The modern world is very hectic. At any one time, it seems like there are a million things to be done. Projects to be completed, hundreds of emails flooding your inbox, employees to be managed, calls to be answered, meetings, and so on.
Sometimes, all these things clog your mind to the extent that you cannot do a single thing right. You become unproductive in your work. You become jumpy and highly irritable, which makes it harder for you to cooperate with others.
Concentrating on your goals becomes difficult, and making the right decisions becomes even harder.
You see, the human mind is just like a computer. When you run several heavy programs on your computer, you use up a lot of RAM, and as a result, the computer becomes very slow.
You have to close some programs if you want the computer to become fast and responsive.
Similarly, when you have a lot of things running through your mind, you use up a lot of mental RAM, which causes you to become stressed, unproductive and irritable.
To avoid this, you need to free up your mental RAM by releasing the clutter from your mind. Problem is, how do you do this when the world seems to be falling apart around you?
Luckily, there are several techniques you can use to declutter your mind and restore your inner calm.
In this article, we take a look at 7 ways you can use to clear your mind in 10 – 15 minutes.
Most times, we get overwhelmed not because we have a lot of things to do, but because we have millions of abstract thoughts running through our minds.
A good indicator of an overwhelmed mind is when you notice your thoughts jumping all over the place. One minute you are thinking about what you will have for lunch, the next minute you are thinking about your spouse or kids, before your thoughts move on to that client you have a meeting with.
With all these thoughts running through your mind, it will be difficult to concentrate on anything. You need to clear your mind of these thoughts, and this is where a brain dump comes in.
A brain dump involves “dumping” everything that is going on your mind onto a paper or computer, the same way you might clear your bag by dumping its contents on your bed.
The idea is to open up your mind and spill everything that passes through your mind. Below are some steps on how to do a brain dump.
- Find a quiet place away from disturbances before you start your brain dump. You don’t want your coworkers or kids to barge in when you are doing your brain dump, since they will distract you and make it impossible for you to focus on your thoughts.
- Decide on your preferred medium of brain dumping. This can either be a pen and paper, a word processor on your computer or an app on your smartphone. I prefer using a pen and paper because I feel that there is a greater connection with the mind when you are writing using your hands. You are also less likely to get distracted and end up on Facebook when you are using an analogue medium for your brain dump.
- Write whatever thought crosses your mind. You are not writing anything in particular, and there is no structure to your writing. Simply write whatever is on your mind at the moment. If you find yourself wondering what to write, you can start by writing “I don’t know what to write.” Write every thought that passes through you mind for the next 10 minutes. Below are some examples of some things you might write down:
- I need to take a vacation at the end of this month.
- Client X is stressing me.
- I love my kids.
- I need to get my website completed.
- I will make a sausage casserole for dinner tonight.
As you can see from the above examples, you don’t have to write about anything in particular. Simply write until you release the tension inside your mind.
Brain dumping works because it helps you transform abstract thoughts into something real. When a million things are running through your head, it becomes impossible to pin down the source of your stress.
However, once you write down your thoughts, you can look at each thought in isolation and nail down whatever is troubling you. Instead of being troubled by half-formed ideas, you know what exactly is troubling you and can come up with concrete ways of dealing with it.
Once you are done writing your brain dump, there are a few steps you can take to make it more effective. You might opt to go through your thoughts, identify anything that is troubling you and then come up with a course of action on how you will solve the problem.
For instance, if your source of stress is the client that has been troubling you, you might decide to stop working with the said client.
Alternatively, you might choose to do nothing after dumping your brain. The very act of writing down your thoughts is enough to clear your mind and reduce any stress you might be experiencing.
Meditation has often been touted as a great way of calming yourself and clearing your thoughts, and this is because it works. Meditation is a practice that can help you to quickly regain your focus whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
According to this study, meditation helps clear your mind and enhances your ability to focus. A 10 – 15 minute meditation session will leave you feeling calm, collected, refreshed and stress-free.
The best part is that anyone can practice meditation, regardless of your age, religious beliefs and so on.
Below are the steps you need to follow to clear your mind using meditation.
