It's quite possible that you are suffering from squirrel-brain, mental fatigue, or overwhelm. These are just a few signs that your smart, hard-working brain is burnt out and needs a #$%*ing break.
Today we're gonna talk about some signs and symptoms of an over taxed brain, what your brain is actually doing for you all day long, and a few simple things you can do to give your brain the TLC it very much deserves.
Welcome to the podcast, Unlocking Wellness! I'm Crystal McLain, Licensed Clinical Massage Therapist, Empowerment Coach, and Consciousness Apothecary and I'm exploring ways to unlock our wellness barriers so we can create Self Care Independence, because we find our freedom when we’re living well.
Hello my friend, I hope you’re doing well, and if you’re not then I hope you find this episode inspiring. AND, if you’d like to read along while you listen, I offer that feature at my website: crystalmclaincreative.com. You can find a direct link to this episode in the show notes below. And, if you want to make sure you never miss an episode, you can either sign up for my newsletter, or subscribe to my podcast wherever you like to listen most.
Also, if you’d like to support my mission to provide creative self care resources that empower people for a lifetime, you can join The Dream Team over at Patreon and score some sweet perks to help you create Self Care Independence. Memberships start at just $5/month.
So, if you’re into it, I’ll leave links to all this stuff below in the show notes, or, you can just visit me at crystalmclaincreative.com.
Alright, let's get to it.
Before we get into all the delicious, meaty stuff we're about to dive into, I want to remind you that I make no claims to fix anything. I know the title is misleading, but I had to get your attention somehow. That said, there's some really valuable information here that just might fix your burnout and overwhelm, so...maybe I'm not a liar after all.
So, we all have a brain (though, the jury is still out on a select few). Anyway, this brain is in charge of EVERYTHING that happens with you, your thoughts, your feelings, hormones, bodily functions, movement...everything. And this brain takes a lot of energy to operate. And the more jobs you give this brain to do, the less efficient it becomes.
And this, my friend, is what leads you to feeling overwhelmed or burnt out.
But, fortunately, the brain is a clever little monkey. When it notices that it's doing too many things, and can no longer keep up with all of your demands, it will conjure up all sorts of weird shit to shut down operations such as:
- alienating yourself
- sleep disturbances
- digestive issues
- hair loss
- panic attacks
- lack of motivation
- absent mindedness
- difficulty concentrating
- using excessive drugs or alcohol
- binge eating
- zoning out
The brain will distract you with wild, irrational thoughts.
It will lure you into over-indulging in life's pleasures.
It will even go as far as causing physical ailments, just to get your attention.
Yes, my friend, all of these symptoms are your brain's way of simply getting your attention. It's trying to tell you that it needs a break. It's trying to tell you that YOU need a break, and that you need to do something restorative, nurturing, or therapeutic.
So, let's get a little more clear about a day in the life of the brain...
1. Basic Functions
Behind the scenes your body is doing a boat-load of things like managing your body temperature, blood sugars, hormones, heart rate. And it's all being managed by a three pound lump of gray matter in your brain cave.
Anyway, if you were to convert your body's energy into electricity, as you understand it in relationship to your household items, these BASIC, at rest functions, would take about 100 watts of electricity. That's about the same as running a ceiling fan or a really bright lightbulb.
100 watts may not seem like very much energy, but remember, this power is coming from YOU, not a giant power plant. And that's 100 watts, being used, while physically, consciously, doing absolutely NOTHING.
Now, for obvious reasons, you cannot take a break from doing the basics that keep your body alive. But you can do a few things to make sure your brain has plenty of power for your busy, demanding life.
But we'll get to all that in a bit.
2. Excessive Physical Labor or Exercise
Now, I'm a very big advocate for moving the ol' meat suit, but that said, we all have our limits.
So, the reason your body is able to do all the physical business is because of the nervous system. The brain and nerves are quite literally your electrical system, and without them, your muscles are nothing more than tender bits of juicy meat.
Every time you stand, squat, flex or whistle, your muscles get zapped with a little electricity from the nervous system. And that, my friend, takes quite a bit of juice.
If you're slogging away day after day at a physically demanding job, or if you're literally killing it at the gym all the friggin' time, dude...you gotta give your body and your brain a break.
3. Your Environment
The brain has a department called, the subconscious - I'm sure you've heard of it before. And part of the subconscious's job is to keep tabs on all the things going on around you, and within you.
24/7 your brain is scanning your internal and external environments looking for problems. It's always aware of weird sounds, sudden movements, curious odors, unsettling feelings. It's a great feature because it keeps you from dying or getting into too much trouble.
But here's the thing, the more stimulating your external environment, the harder it is for your brain to process shit.
But, again, it's not just your EXTERNAL environment that can drain your battery, but your INTERNAL environment as well. Because many of us are living with an overactive brain, we have to be careful about which thoughts we entertain...which is a great segue into #4...
