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Hey, you. Yes, you.
Close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths. Feel your breath entering and leaving your body. Feel your feet connecting to the ground. Focus on those feelings.
Now imagine you’re floating amongst the clouds. If thoughts come to you, let them drift past, like clouds. Do you feel a little bit better? Calmer?
Carving out time — even just a few minutes — to clear your mind is important for your mental health. It’ll also help you focus and be more effective. With a clear mind, you can work more efficiently on what needs doing.
What are the positive effects of clearing the mind?
Like a film reel, negative thoughts and stimuli can replay in our brains on an endless loop. This is also known as rumination, and it makes it hard to enjoy the present moment. That’s because rumination increases cortisol levels, a hormone that triggers our chronic stress response.
- Decrease cortisol (a stress hormone)
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Keep metabolism stable
- Improve both short- and long-term memory
- Manage stress
Creativity and problem-solving are skills that demand you to recharge. When we dwell on our thoughts, we’re less likely to see things in a positive light.
Staying mindful of your thoughts leads to change, and that is precisely what BetterUp is here to help you do. Lasting happiness and growth start with good mental health. This benefits the Whole Person™. At BetterUp, we’re here to help you improve and meet your goals.
Things that can clutter the mind without you noticing
Think of your mind as being like a bowl of soup. Everything you need to do in a day or a week are the carrots, onions, chicken, and noodles in the broth.
When your mind becomes cluttered, that bowl overflows.
Here’s a list of some common things that can cause your mind to become jumbled:
- Too many appointments or meetings
- Too many decisions, big or small
- Too many emails and subscriptions
- Too many items on your to-do list
- An overfull calendar
- Reading or listening to too much news, especially when the news is concerning
- Social media feeds
How to have a clear mind and be at ease
Many things compete for our attention during the day. There are endless emails, caretaking, errands, or making meals — the list goes on and on. Clearing your mind is crucial to reinvigorate yourself and complete your tasks to the best of your ability.
If you’re looking for ideas for how to get started, take a look at these five simple ways to declutter your mind and be more at ease:
1. Make a to-do list
Writing down what you need to accomplish will help you stay organized. Doing this lets you “empty your thoughts” on paper, freeing up space in your mind. By writing down, “make a vet appointment,” that thought will no longer pop into your head every few days (or hours).
2. Learn to say no
You can’t always say yes. We have limited time and resources. In fact, according to expert leadership coach Fred Kofman, making a commitment that you can't keep is far worse (for both parties) than saying no. In work, and life, we have to prioritize and make decisions.
It’s also okay to prioritize your own needs. That’s especially true if you’re feeling rundown or overwhelmed. Saying no will reduce your stress and leave you valuable time for yourself. You can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
3. Just do it
Don’t put things off. Procrastination only increases your stress and distracts you from other tasks. Delayed tasks can take up space in your head and add guilt. If the task is something unpleasant, try breaking it up into parts, or take frequent breaks.
Avoiding interruptions will help, too. Your productivity will plummet if your mind is stuffed to the brim with thoughts.
If you work from home, find a quiet place and close the door. Use settings on your email, phone, and chats to shut off notifications and let others know you are busy for a time. Tell your colleagues you need some uninterrupted space if you work at an office. Establishing boundaries is perfectly healthy.
4. Take a break
Your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, helps maintain mental fitness and your well-being. Sometimes working when our body doesn’t want to — like late at night, or too early in the morning — just isn’t an option.
You might think that you are too busy and don't have time. Research suggests that you can't afford not to take the time to clear your mind.
But stepping away from what you’re currently working on will help you find space for whatever types of rest you need throughout the day. Plus, it’ll enhance your attention when you return to it. If you’re feeling stuck, try these strategies:
- Go for a walk
- Listen to music — it can have surprising benefits
- Read a chapter of your favorite book
- Do a guided meditation or try some mindful breathing
- Take a nap
Physical exercise, fresh air, and sleeping are fantastic ways to get things off your mind and improve memory. Taking more breaks helps to increase your effectiveness.
Meditation can help you practice mindfulness and overcome negative feelings. Using apps makes it easy to practice the techniques. If you’re having trouble sleeping, working a meditation practice at the end of your day or your nightly routine will improve your quality of life.
5. Seek help
Ask for help from a colleague, your boss, a friend, or for medical advice from a therapist. Be honest about what you’re experiencing — to yourself, and others, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing burnout, say so. Acknowledging and vocalizing how you’re feeling will ease your mental strain. Cooperation lends new perspectives on a problem and will lighten your load.
The bottom line
Getting things off your mind is easier said than done. Our anxiety rises, and mental fatigue sets in when we're weighed down with worries and assignments.
Practicing mindfulness by prioritizing tasks, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. These are simple, yet highly effective, ways to reboot your mind. Listen to your body. It’ll tell you what you need.
If you’re having trouble building a space where you feel open and safe or listening to your body’s cues, coaching from BetterUp can help. People are diverse, authentic, and resilient, and we’re here to help you see that within yourself.
We strive to help every individual unlock their greater potential, purpose, and passion. We champion personal growth, social connections, leadership and career development, and mental fitness, all in the name of positive human transformation.
We won’t sugarcoat it — the journey is hard. But if you’re willing to do the work, we’ll support you every step of the way.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC