3 Science-Backed Ways to Clear Your Overstimulated Mind

Photo Credit: © Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

By Melody Wilding

READ MORE: Productivity, Career goals, Career development, Women in the workplace, Social media, Work-life balance, Inspiration, Mental health, Technology

You start the workday off with the best intentions, hopeful that you'll finally be able to tackle a difficult project that's been looming over your head. But by mid-afternoon you're stressed, tired, and can't seem to focus on much of anything -- let alone dive into work that requires intense concentration.

That big project? It'll have to wait until tomorrow.

If you've found yourself in this self-defeating cycle, you're certainly not alone. It can seem nearly impossible to make time for cognitively demanding tasks, what author Cal Newport calls deep work.

How do some people make room for creativity even with a crazy busy schedule while others get stuck in brain fog and procrastination?

Doing less, not more, is the secret to achieving mental clarity so that your creativity can thrive. Instead of adding more goals to your plate, you have to limit inputs coming at you.

Here are a few small changes that can yield big results.

1. Limit the energy drain of constant updates

Social media is like a black hole that sucks you in with endless updates, wasting your time and zapping your focus. Use a tool to quiet your news feed or remove it all together.

This will allow you uninterrupted serenity to think and create - two essential elements for happiness at work. You'll be amazed by how much you can accomplish and how much better you'll feel without the deluge of posts cluttering your screen (and mind).

The mind is like a muscle: it requires careful maintenance or it'll eventually burn out. Focused thinking free from distractions and social media is essential on days when you feel scattered.

2. Keep tabs on your well-being

Your physiology affects your psychology. Put simply, if your body isn't properly rested or nourished, you'll have a harder time focusing. Ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I angry?
  • Am I lonely?
  • Am I tired?

This self-care practice, known as HALT, is a great way to monitor your well-being so you can keep your attention optimized.

For example, if you find yourself struggling to write a simple email, check-in with yourself. Do you need a to take a walk outside and clear your head? Maybe a snack will do the trick. You might find a quick break renews your focus and clarity.

3. Build in reflective time

In our frenzied, jam-packed modern lives, it's incredibly difficult to force yourself to just stop. But periodically carving out time to pause and absorb the sights, sounds, and sensations of your surroundings is paramount to performing at your best.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed or uninspired, I first shift something in my surroundings. There's science behind this seemingly simplistic approach: Research shows a change of environment stimulates creativity.

A simple way to include time to decompress throughout your day is to avoid scheduling meetings back to back. Book in buffer time, say 15 to 20 minutes between meetings, so that you can get organized and re-center yourself.

At the end of the day, it's up to you to optimize your time, working space, and schedule. You have to be responsible for putting practices in place to safeguard your mental energy so that your creative juices can flow.

 --

Melody Wilding is a coach and licensed social worker who helps ambitious high-achievers manage the emotional aspects of having a successful career. Her clients include CEOs and C-level executives at top Fortune 500 companies such as Google and HP, as well as media personalities, startup founders, and entrepreneurs across industries. She also teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC. Get free tools to grow your career confidence at melodywilding.com. A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.

 

Related Articles
Related Community Discussions
My husband is completely oblivious to the fact that while

My husband is completely oblivious to the fact that while we both work long days, I tend to be the one staying up to wash bottles and get everything ready for daycare the next day, while he is relaxing on the couch. It's hard enough keeping up with everything, but now I'm getting resentful. How do I make him realize this just isn't right?

I was on maternity leave when Grace Hopper Conference tickets

I was on maternity leave when Grace Hopper Conference tickets became available unfortunately. I promised my team (two other women) that we would go but am having trouble finding an "in." Does anyone know of anyone who has extra tickets? If not, do you know any other routes I could go to get some?

I am highly skilled with a background in marketing management

I am highly skilled with a background in marketing management (MBA in Finace and Marketing), process improvement (Six Sigma), project management and research. I have been ranked number 3 in quality performance and recognized by a CEO for my innovativeness. I have taken serval (3) years off from the corporate environment to take care a relative that has significant chronic medical issues. I am ready to go back to work, but I have contraint. I want to be available - so I do not want to travel more than 20%. I do not want to work extreme hours - I want a balanced life. I am trying to relocate to the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina, so that I can oversee my relative's care, but I realize that this may not be possible. Watching this health crisis unfold has taught me that I do not need to make 6 figures. I want work that makes a difference and pays well. I am not a spring chicken (59 years olds). I documents that show the quality of my work. Where do I find a company that will provide the mental stimulation and flexibility. I like to think, solve hard problem and significantly change companies in positive way. I like the think tank environment. How do I search for and find a good fit?

