With 24-hour news cycles, unlimited access to information at your fingertips, and the constant coverage of the corona virus, clearing your mind is not just something that would be nice to do, it’s essential.
We get our bodies to bed every night and physically rest, but our brains rarely ever do. We have thoughts bouncing around in our heads all day that follow us home from work, into our personal lives, and are with us constantly. And at night we dream, or wake up thinking about that never ending to-do list.
With all of the changes that have been happening at light speed in just the past couple of months, more than ever, giving your brain a rest will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, the natural state of your brain is to generate thoughts. As nurses, we have a million responsibilities. Some of us are not only professional caregivers, now you’re the teacher, housekeeper, chef, and all things entertainment.
The only way to clear your mind is to actively do something to make that happen. Why? Because your brain will just continue to make noise if you try a passive approach of just wishing it would quiet down.
Use these activities to clear your mind and give it the rest it deserves:
One of the reasons why meditation is so powerful is because it settles and clears the mind through deep breathing, repeating a mantra, or just focusing on an image.
It’s not easy to sit still for an extended period of time, so don’t. Start with 5 minutes of listening to music. One of the easiest ways to find music for meditation is by searching for “meditation music” on YouTube. It’s free and oftentimes you can find meditation videos, or music, that range from just a few minutes up to 30 minutes, or more.
Another alternative is to focus on a beautiful or serene image. Think of your favorite place, person, or some other image that makes you smile, just by thinking about it. With that image in mind, sit someplace where you won’t be interrupted – your car before you go into work or home – and just focus on the image.
What kind of feelings does it evoke? Do you feel joy, a sense of calm, or more peace? There’s no hard and fast rule about this type of meditation. It’s all about trying different options to see what is most soothing and can clear your mind.
The point of meditation is to give yourself some quiet mental space which can clear your mind.
A brisk walk, especially after dark or before sunrise, can be very calming. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes around your block. The dark helps because you’re less visually stimulated.
The rhythmic nature of walking can be an effective way to clear out the stress of constant thoughts because your brain is busy moving your feet and maintaining your balance.
If you listen to some upbeat music or your favorite inspiring song, walking to the beat can even be a walking meditation. Two for one!
Mowing the grass.
Doing some humdrum, everyday activity can also be helpful. This includes taking a drive in light traffic, taking a shower, or washing the dishes.
Your mind can partially shut down and relax because it’s occupied with an external activity that requires your attention.
One of my favorite things to do that falls into this category is to vacuum. The hum of the vacuum cleaner, running it back and forth over my hardwood floors, is soothing to me.
Some of these activities might be chores that someone else in the house does, so I’d encourage you to do that chore once or twice a week to see if it helps to clear your mind. If you find your mind wandering off on a string of stressful thoughts, when you notice it, say what you are doing out loud. For example, when I’m washing dishes and my mind wanders off, when I catch myself I say “The water is warm. The bubbles are sparkling. My hands feel soft…” I’m bringing my awareness back to what’s in front of me and off of the stressful thoughts.
Any activity can help to clear your mind if you focus fully on it. This is probably one of the biggest hurdles nurses face. When you’re working, there are patients, family members, and other staff that need you. Sometimes all at the same time.
At work, you can experience a mind clearing effect while changing tubing, a dressing, or assessing a patent. Focus is one way to clear and calm your mind. When you’ve focused on one thing, not what’s next on your clipboard, you naturally block out any distractions around you.
Here’s a simple 3-step process you can use to focus, no matter if you’re at work or at home: Pause, Be Present, Proceed.
- Pause. Stop and take a deep breath or count to 5. Just that act of giving yourself some time brings you back to what’s happening in front of you or to a conversation you’re in. You’re not thinking of the next thing.
- Be present. Look at what you’re doing or being asked to do. Is it something you can do with 100% focus, or can it wait for a few moments? Give whatever it is that’s in front of you, a person or task, your full attention so you can make a decision that you can follow through on, that works for you and the situation.
- Proceed. You’ve paused for a few moments, focused on what’s at hand, and considered your response what you’ll do or what you’re thinking. You can then take action that comes from a more focused way of thinking.
Playing with a pet.
Obviously! Seriously, pets are comforting and calming. Snuggling with your dog or curling up on the couch with your cat can be a restful and calming activity.There’s something special about pets. They make few demands and are always happy with you. They always live in the present moment. Every time I come home from work, it’s as if my dog, Xena, hasn’t seen me in months.
When she wags her tail, and brushes up against my leg to greet me, in that moment, all my thoughts are focused on greeting her. If there’s a way that you could spend 5 minutes or more with your pet, let that be a fun and simple way to clear your mind. If only coming home to people were so easy!
When you have a lot to do, your brain is working overtime to keep everything straight. Nothing new about that. But making and using a simple list can empty out your brain. The thoughts are no longer in your head; they’re on paper and can be dealt with at the right time.
Keeping a pen and notepad handy, writing in a notes app on your phone or just talking into a voice recorder app on your phone all serve the same purpose which is to clear your mind from constantly thinking. You won’t believe how much this can help. Lists can release a lot of resources being used by your brain.
Try to clear your mind at least once each day. When does your mind tend to be the busiest? If you do get distracted washing dishes and the thoughts won’t go away, don’t try to push them off until later. Write them down and get them out of your head. My mind tends to get busy at night. I’ve found that when I get out a notebook and just do a brain drain, I sleep better. Those thoughts can be dealt with at a later time.
You’ll find over time that your mind will naturally calm down, but it takes time and using a strategy, like the ones listed above.
Our brains are thought-producing machines that can run wild if not managed.
Clearing your mind is an active process. There are many ways to accomplish it.
Experiment and discover what works for you.