I’ve noticed our brains have a lot of expectations put on them. Not only do they have to be in charge of managing all of our organs to make sure we don’t randomly stop breathing or lose the ability to move our arm, but we also expect them to store all of our thoughts and memories.
Our brains now have the expectation of storing a super computer amount of information while also helping us to get through the day. It’s a lot.
I don’t think our brains were meant to do all that.
I would say a big reason we’re all running into anxiety problems stems from the fact that we’re thinking about too much all at the same time. We don’t have the ability to shut our brains off because, if we do, we could lose all the stuff we’re trying to save in there.
So in my attempt to enjoy life a little more and stress whole lot less, I’ve realized I need to declutter my brain a little bit. I need to stop treating it like an external hard drive for my computer. I need to realize it’s not my journal where I can write out all my thoughts or my calendar where I keep track of all my to-dos.
It’s my brain. It’s me and I need to take care of it, starting with a good, old fashioned declutter.
HOW TO DECLUTTER YOUR MIND
So this is how I’m doing it. These are all the ways I’m helping to put my mind at ease and start letting it rest the way it needs to and think a little more freely.
Of course. Lists are the best place to start when decluttering your mind. There are so many things to keep track of, whether they’re super important or just for fun, it all matters and it’s all stuff you want to remember. So start some lists.
Apartment Therapy has a list of lists you can make to give your brain a good dump. I even have a list titled “Brain Dumb” where I write anything and everything I want/need to remember and I go in and organize it here and there when it starts getting overwhelmingly long.
Keep A Calendar
Like lists for all the random stuff we think about, having a calendar has been a game changer in my life.
I was never great at keeping up with planners. I’d stress so much about not having enough stuff to fill out the pages that I’d stop using it… and then I’d stress about wasting the pages.
So once I got over the stress of feeling like I needed an adequate amount of tasks to fill my calendar with, I was able to use it for keeping track of birthdays and appointments. Goals I have are now written down with dead lines to help me prioritize tasks. Things I need to do, like pay bills or call family members are all scheduled. Even scheduling things is scheduled in my planner. I use the calendar on my phone for reminders for infrequent things and I sync that with my written planner that I use to keep track of my day to day.
Now, I’m not always stressing about what I’m forgetting or what I have to do. My mind does not have to keep track of all the little things I need to do. All I have to remember is to look at my calendar and write in my planner every once in a while. Which is a much more manageable task.
Set Realistic Goals
I’ve found I get the most overwhelmed when I feel like there’s a lot to do and not enough time to do it. In the moments where I set unrealistic deadlines or tell myself I need to do more than necessary in a day. Those are the moments my brain stops working.
I’ve recently started the practice of letting go of expectations. I’ve stopped trying to live up to my perception of what others expect from me and I’m just doing what feels right. Obviously, I have stuff that I have to do, but really, how often do I need to do it?
Is it really necessary that I give myself a laundry list of tasks everyday or can I have a week where I just don’t do a whole lot?
Do I need to form every positive habit I’d like to have all at once or can I just do a little at a time?
How much do I really need to do in a day in order to live a happy life?
I think it’s too easy to feel guilty when we can’t do what others are doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to do things your own way or at your own pace. Set goals you can live up to. Don’t be too easy on yourself, but don’t be too hard on yourself either. You’re only human and focusing on one thing at a time will always be better than taking on everything at once.
Along with setting realistic goals, we need breaks. We need moments where we don’t have to think about anything.
I once heard a productivity trick: When you’re not feeling productive, set a timer. It can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to whatever you want. For that amount of time, do things. Be productive. Work on a specific task or just work on everything you can think of until the timer goes off.
It’s suppose to help you to accept the fact that you’re going to be productive because there is a limit. You’re not starting a task with no ending in sight so it’s easier to start.
I think this can be used for taking a break. Just set a timer for however long you need. Do you just need breather? A minute to let your mind settle? Or do you need to be brain dead for a while?
Whatever you need, just set a timer and do absolutely nothing. Don’t think about what you should be doing. Don’t think about what you’re going to do after. Just do whatever you need to do to take a break. Take a bath, watch a TV show, sit outside, have a drink. Whatever you do, don’t do anything.
Organize everything on the outside
I think we underestimate the power of environment. It doesn’t really feel like a spot on the counter or an out of place shoe should effect you, but it does.
Our environment is a reflection of our minds, but I think our environment can effect how our minds think. It’s like I say, we need to be happy to have a clean house, but we need a clean house to be happy.
So of course, you have to start with the easiest thing. If your mind is cluttered, it’s likely your space is too. So to declutter your mind, you’ll have to declutter your space.
Knowing where things are, having a place for everything, looking around at order instead of chaos. These are the things that give your mind less to keep track of. You don’t have to panic when you look for something because it only has one place it could be. You don’t have to think of the 500 places you could’ve left it. You just have to look at the one.
As much as you possibly can. Set alarms, set reminders, create schedules, auto-pay bills if you can. Whatever can possibly be given an alarm to remind you it needs to happen or can happen on it’s own, automate it.
For me, routines have been a lifesaver. I know exactly what needs to happen and when. I know when I can schedule things and when I can’t. I know what time works best and it’s all because everything happens the same way everyday. A lot of it is free time, but I’m able to feel a little more free during those times knowing I’ve already done things that I need to do.
Say “no” more
I’ve noticed a lot of people in my lifetime. There’s the people who can say no and the people who can’t.
I didn’t like the people who said no at first. They seemed selfish. Annoyingly happy and selfish.
It seemed rude that they wouldn’t show up or help. It seemed to me, if you can you should. Because why not? Someone obviously needs you, so why not be there?
As I got older, I’d say yes. I’d say I’ll go or I’ll do it. Then, I’d begrudgingly show up in a terrible mood. Before showing up, I’d get anxious. I’d want to say no. I’d have other things I needed to do that would fall behind because I said yes when I really shouldn’t have.
So finally, I started saying no. Then, I started trying to be honest about why I was saying no. Because me wanting to stay home cause I’m just not the type of person who likes to go out should be good enough.
You deciding to put what you need first is never a bad reason. It might be selfish, but so what? Who said being selfish is wrong? Maybe all of our parents and teachers when we were growing up and the most we had to offer was half a cookie to our friend.. but we’re older now. We have real responsibilities with real limits on how much we can give.
So say no and don’t feel bad.
Photo by STIL