I spend so much of my life stressed out. Stressed out for reasons that are stupid and pointless for the most part; with my internal voice posing various questions such as “How many toilet rolls do we have left and will I remember to go to the shop for more?” I know, riveting stuff right? Sometimes, I worry about money, my health, how I treat my friends and how often I see my family. Other times I wonder if my life has been memorable. Have done enough good in the world? Then I think about the toilet paper again. So naturally, I need to find ways to calm the chattering voices in my mind, to find some serenity in the madness. Here’s how I do it…
Write a list
Writing lists is a really straightforward way of offloading thoughts from my mind onto paper. I have an app, diary, journal and a notepad all on rotation depending on where I am and what kind of notes I need to take. I use Google Keep on my mobile to collect all different types of list from a basic ‘to-do’ to blog post ideas, useful websites, research to do, meal ideas and personal mantras. In my diary I can create bullet point lists for more pressing tasks and assign them to specific days which really helps me relax, because even though I haven’t taken care of ‘the thing’, said thing is now part of my grand plan so it will get done. My notepad is for more elaborate lists, or expanding on ideas and I often use mind mapping (I know, I’m a total geek but I’m cool with it) to come up with ideas for my blog. My journal is reserved for those times when I have a barrage of negative thoughts filling up in my mind. Like an overstuffed suitcase I need to take out the excess and discard it somewhere safe. In my journal I write completely honestly, knowing that no one will ever read it, and I often start without an idea of what I actually want to say. This can lead me down a rabbit hole, but a cathartic one nonetheless, that ideally ends in some sort of resolution or at least identification of a problem that can be worked on in the future.
Turn off your phone
It might sound obvious but how many times do you actually sit and relax without your phone nearby? I often find myself in the middle of something important, like writing this blog post, only to hear that familiar ‘bing’ that instantly lures my attention away to whatever is happening on social media. Is losing my train of thought really worth it to find out that someone liked my latest Instagram post? Probably not. If I’m feeling overwhelmed it can be really good for me to pull a curtain over the world of the internet and just be in my own space for a while. It allows me to really focus on one task at a time – surprisingly difficult for me – without that niggling feeling that I might be needed elsewhere.
It’s no secret that exercise is my number one form of stress relief. I get cranky when I haven’t worked out for a few days and I feel instantly renewed when I finally do hit the gym, take a class or even just take a long walk in the fresh air. Not everyone thinks of high intensity exercise as a way to relax, but for me it’s like the fitness equivalent of ‘giving myself a shake’, realising that things aren’t as impossible as they seem and it can put pointless worries into perspective. Doing demanding moves like burpees and tuck jumps is a way of getting out of my own head. For an introvert like me it’s also a great way to socialise with others indirectly without too much anxiety. Since moving to a new gym I’ve also been doing yoga regularly and I can really see the benefits. Physically it’s an invaluable tool for relaxing muscles that you didn’t even realise were tense, and mentally it’s perfect for forcing those racing thoughts elsewhere whilst you focus on breathing and holding challenging poses. Although most classes last an hour, apps like Down Dog offer short sessions that can be done at home and act as an instant way to clear your head.
What are your tips for decluttering your mind?