2020 might be feeling a bit unrelenting. The covid pandemic that we thought might be a few short weeks or months, is still here in our day to day lives. Do you find yourself feeling more mentally tired than normal? Maybe your mood feels generally low or anxious, or you are having trouble sleeping? Or you just feel exhausted a lot of the time? Maybe the uncertainty is feeling really heavy?
I have certainly noticed with my clients and friends, an increase in people feeling mentally tired or drained by the current world events. It seems that with Covid 19 and the ever changing restrictions we have in our lives, that there is simply ‘more’ to think about. And certainly there is another dimension to life that we didn’t have to take into account before Covid – can I make social plans? Have I got my mask? Does it feel safe and sensible to go there? What are the current rules I need to follow? Will I be able to see my family at Christmas? On top of this, we have our opinions about how the government is handling this pandemic, and other future-based fears for our health, job, family, economy….the list goes on. Just writing all this down feels exhausting! It is certainly a time to be extra kind and compassionate with ourselves, with however we are handling this experience. There is no right way or wrong way. But if you are struggling then I hope this post might help.
On one level there is more to think about right now, or maybe it’s just NEW things to think about. After all, minds LOVE to think and if there is the slightest void in a busy mind, thinking will rush in to fill it. I definitely notice this in my own experience. We think that once one problem is dealt with, we’ll have peace of mind back, but usually the mind just finds something else to focus on. Whatever the current topic/s of our mind’s obsession, it is useful and important to really recognise where our experience is coming from, and what is leading us to feel mentally drained.
What is mental tiredness telling us?
Feeling mentally drained or exhausted is actually good information. It doesn’t mean that the current situation we are living through is draining you…it means that the amount of thinking we have about the situation is not helpful. And the feeling of tiredness or exhaustion is letting you know that. Letting you know that you are innocently spending too much time thinking…too much time up in your head going over all the things that are going on in life right now. The drained feeling is a signal, a wakeup call that your focus is on the content of your own mind, rather than simply living your life…however that life looks at the moment. I have certainly found that my level of mental lethargy increases any time that I find myself ‘arguing’ with how life is at the moment and wishing it was different.
When we feel mentally tired or overwhelmed but believe that we need to keep thinking about the situation, either in order to be safe, or to find solutions, it’s like trying to use a vacuum cleaner that is already full. If we try to vacuum up the mess on the floor with an already full vacuum bag, it’s not going to do it’s job very well. If we take the time to ‘empty’ the vacuum bag before trying to do any more vacuuming it works MUCH better. The same applies to our mind. The feeling of mental tiredness is a signal to empty your vacuum bag (There is a video here about this metaphor and problem solving). Clients ask me this all the time. How do I slow my busy mind down? How do I stop thinking so much?
For those of you familiar with the Three Principles understanding, you will know the answer to this is…nothing. There is nothing you need to do to quiet the mind, except understand, or see, where your experience is coming from. This understanding helps us see through the illusion of thought. It helps us to know that we are caught up in our thinking and we don’t have to be.
Whilst I have found this to be absolutely true - the more I see how these principles are working the quieter and more peaceful my mind is, and the more I am able to catch when I am caught up in my thinking. Nevertheless, if you aren’t at this place yet, or you are really caught up in your busy mind, sometimes doing something active to help the mind slow a little can be helpful.
Here are some of my favourites. However, even better is to trust your own inner common sense which will let you know what is best to do to help yourself, in the moment. This guidance will always come from within YOU. Anything that connects you back into the present moment and/or back into your body can be useful (when we are up in our heads a lot, we tend to forget we have a body!)
· Close your eyes and taking 6 deep breaths, really focusing on the felt sense of your body
· Try resting in child’s pose
· Lay with your legs up the wall and close your eyes for 5 to 10 minutes
· Do a short guided meditation
· Practice yoga nidra
· Walk around the block and purposefully look around you, at all the things going on in the world (rather than what is going on in your head)
· Do anything that you LOVE to do for a short period of time such as reading, knitting, stretching, drawing etc.
Overthinking means that our flight or fight system is activated, and we are living in a mild (or moderate) state of stress much of the time. So anything that helps you to properly relax is beneficial. Incorporating some meditation or relaxation practices regularly into your life can really help.
What I find most useful to remember
Outside of any relaxation practices we may feel called to use, it is the understanding of where our experience is coming from that has the most bang for your buck.
· Recognising that you are going through a ‘busy’ period in your mind, and that this is creating our tired feelings, not the outside circumstance, is a first helpful step.
· All that overthinking does is make us feel crappy. It doesn’t actually stop bad things happening, keep us safe or provide solutions. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair and expecting to get somewhere. We are taught that applying our analytical mind to problems is always the best route to take. If you need to work out how the fridge works, yes this is true. But for most other ‘problems’ we face, chewing it over in our minds rarely is useful. All the best solutions you have ever had have come from your inner self, not your mind.
· When the mind gets busy and overworked it is usually focused on either the past, or the future. It is rarely focused in the present. When we are fully present to this moment, rather than worrying about the future, or ruminating about the past, our innate health and energy can shine through. Simply notice: How much time am I spending in imagination about the future? Or chewing over or reminiscing about the past? The more time spent not in the here- and-now, the more likely we are to have energy drain.
· Underneath the overthinking, busy mind IS the peace you are looking for. It is already there and this doesn’t go anywhere, ever. It’s simply the focus on the mind that is taking us away from the felt sense of it.
If you would like to find out how working with me can help you manage stress, mental overwhelm and live a much more vibrant life, you can book a free call with me here.
Lindsey Elliott is a Transformational Coach, and Three Principles practitioner working in Brighton and online. She offers one to one coaching in a life-changing new paradigm of understanding how human beings work. With this understanding you can move from feeling insecure, stressed, anxious or unfulfilled to happy, secure, inspired, peaceful and filled with love.
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