During these days of quarantine and distancing, it feels like one day of the week just rolls into another...
I was thinking about this today and realizing that this is what happens a lot when you’re facing trauma or crisis, and especially when it’s one that seems to have no defining end.
Although this has meant blowing up what used to be your schedule, it doesn’t mean that you are taking more time for yourself. I mean real-time. Not mindless time spent scrolling through social media or watching the tube.
Today I want to ask you.
When was the last time you actually took the time to take a mental break?
It’s so easy to get stuck in a mental go-mode all our waking hours. Especially since our brains are developed to crave being busy or entertained.
Think about it. Even when we rest, we scroll through Facebook, watch TV, or daydream. That’s not a break or even rest. It only means your brain is still doing something; maybe just not something productive as you define it for yourself.
This kind of break is like eating a bag of chips or cookies when you are hungry. Afterward, you might be stuffed, but you really aren’t nourished. You still feel empty. Your body is still in need.
I would guess that these past few weeks you haven’t been taking the time to take any mental breaks.
First of all, there doesn’t seem to be the opportunity. With everyone home and you trying to keep them all happy, disrupted sleep schedules, plus with all the extra stresses right now, you might feel you just can’t schedule a time for yourself to take a mental break.
And then, perhaps you’ve never practiced taking a mental break, and you haven’t a clue what that would mean. You might understand the concept like we understand good nutrition, but what does it mean for you?
So let’s start with what it means: A mental break is taking anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes to consciously turn our attention inward...
To turn away from outside influences, as well as our flow of thoughts. A mental break means that you clear your brain of as much as possible. I know that 15 minutes sounds like a long time, and it isn’t easy to practice this.
But taking care of yourself never is.
Just like It’s easier to grab a bag of chips than it is to make a salad. But the effort is worth it.
A mental break is taking our attention away from our to-do’s, our shoulds, our “oh that’s a good idea, I need to do that” - otherwise known as monkey mind anxiety, to things empty your mind.
Simpler the better. Focus on things like the softness of your favorite tee, the warmth of the shower water, the sounds of the birds singing, the smell of your favorite diffuser oil. Maybe resting a pet on your lap and running your fingers through their hair.
Then just meditate. Zone out for fifteen minutes. That just means focusing on your breathing and being aware of your breath.
And every time your thoughts turn to worries or responsibilities, or the coronavirus - you pull yourself back to your breathing and your soft focus.
When I do this, I feel like I’d washed my brain.
The tension is relieved, my mind becomes clearer, and I no longer want to strangle my husband or yell at a newscaster.
You see, we spend so much time addressing life from our anxious place in our minds. Whether we realize it or not, we catastrophize much easier in these moments. This can create underlying negativity, even while we are doing all the stuff we are required to do.
Anxiety doesn’t let us be fully present. And where is the joy in that?
So how about considering practicing or scheduling time for these mental breaks to create space from these ruminating and stressful thoughts.
There’s no harm in trying right? You need to hit the reset button.
And you will get better at it with practice.
Just remember: A mental break is the best prevention against a mental breakdown.