Running out of Brain

24 May

Ok, perhaps not literally. My brain also isn’t actually made of goulash. Nor is it melting and running out my ears. Nor have I actually run out of spoons, they’re all in the silverware drawer.

Sometimes it rather feels that way though, when you’ve had 43 things to do every day and only enough time to do half that, plus work is crazy and you’ve not had a day off in two weeks and the airlines aren’t cooperating and your grandparents still don’t have their luggage and you’ve gotta take care of the garden or it will die like the downy-mildew-ridden squash plants already have and your husband’s job is up in the air but they’ve moved the announcement back AGAIN so you have to wait another two weeks to find out if he’s getting fired and you’ve missed therapy appointments and all your usual exercises are out the window and your prescription has to be re-approved, sorry can you come back tomorrow, plus someone forgot to tell you that after your brother’s graduation they’re throwing a birthday party for your sister in law, and wouldn’t it be nice if you brought a gift?

So today, I am out of brain.

There are, thankfully, some coping mechanisms for being out of brain. Some of them will work better than others, and all are situational, but they DO work.

Step A – Take Stock

This isn’t actually a method of adding new brain, but it’s pretty crucial to the rest of the list. I have a tendency towards listfinity, and sometimes I have to force myself to take things off the list. Priorities, people. It’s a little like neatifying, but only with your brain instead of with your kitchen.

If you have clean underwear and socks, the pets are fed, and you have either enough food for two days or enough cash to order pizza, you’re good. Bare (bear?) necessities.

Vacuuming is not a bare necessity.

Taking stock means clearing out enough space to give yourself just a little bit of time to simply exist. The form of that simply existing will be discussed in the actual list, but before you do anything else, clear out for just an afternoon. Or an hour. A whole day is nice, but that’s not always possible.

Things to Reload Your Brain

(*note* some of these things may be stresses instead of relievers. That’s fine. Pick and choose from the list, this is not about doing EVERYTHING ON THE LIST. That’s the kind of stuff that runs you out of brain. Instead, do things that sound relaxing, that you know will make you feel more comfortable instead of more anxious)

Unplug –

Turn off the TV, put down a book that makes you angry, leave the internet and email for another day. You CAN unplug for a whole day and not suffer any ill effects, if staying “plugged in” adds to your stresses.

Take a nap –

Short or long, one of the best ways to reboot an overloaded brain is to let it actually physically reboot. Naps are great. (Then fire ze missiles.)

Meditate –

Spend 10 minutes doing nothing but being aware that you’re doing nothing. When you have a thought, allow yourself to think it, but don’t dwell on it – with each awareness of thought, take a deep breath and think about the feeling of breathing deeply, then let the thought go on its way. Lather, rinse, repeat. (Meditation is not about not thinking, it’s about not dwelling on your thinking so you can give your brain some space. But that’s another post.)

Make Something –

Art, knitting, muffins, whatever. So much of our lives revolve around intangibles, sometimes just allowing yourself the freedom to create can be hugely relieving. This is how I started making mandalas (also another post).

Write Something –

Journal for 10 minutes or so. If you don’t know what to write, write “I don’t know what to write”. Jot down whatever pops into your head, stream of consciousness style. If you laugh or cry or get upset, that’s fine, just keep writing until you’re done.

Phone a Friend –

Talk to someone who understands, and who will affirm your desire to reload your brain. If talking to Aunt Mary always involves a conversation about how you should lose some weight and clean your house, don’t call Aunt Mary.

Go outside –

Even 5 minutes outside can do a lot to reground you. Touch things, breathe deeply, and try to notice what’s around you. This is 5 minutes to take a break from your usual mental crazy. Is there a lizard? Do you hear a bird or birds? (Don’t try to figure out what kind, just hear the bird) Have the crepe myrtles bloomed yet, or is it still too early? What does the grass feel like? Immersing yourself in non-judgmental observation reloads your brain.

Give Yourself Permission To Do Nothing –

Make a glass/mug of your favorite soothing beverage, sit down, and do nothing. It sounds so weird. (You might even have to say to yourself “Self, this is not laziness. It is intentional doing of nothing.”) Enjoy relaxing without judging yourself. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s worth it.

Take a long shower –

While you’re in the shower, sit down on the floor and notice how it’s different. I love long showers, because they’re noisy. The water is very loud, so I end up just being able to think without being distracted. Also, it feels good.

Exercise –

Take a walk, go for a run, do some yoga, ride your bike. Physical activity is grounding and helps clear out the mental cobwebs. Also, it can help you solve problems that you weren’t sure how to solve. It refills your tank, and can help you sleep better at night. (Getting a good night’s sleep is another good way to reload.)

Basically, do things that give you the chance to not be obligated to other people for just a little while. Life gets crazy, and it’s very easy to be so overwhelmed that you don’t even realize it’s been two weeks since you’ve had a chance to just breathe.

I’ve talked before about being kind, and this is a post about being kind to yourself. It’s easier to be kind to others when you have taken the time to reload your brain, whatever form that takes. These activities might not work for you, but everyone has their own reloading ability. Do what works, ignore the rest, and enjoy the feeling that you have enough mental energy to take on the world again.

And besides, goulash is better eaten than stored inside your skull.


2 Responses to “Running out of Brain”

  1. Sana Johnson-Quijada MD May 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    thanks for telling us some of your story. btw, LOVE the title. keep on.

  2. Fallah May 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    These are some great tips, Anna. I really need some of them right now!

    I always feel like I must finish ALL THE THINGS or I am a failure. Which is ridiculous. I am not a failure if the dishes can be done tomorrow and there are dog hairballs on the floor. We have clean undies. We have food. We both have full time jobs. It’s Enough!

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