Clutter in the mind can pile up faster than dishes in the sink. But while those dishes get regular cleaning, the mind is often left to its own resources. Sometimes, this can result in serious stress, and even physical illness.
Here are some really gentle ways to help you help your stressed-out mind:
Picture a clean, clear mind: The beauty of this is, you are using your own mind to heal your mind! A Cleveland Clinic Foundation study showed that patients of colorectal cancer dealt better with pain, anxiety and feelings of uncertainty when given positive self-talk, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques.
My advice is to simply take a few moments off and imagine yourself in a happy place! Sit in a quiet place where the air is fresh. Ideally, by the side of a river, but even if you are far from water, your mind will soon help you get there. For a few moments, simply allow yourself to enjoy your surroundings. Then close your eyes, and slowly start painting a picture. Imagine that your mind is a bag, filled with pebbles big and small. Imagine each pebble to be a negative thought, a worry, a source of stress. Do not be afraid to process each of these for a few moments—let your mind dwell on each one for a bit. Visualize your hand reaching into the bag and feeling each pebble. Some pebbles will be smooth, some rough. Rub them between your fingers.
This helps bring all your problems and tensions into focus, drawing them into one confined place—your bag-shaped mind!
Now lift the bag, and stand beside the flowing river. Feel the weight of the bag in your hand. Is it not heavy, too heavy? Slowly, pour the contents of the bag into the river. Watch the water sweep the pebbles away. Some will flow away with the current, some might sink to the bottom of the river.
Even as you do this, you will start to feel lighter and happier.
Write it down: What’s on your mind? Nearly always, the answer to this is: quite a lot. Most of the mind’s clutter is composed of assorted worries—the long morning commute, bills to be paid, fighting deadlines, angry words spoken…you know all of these only too well. I find that it really helps to pen down the things that are weighing on your mind. It’s a little like speaking up and voicing your concerns, except you are addressing yourself. So, feel safe and secure as you pour out your worries, fears, and stresses. Jot down the innermost of these. Once out on paper, in black and white, the fear or worry will take concrete shape. There, you have addressed it!
The mind is better able to deal with things it can “see” rather than those that are pushed at the back of it all the time. There is evidence to support this. A University of Chicago study showed how students can combat test anxiety and improve performance by writing about their worries immediately before the exam begins. An “expressive writing” exercise given to cancer patients at a clinic in Washington DC helped patients take a more positive approach to their illness. So, write your worries away!
Change the scene: Quite literally, “take your mind off” things for a bit. Our surroundings impact our mind greatly. The American Society of Landscape Architects quotes a Scottish study which shows that “brain fatigue” can be eased by simply walking a half-mile through a park.
The clutter in one’s head seems to close in on you when you are sitting in the confines of an office cubicle or a disorganized home. Step out of these spaces and spend some time in a place that allows your mind to exhale; even if for 15 short minutes. Is it really possible to feel stressed for too long when you are in the company of the sky, the earth, trees, flowers, and birds? You know the answer to that.