- Find a quiet place to meditate. You don’t want any distractions once you start meditating. If you are at home, go to a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed and draw the curtains to avoid being distracted by light from outside. If you are in the office, pull the blinds and close the door to avoid disturbances from colleagues.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Sit for about 30 seconds without doing anything. Try not to think of anything.
- Focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out through your nose, and try to make each breath as drawn out as possible. Concentrate on the feeling of the air going through your nose and into to your lungs, as well as the feeling of air going from your lungs as your exhale.
- Continue breathing in and out slowly and deeply, but this time, visualize a calm, serene place in nature, such as a lake, a beach or a forest. Do this for a couple minutes until you start feeling the calmness of the place you are visualizing surrounding you.
- Once again, return your focus to your breathing for a minute or two.
- Finally, open your eyes. You can close off your meditation session by listening to some relaxing music before going back to your work.
Such a meditation session is enough to clear your mind and relieve stress, enabling you to refocus on your work with renewed vigor.
GO TO A SERENE PLACE IN NATURE
Another great way of clearing your mind is to spend a few minutes in the serenity of nature. This doesn’t have to be any particular place. It could be under a tree near your home, on a bench in a public park, in a garden or in the woods near your home. Going to a calm place in nature does a number of things that help you to clear your mind.
First of all, being in nature revives your vital senses and enhances your mental power, which in turn makes you more productive. Second, by going outside to get some sunshine and fresh air, you get a change from the environment that has been causing you stress.
For instance, if you were feeling overwhelmed at work and decide to walk in the park for a few minutes, you get away from your computer and the tons of emails that you have to reply to and act upon, allowing your mind to relax.
While many know that spending time nature helps you reduce stress and achieve mental clarity, there is even scientific evidence to back it up.
A study conducted on more than 1500 people found that people who took walks in nature experienced a better sense of wellbeing and lower levels of stress compared to those who did not take walks in nature.
Yet another study found that spending time outdoors improves a person’s physical and mental energy. Therefore, the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, go outside and spend about some time in the calmness of nature.
GET PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Getting physically active is another great way of clearing the mental clutter and relaxing your mind. Getting physically active doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym (though it also helps).
Getting active can be something as simple as going for a walk, run, or bike ride. Picture the last time you exercised. Were you thinking about the million things you had to do after you were done exercising? Probably not.
Instead, your mind was focused on the activity at hand. Exercising helps you get your focus off any stressors that might be troubling you and allows your mind to take a rest, thus enhancing your overall cognitive functions.
Apart from taking your mind off whatever might be stressing you, doing a physical activity also triggers the release of endorphins, which results in a feeling of happiness. Exercising also increases the levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps your brain to respond better to stressful situations.
Finally, physical activity stimulates the flow of blood to our brain, allowing you to regain focus and clarity. Next time you feel like your mind is about to explode, do some physical activity for 10 – 15 minutes. This could be running around the block, going for a walk around the park, performing a few minutes of cardio or simply riding your bicycle.
LISTEN TO MUSIC
When Friedrich Nietzsche said that “without music, life would be a mistake,” it turns out he was onto something. Not only is music good for keeping you entertained, but it also helps us relax and clear our minds.
However, this depends on the kind of music you are listening to. The best music to help you clear your mind is slow, quiet classical music. Listening to such music lowers your blood pressure, slows down your heart rate and reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body.
It soothes you, allowing you to let go of stressors that might be troubling you. Listening to music also takes your attention away from the myriad of issues that might be running through your mind.
There are various studies showing the importance of music and how it can help you clear your mind. According to this research, music is uniquely linked to our emotions and is therefore a great tool for stress management.
Another research by Stanford University found that listening to music can have the same effects on the brain as meditation. Therefore, whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, taking a break from whatever you were doing, grabbing your headphones and listening to some music for a few minutes might be what you need to clear your mind.
For maximum effect, it is best to listen to music that doesn’t have any lyrics. However, if such music makes you feel like sleeping, go for some slow, soothing music.
DECLUTTER YOUR PERSONAL SPACE
Sometimes, the source of overwhelming feelings is not as a result of the clutter in your mind, but rather because of the clutter around your personal space.
Things like documents scattered all over your desk, unanswered emails, a mountain of utensils in the kitchen sink, two dozen tabs open on your browser, a pile of clothes you never wear, and so on.
