Do any of the following quotes resonate with you?
“My brain is fried!”
“I can’t get my thoughts together.”
“Wait…what was I supposed to be doing right now?” *while landing on the bottom stair and wondering why you came down in the first place
“I’m mentally exhausted.”
If so, you may need to free up some mental space to help you think more clearly, release things that no longer serve you or resonate with your current goals and to help you move through your day feeling lighter.
These are all things I’ve said or thought to myself and some I’ve heard others say, especially since time warped during “Season 1” of the pandemic. Below are some ways I pause to free up my own mental space; try at least one of them this week and take note of how it made you feel.
1.Make a list of decisions you need to make and then make the decisions – Do a written brain dump of every decision you still need to make and, one by one, start making the decisions.
Do you need to narrow down that list of plumbers to fix the upstairs toilet, pick a new cellphone carrier, finalize the vacation resort location, decide what’s for dinner, raise your prices, schedule a parent-teacher conference, find a therapist, etc. etc. etc.?
All of these decisions are swirling in your head and it’s time to get them out on paper. The thing that often holds us back from making decisions is fear of making the wrong one…but making a decision is not about making the right one, it’s simply about trusting yourself and knowing that even if it’s not the right choice, you can navigate the outcome. I love this quote by Therapist, Tory Eletto, “I frequently say, “I trust myself” in moments I’m not sure I’ll make the right choice. Because my goal isn’t to make perfect choices, it’s to make my own choices. It’s trusting my intuition, my path, and living my values. It’s knowing I’ll take care of myself regardless of the outcome.”
There may be a few things on the list that you’re not ready to decide; for those items, write a note of when you plan to revisit each one. You might write, “I will check back on this in June, but I am freeing my brain of this decision right now.” that’s progress – deciding not to decide is also a decision.
2.Turn your phone on DND – The Do Not Disturb feature is your digital bestie to help you avoid reaching for your phone all day. It’s my saving grace when I need focused work time but don’t want to go through the trouble of fussing with notification settings for each app. You can allow certain people to break the barrier or rely on the phone to push any calls that are made 3x in a row (check your phone for the specifics, I have an iPhone). While your phone is on DND, set it aside out of view to prevent falling prey to technoference: everyday interruptions in interpersonal interactions or time spent together that occur due to digital and mobile technology devices. With technoference, researches have shown that even knowing your phone is within arm’s reach can cause interruptions in your mental state. If your phone is in view as you work, you may find yourself reaching for it for no reason and scrolling mindlessly through several apps.
These apps were built to be addicting but our brains weren’t built to be flooded with information all day. Just like you’re surprised after you look up from an hour of mindless scrolling, you’ll be surprised how much you get done when you focus on a single task for an hour without any technoference.
3.Move your body – Stand, stretch, shake, bounce, anything to get your body moving and release any stuck energy. That decision you need to make or those creative streams that have run dry are on the other side of a little movement. How many times have you been out on a walk or doing chores when a great idea came to mind? My best ideas come during the middle of a yoga class or on a walk with my dog, not when I’m sitting in front of a screen willing my brain to produce. If your mind is cluttered, connect with your body and allow things to come to you naturally. That way, movement becomes your go-to: Can’t make a decision? Stretch! Feeling forgetful? Walk!
4.Charge your phone across the room – Does this sound familiar? Your eyes are barely open and you’re adjusting to the light streaming in through the blinds as you wiggle a little to get your body in synch with your brain. The house is still quiet, and you squint across the room to check the time, deciding that hitting snooze isn’t worth it. Before you assess how you feel, you reach for your phone. Your mind is flooded with news, pictures, texts and emails.
This is a stressful way to start your day and it sets the tone for the way you react to technology for the rest of the day. Charge your phone across the room so that you can’t reach for it when you wake up. Use the first few moments of each morning to check in with yourself and then go on to tackle tasks that require your most focused brain power and creativity.
As an added bonus for the aspiring “morning person,” charging your phone across the room means you actually have to get up to turn off the alarm instead of hitting snooze and rolling back over.
5.Forgive yourself, send apologies, let it go – “Do the best you can until you know better and then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
Did you hurt someone unintentionally by your actions or your words? Did you offer unsolicited advice (again) when a loved one only needed a listening ear? Did you make a decision that set you back from your goals? It’s time to release whatever is weighing you down, to make amends, to apologize. Acknowledging what is taking up mental space is the first step to releasing the grip it has on you.
6.Do a social media digital detox – Pick a platform (or all of them!) and take a break from viewing the highlights reels and 24-hour news cycles. Get laser focused on your own life for at least 24 hours. I recommend taking this detox “cold turkey,” and without making a big announcement about your departure from any platform. I once took a 4-month break from Instagram and not only did life move on beautifully, but I connected with friends IRL and over text more than I did when our interactions were confined to bite sized chunks of perfectly curated content. Give your brain a break to take in the sights and sounds of your own life – imagine waking up, going about your day with a delicious breakfast that you don’t photograph and a beautiful sky that you notice because you looked up.
During your digital detox, free up mental space by…
…stretching, taking power naps, reading…anything but scrolling, liking and posting. You never know! You might decide to ditch social media altogether when you notice how much more mental space you have but if not, I guarantee that a detox will help you reexamine the ways you use each platform moving forward.
What could you do if your mind felt calm, your body felt lighter, and your energy levels were boosted by trying any of the strategies above to help free up mental space?