I need some advice. I recently took maternity leave, which

I need some advice. I recently took maternity leave, which ended up turning in to Temporary Disability Leave because of some medical complications I had after the baby was delivered. I returned back to work after being off for 24 weeks. I have returned to the same job and have tried to get back into the swing of corporate life + new baby (first time mom here) and have the opportunity to take an additional 4 weeks off paid by the state, but it needs to be taken and completed before my child turns 12 months old and that's fast approaching. I submitted a request to HR to take temporary leave of absence and my HR department is denying me the ability to take this leave, stating that I exhausted the 13 weeks FMLA that the company offers (has to offer) to all employees. They are saying that I don't qualify for this leave until a full 12 months after my initial leave started. Everything I have read online and everyone I have talked to say that FMLA and TCI leave are completely different and separate. Technically, I think I am allowed to take this leave, the State says I qualify for it, but it's now in my employers hands and I am afraid if they deny me, and I choose to still take the leave, that I will not have job security. The brochure talking about TCI doesn't say anything about FMLA being the deciding factor http://www.dlt.ri.gov/tdi/pdf/TCIBrochure.pdf. Does anyone know what my rights are? Can I legally take the 4 weeks off, and still have a job to return back to? Given that I had to take so much time off, do I still qualify for job protection and benefits? Thank you for any an all help.

What are women saying about your company?

Popular Articles
Related Community Discussions
My husband is completely oblivious to the fact that while

My husband is completely oblivious to the fact that while we both work long days, I tend to be the one staying up to wash bottles and get everything ready for daycare the next day, while he is relaxing on the couch. It's hard enough keeping up with everything, but now I'm getting resentful. How do I make him realize this just isn't right?

I was on maternity leave when Grace Hopper Conference tickets

I was on maternity leave when Grace Hopper Conference tickets became available unfortunately. I promised my team (two other women) that we would go but am having trouble finding an "in." Does anyone know of anyone who has extra tickets? If not, do you know any other routes I could go to get some?

I am highly skilled with a background in marketing management

I am highly skilled with a background in marketing management (MBA in Finace and Marketing), process improvement (Six Sigma), project management and research. I have been ranked number 3 in quality performance and recognized by a CEO for my innovativeness. I have taken serval (3) years off from the corporate environment to take care a relative that has significant chronic medical issues. I am ready to go back to work, but I have contraint. I want to be available - so I do not want to travel more than 20%. I do not want to work extreme hours - I want a balanced life. I am trying to relocate to the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina, so that I can oversee my relative's care, but I realize that this may not be possible. Watching this health crisis unfold has taught me that I do not need to make 6 figures. I want work that makes a difference and pays well. I am not a spring chicken (59 years olds). I documents that show the quality of my work. Where do I find a company that will provide the mental stimulation and flexibility. I like to think, solve hard problem and significantly change companies in positive way. I like the think tank environment. How do I search for and find a good fit?

I need some advice. I recently took maternity leave, which

I need some advice. I recently took maternity leave, which ended up turning in to Temporary Disability Leave because of some medical complications I had after the baby was delivered. I returned back to work after being off for 24 weeks. I have returned to the same job and have tried to get back into the swing of corporate life + new baby (first time mom here) and have the opportunity to take an additional 4 weeks off paid by the state, but it needs to be taken and completed before my child turns 12 months old and that's fast approaching. I submitted a request to HR to take temporary leave of absence and my HR department is denying me the ability to take this leave, stating that I exhausted the 13 weeks FMLA that the company offers (has to offer) to all employees. They are saying that I don't qualify for this leave until a full 12 months after my initial leave started. Everything I have read online and everyone I have talked to say that FMLA and TCI leave are completely different and separate. Technically, I think I am allowed to take this leave, the State says I qualify for it, but it's now in my employers hands and I am afraid if they deny me, and I choose to still take the leave, that I will not have job security. The brochure talking about TCI doesn't say anything about FMLA being the deciding factor http://www.dlt.ri.gov/tdi/pdf/TCIBrochure.pdf. Does anyone know what my rights are? Can I legally take the 4 weeks off, and still have a job to return back to? Given that I had to take so much time off, do I still qualify for job protection and benefits? Thank you for any an all help.