My husband and I have enjoyed sharing meals since our very first date. We both love food, and have come to love it together– refining each other’s tastes and preferences as we explore culinary possibilities at home.
But my favorite thing about eating together is the conversation we’re able to have– that is, if my mind isn’t going 90 miles an hour. He’s gotten accusomted to pausing the conversation and asking me deliberately, “What’s on your mind?”
Most of the time, it’s easy for me to point to something: something that has nothing to do with our table conversation. Why do I do this? I’ve often wondered.
The wandering mind: a strength and weakness
Sometimes it’s great to have a mind that is constantly abuzz with activity. It means that I come up with new ideas all the time, and am unceasingly solving problems on an hourly basis.
The weakness is, of course, that it’s hard for me to be present. Much of the mind activity is driven by anxiousness, an unwillingness to relax. It also makes it difficult for me to be fully productive with tasks at hand. If I indulge my mind too much, it’s hard for me avoid multi-tasking. Unfortunately, my work is always best when I’m as focused as possible.
Turning off work mode
I wish it were easy for me to turn off the proverbial work mode in my mind when it’s time to stop working. I’ve always found this challenging, but absolutely necessary. Lately, I’ve been working a lot, and thus the amount of time I get to spend not working at all is pretty limited. I want to make the most of that time.
Here’s what I’ve found to ease my racing mind– and if you’re like me, I hope this works for you too!
5 ways to relax when your mind won’t turn off
1) Write your anxieties down.
Whether it’s in the form of a list, a reflection, a rant or a prayer, write down whatever unfinished business there is. I treat my notebook as a metaphor for my work mind: once the thoughts are written there, I close it and put it away. Then I can relax until it’s time to get to work again– as easy as opening up the notebook and seeing where I left off.
2) Step away from the computer.
Because of my day job, this blog, and several other commitments, my default free time activity is to sit down before my computer and have it tell me what I should do. There’s always something to read, reply to, or contribute to, but that doesn’t mean I need to do it in the moment. Being glued to my computer has been a difficult habit to break, but I’ve succeeded! I instituted a screen-free Saturday this weekend and it was glorious. Even a few hours of being away from my computer helped me think of several brilliant ideas that probably never would have otherwise surfaced.
3) Work with your hands.
This is why I love gardening and cooking. They are, in their own right, activities that are interesting, challenging and rewarding. But they’re nothing like what I do for work, so I can enjoy them as hobbies. They’re also perfect for anyone who otherwise leads a sedentary lifestyle. Gardening brings me closer to nature, and cooking allows me to think about the food I eat and serve people I love. I’m always in a better mood after I do either!
4) Create art.
It’s not a habit for me to sit down and do a craft project, but I’ve always enjoyed it. Every time I’ve handmade a birthday card, wrapped a gift, or painted with acrylics, I’ve been able to think more deeply. My mind leaves the confined spaces of my weekly routine, and meanders through memories and dreams. It’s an effective way to remember what really matters, and to see the larger picture over my current tiny snapshot.
5) Do something for someone else.
This is perhaps my favorite. Taking care of someone else’s needs always takes my mind off of whatever anxiety is nagging in the shadows. While it may seem anti-intuitive to work towards someone else’s benefit when I could be working towards my own, this has always been the best way to keep myself centered on the conviction that life is not just about work and achievement. Far from it– loving others is at the core of what I want my life to be about.
The bottom line: act on intention, not impulse.
How easy is it to turn on your favorite show when your mind is racing? I know, I’ve been there. But I’ve often found that no media binge can really slow me down or help me to feel refreshed. Instead, I’ve found that taking my mental anxiety and redirecting it– according to conviction and intention– brings me closer to where I want to be.
What are your relaxation strategies when your mind is at full speed?