The problem is that many of us are not aware that a cluttered personal space has an effect on how we feel. A messy personal space makes us feel overwhelmed and helpless and contributes to the stress we experience in life.
With a cluttered personal space, our mind is constantly bombarded with excessive stimuli, which means we are expending some of our mental RAM on stimuli that is not important. In other words, clutter draws our attention from the things that we should be focused on.
With a cluttered personal space, it becomes impossible for our minds to relax. The clutter is a signal to our brain that we still have a lot to do. This causes stress because it seems like we have a lot to do and no time to do it.
Finally, clutter makes it harder for us to perform the tasks we need to because we have to sort through the clutter in order to find what we want.
While most people do not understand the effect of clutter on how we feel, the good thing is that this is one of the easiest things to solve in order to achieve clarity of mind.
Next time you feel stressed because your mind is full of multiple things fighting for your attention, take a step back and check whether the mental clutter is a result of the physical clutter around you.
Are things properly arranged on your desk? Did you forget to take the plates to the kitchen after your meal? Do you have 20 tabs open on your browser even when you only need three?
Clearing some of this clutter will only take you a few minutes, yet it can give a better clarity of mind.
PRACTICE PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that helps you to let go of stress and anxiety by releasing the tension from different muscles within the body.
The process of relaxing these different muscles also helps to clear your mind since it takes your focus away from the myriad of thoughts running through you mind and directs it to your body.
In addition, progressive muscle relaxation also helps you boost your mental health and enhances your physical performance. It also has several other benefits, such as enhancing your blood flow and boosting your metabolism.
Below is a step by step guide on how to perform progressive muscle relaxation.
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Progressive muscle relaxation is best done lying down and stretched out comfortably, so this place should be somewhere you can lie down, such as your bedroom. However, if you are at work where you don’t have any place to lie down, you can still practice progressive muscle engagement while seated. The most important thing is to ensure that you will be comfortable.
- Set aside 15 minutes where you know you will not be disturbed. Setting an alarm is a good idea, because sometimes you might end up falling asleep, especially if you are lying down. Setting an alarm also allows you to let yourself go and relax more completely, since you know that the alarm will keep you from losing track of time.
- Remove your shoes, loosen your clothing and make yourself comfortable. If you are in a place where you can lie down, do it and stretch yourself out. Ensure your legs are uncrossed and your arms unfolded to ensure proper blood circulation.
- Spend a minute breathing in and out. Make your breaths slow and deep. This will help make your body generally relaxed before you move to individual muscles.
- Once you are ready to start, focus on your face. Breathe in and tense the different muscles on your face and scalp and hold for about 5 – 10 seconds. Then exhale slowly and release the contraction until your facial muscles are fully relaxed.
- Relax for a few more seconds before moving on to the next step. You will need to relax for 5 – 10 seconds every time before moving on to the next muscle group.
- Move on to the muscles on your neck and shoulders. Once again, take a deep breath, contract the muscles and hold for 5 – 10 seconds. Exhale slowly and release the contraction until the muscles are fully relaxed. Since this area holds a lot of tension, you might repeat this step twice or thrice until the area feels completely relaxed.
- Continue doing the same for other muscle groups, working your way downwards. Some of the muscle groups you should focus on include the right and left arm, the right and left forearm and fist, the chest, the abdomen, the back, the hips and buttocks, the right and left thigh, the right and left calf, and finally the right and left foot.
- Once you are done with all the muscle groups, give yourself another minute to enjoy the relaxation while you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
- Finally, with your eyes still closed, count from one to ten as you bring back your awareness to the present moment.
This is an exercise you can do in ten to fifteen minutes, yet it is a very powerful technique for clearing your mind and relaxing your body. The best part is that this is something you can do regardless of where you are.
You can do at home, in the office, or even in your car at a parking lot.
Modern day life is fast paced and full of things that need to be done, and it is therefore inevitable that sometimes you will feel like your head is about to explode due to the many things that you have to keep track of.
However, this does not mean that you should allow this to make your grumpy and unproductive.
With the 7 techniques discussed in this article, you can easily clear your mind and restore your energy in less than 15 minutes. Some techniques such as meditation, brain dumping, and progressive muscle relaxation might need some practice before you get used to them, so do not give up if you don’t see any results after the first try.