I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with overthinking, over-analysing, and certainly over-stressing. It can be about anything and everything, almost to the point where I seem to find something to stress over if I don’t already have enough to worry about. Why? And why is it so hard to shut off?
There are, of course, benefits to thinking, planning and stressing. It helps you to be prepared, it can motivate you, give you a burst of energy, get you moving. But we have come a long way since the evolutionary function of the stress response. No longer is it for immediate danger to our very basic survival. It’s a response to a meeting at work; choosing between biscuits based on their calorie count; to a nasty Tweet you receive; to feeling in competition with society to meeting the milestones of having a career, a marriage and children; to completing all the things you ‘should’ do whilst not having the time or money to do them; to the WiFi going down.
I think it’s important to note a distinction between stressing and thinking about things we do have some control over, versus the things we don’t. If we have a degree of autonomy over a situation or outcome, the stress and thinking can help us to work out a solution and figure out what to do next. There’s usually an end point in sight, where the stress response calms down and your body can relax once balance is restored. The opposite is often true about things we don’t have much, or any, control over; it’s on-going because there’s always something after that issue you’re mithering over, you can’t really do anything proactive or beneficial, making you feel useless and demotivated.
Whatever the source, stressing can be a huge drain on your brain and your body. The problem I find is that once you get going and you find yourself in a routine with doing it, it’s very hard to stop. But it is possible to start re-training yourself and your responses, to calm them down a bit and give your mind some peace.
Once way to break the cycle is to find something that can distract you in a positive way, that will allow you an outlet and allow your brain the breathing space to see a different perspective. Perhaps you already have something in mind, a hobby or an activity you enjoy that really absorbs you and requires your full attention. That’s a great place to start. If not and you’re struggling to find ideas, perhaps it’s time to find something to try out. Here are a few thoughts…
- Reading – As an avid reader, this is probably the one and only thing I ever used to rely on to get me away from myself and my situation for a bit. It should be a novel you’re interested in, that you enjoy because it keeps you gripped. Sit down with a cup of tea, find a quiet spot and give yourself the time to enjoy the time. Stop if you realise you’re having to re-read each page or finding your mind wandering; either the book isn’t gripping enough or you need something more stimulating.
If you’re not in to reading, that’s cool. How about a film? Maybe you have a favourite, or perhaps check out something new. Check the reviews and synopsis; try to make sure it’s something you feel in the mood for and can get lost in.
- Run / Dance – Keeping in mind any physical limitations, a burst of exercise can do a world of good. This isn’t exercise for keeping fit, tracking on Facebook, or losing weight. This is exercise to enjoy and get lost in. Perhaps start it small; but on some cheesy tunes and dance like a ferret with on acid.
- Mind Games – Word games, or number games, depending on your strengths. I personally can’t stand the likes of sudoku (how does that evil magic even work?!) but I like a good crossword. As long as it doesn’t annoy you, it can absorb your brain cells for a while and afterwards I feel the ‘stress’ part of my brain has had a little break.
- Help Out – Lending a hand, doing something considerate or helping someone out can not only help that other person/people, it can make you feel better and give you a break from your situation too.
- Clean Out – This is something I turn to quite a lot, and because I’m not very good at it (I tend to move junk from one place to another hidden location!) I do it quite often. Clearing out rubbish, junk, paperwork and the like can be therapeutic, and freshening up your living or working space can be like a breath of fresh air once it’s done too.
- Go Natural – Get outside, go for a walk, sit with a pet (or borrow someone else’s if you’re able to!), visit a farm / zoo, go to the local park or sit in your garden. Fresh air, flowers, greenery and animals can help you ‘centre’ yourself and get back to nature, giving your mind some peace and quiet from modern life in general as well as your current situation.
- Have A Giggle! – Whether it’s a comedy flick, some stand-up, chuckles with friends, or funny Youtube clips, lightening up with a bit of humour can do you the world of good!
What activities do you find help you to give your stress brain a mini vacation?