4. Your Imagination
Having an imagination is an INCREDIBLE and powerful feature of the brain. And, quite honestly, you need the power of your imagination to get by in life. But, Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.
Because the brain is designed to scan for problems in order to keep you safe, and because we, as a society, live overstimulating lives where we're consistently being fed false ideas of beauty, security, and success, our imagination has become one of our biggest wellness threats. At least in my humble opinion.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 40 MILLION Americans are living with some type of anxiety disorder. And only about 37% of those people are being treated for it.
Now, I'm not saying that all anxiety disorders can be managed by one's imagination. There's a lot that comes into play with anxiety, including genetics, brain chemistry, and traumatic life events.
But, that said, having lived with situational anxiety myself, I know first hand how powerful and beneficial strengthening one's consciousness can be.
Your imagination, by the way, is one of the skills of the consciousness.
5. The Food You Eat
You are a flesh sack of science and require very specific chemistry to operate at full potential. Your brain requires appropriate fuel in order to do its job properly. In fact, your entire body does. While I'd like to believe that we could sustain ourselves strictly on ice cream and Doritos, the truth is, we cannott.
...such a bummer...
If we're not getting the proper nutrients to fuel our brain, then we can become agitated, easily distracted, depressed, forgetful, tired, and several other ways that aren't really helpful.
Alright, so we know some symptoms of an overtaxed brain. And we know a little bit about the life of a brain. Now let's learn a few ways you can support it.
You might want to grab a notebook and pencil.
You know I couldn't be here without mentioning mindset (you know, since it's the first key to creating Self Care Independence).
Anyway, when we're feeling overwhelmed we tend to have certain defeatist scripts running through our head. This, my friend, is not helpful.
If you need help getting on track with a growth mindset, I offer a FREE Basic Mindset Makeover Kit for those who sign up for my Newsletter, OR, you can snag the DELUXE model for just $5 at my shop. I'd also like to note that members of the Dream Team receive ALL of my digital downloads for free (as well as a few other perks).
Alright, enough with the promotional chatter....let's move on.
2. CREATE MENTAL SPACE
You've probably already guessed that one of the ways to create more mental space is through meditation. But you may not fully understand what meditation actually is.
Meditation is a fancy word for focus, and it can be achieved by putting all (or at least, most) of your attention towards any one thing. And when we practice meditation, some really cool shit happens.
For starters, it thickens (and strengthens) the pre-frontal cortex bit of the brain, which manages things like awareness, concentration, and decision making.
Next, it creates new, more efficient pathways in your brain. This feature is called neuroplasticity. And after just 8 weeks of regular meditation, you can significantly improve muscle control, sensory perception, emotion, memory, and self-control through the magic of neruoplasticity.
And finally, it releases some chemicals that are super handy for brain function.
If you're into all the geeky science, I'll leave a link for further reading in the show notes below.
Anyway, if you're inspired to start a meditation practice, here are a few ways to get started:
- ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS. Turn off your phone's notifications, and schedule a time without distractions.
- START SMALL. Set a timer for no more than five minutes in the beginning of your practice. As you become more familiar with meditation, you can continue to add more and more time as you see fit.
- LET GO OF JUDGEMENT. Resist the urge to qualify your meditation skills. I promise you, even the most seasoned meditators get monkey brain.
- FORGET THE RULES. You don't have to get all twisted up in a seated lotus position to meditate. There's no real right or wrong way to meditate. You get to choose what works for you.
- PICK A FOCUS. Whether you're breathing, walking, or drawing in the sand, keep directing (and redirecting) your focus towards that singular thing you've chosen to do. I'm 100% certain you'll get distracted more than once, and that's totally normal and okay. Just keep circling back to your focus.
3. VISUALIZATION & MANTRAS
Kind of in the same vein as meditation, visualization and mantras are great ways to create mental space and clarity. Not only that, but they're solid tools for manifesting the life you want.
If you're craving a peaceful mind, simply imagine it so. ...okay, so, it may not be simple at first, but over time it will get easier...
Spend a few minutes before you go to sleep, and when you first wake up, hell, do it while you're sitting on the can, but imagine what a peaceful mind feels like? What words would you use to describe this feeling? What does it feel like physically, emotionally? Imagine yourself as this person with a peaceful mind, and reaffirm it with a simple phrase like, "I am grounded, peaceful, and focused."
And if you're not in the market for a peaceful mind, you can do this with any other way of being such as joyful, appreciative, strong, capable, loving, you get the picture... Just rewrite your mantra so it suits you, and feel free to update it any time you'd like.
4. CREATE PHYSICAL SPACE
I am NOT a minimalist. My home very much looks like two creative people live there, and a little bit like a jungle with all of the plants. But, that said, I believe there are a several areas that help the brain feeling more at ease when they're tidy. And those places are where we:
- Manage finances
Having these areas clean and organized will eliminate the literal mental and physical shuffling you'd have to do when you're ready to spend time in each one. A tidy space is a tidy mind.
