.
Fast forward to today. When I find my brain full of noise, including an unrealistic check-list of expectations, I recognize it’s time to reset. If this resonates with you, here are some tips for letting go of noise:
1) Take a moment to do some deep breathing. This will lower your blood pressure and help you to relax.
2) If you’re spiritual, Pray. The act of letting go and surrendering toxic emotions to a higher being, is very freeing and comforting.
3) Listen to soothing music. This can help quiet the brain.
4) Take a bath or warm shower.
5) Do a quick brain dump. Grab a piece of paper and write down all the thoughts that are swirling in your head. They don’t have to make sense. Jot them down anyway.
6) Go outside. Natural light is a mood elevator.
7) Go for a walk. Focus on nature. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see?
8) Call a supportive friend.
9) Drink a cup of decaf tea.
10) Close your eyes and visualize that you’re in your happy place. What does it look like? Notice your surroundings. Is it nature, people, or buildings you see? What do you feel? Is there a warm breeze caressing your skin? Do you hear birds chirping, waves crashing, etc? What do you smell? Spend a couple minutes in your happy place and then slowly open your eyes.
Things to avoid:
2) Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant. If you’re overstimulated, this will increase anxiety.
3) Processed sugar – Avoid sugary foods and beverages. Processed sugar is a stimulant. It may increase your energy temporarily, but will act as a depressant when the affects wear off.
4) Alcohol – Alcohol is a depressant. It may relax you temporarily, but will increase your anxiety in the long run.
Taking time to breathe and relax is necessary. Self-care is essential to overall well-being. When we take time to care for ourselves, reducing the noise, we can better care for others and be the best version of ourselves.