5. CREATE VISUAL & AUDITORY SPACE
Everything we see and hear, our brains have to process. And, for better or good, our subconscious is influenced by all of it. So when we're constantly filling our senses with media, it's harder to strengthen our self awareness, and see ourselves and our wellness needs clearly.
Taking breaks from all the stimulation is a good thing. Let yourself get antsy, let your self get bored, and embrace the silence and stillness. ...and notice what pops up for you...
If you're living with lots of media input, spending time away from it is HARD at first. As a society, we've literally conditioned ourselves to become addicted to media. Learning to take solid breaks (and getting okay with the discomfort that comes with that), might help you build powerful skills to help you give up other things that aren't serving you. And when you can do THAT, the brain becomes a much more pleasant place.
6. RITUALS & ROUTINES
The brain thrives on predictability. It loves routines, schedules and rituals.
Arranging your day with an efficient, consistent, routine will bring great peace to your weary mind.
Here's a pro tip: Spend some time really getting to know how you operate and thrive. I'm willing to bet that the rituals and routines that work best for me, may not work for you. Again, there are no solid rules. Create systems that work for YOU.
7. BRAIN FOOD
The brain needs very specific nutrients to function properly. And those nutrients are:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- B vitamins
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
Now, where the hell do you even get those things. Well...
Omega 3s are mostly found in fish, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax. And they help you to process thoughts, remember things, and learn.
B vitamins can be found in foods like kale, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. And these mega-veggies can reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and migraines.
Vitamin K also found in broccoli and leafy greens, helps with cognitive function. Cognitive functions are learning, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, memory, attention and decision making.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that's found in nuts, seeds, avocado, tofu, and leafy greens (I'm telling you, you've gotta eat your greens, my friend). Vitamin E helps preserve an aging mind. Not only that, but it also keeps the eyes and skin bright and shiny.
Lycopene is another antioxidant which is found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. This bad boy can help protect against things like dementia and Alzheimer's. It's bonus feature also includes lowering your risk of certain cancers. Lycopene is a BEAST.
Zinc is a memory boosting and thought-processing powerhouse that can be found in pumpkin seeds, potatoes, seafood, and OMG - wait for it -CHOCOLATE. Yeah, baby.
That's the best news we've had so far...
But, beware, you can totally overdose on zinc. Too much can actually weaken the immune system which is something we certainly do not want.
When a lot of us rest, we have a tendency to throw on a movie, grab our phones, catch up with a friend, read a book. While these are all great ways to spend free time, they're not proper rest.
Now, you could quite literally take a nap for your rest time. Naps are awesome. But, if you're not sleepy, might I suggest a good ol' fashioned zone out session.
I'm talking staring out the window-watching the clouds roll by-letting your mind wander kind of nothingness. Personally, this is why I've gotten into the candle business. Having a wee flickering flame that throws a soothing scent is so damn therapeutic for me. I love watching the wax melt, the flame dance, the shadows being cast.
It's so fucking lovely.
Anyway, if you're looking for some simple, mindless tasks to give your brain a rest, you could try:
- Cleaning, pruning, and repotting plants
- Savoring a complex snack like an orange
- Yin yoga
- Weed a garden
- Watch a sunrise or sunset
- Take a bath or shower
- Go for a walk
- Give yourself a massage
- Spend time with a pet
- Practice deep breathing
- Go for a swim
- Sit on a swing
- Watch a fire or a candle burn
- Star gaze
- Arrange flowers
- Go to the beach
- Light an incense
- Play with singing bowls
- Listen to the birds
- Practice Tai Chi
- Connect with your body with active relaxation
- Prepare and drink tea
There are so many ways to zen the F-out.
9. PROCESSING EMOTIONS
One of the most effective ways to settle the mind is to correctly identify and process your emotions. By the way,I have a free Feelings Identifier Digital Download if you need help with that.
Anyway, because humans don't like to experience negative feelings, they will often find ways to avoid or numb them instead. And this, my friend, just causes a whole host of other issues. Trust me, you're much better off putting in the effort to process them.
Now, there's several ways you can process your emotions, but they all boil down to being open, honest, accepting, and proactive. And a few ways you can start processing emotions are by:
- Talking with a trusted friend
- Engaging in creative outlets like art or dance
- Using self help workbooks
- Joining group therapy
- Getting one-on-one therapy
- Practicing the Emotional Freedom Technique
Alright, my friend, I feel as though this is plenty for your to chew on today. If practice any of these tricks, I'd love to know how they work out for you. Also, if you have additional ideas, I'd LOVE to know what they are. You can leave a comment at this post at my website, crystalmclaincreative.com. Again, I'll leave a direct link to this post in the show notes below.
And just a reminder, I'll leave links to anything I've mentioned here today in the show notes below.
I love you.
I appreciate you.
Thank you so much for being here.
And, I'll see you soon...
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