Clear Your Mind

With all that life gives us to think about: our loved ones, our responsibilities, our deadlines, our aspirations, fears, finances, health, medications, and more; we can often find ourselves in a debilitating state of worry, of mental gridlock and frustration. Our minds can become so full and so busy that even the simplest of cognitive hurdles can seem challenging. At times it can feel as though our minds are full to capacity, that nothing more can be absorbed, learned, or remembered.

I had one of those days recently. I felt as though I had more things weighing on my mind than  I had time to resolve them. In my mind it seemed like there was much too much to do, like I was doomed to fail, like there was no possible way I could accomplish everything my mind was telling me I needed to achieve. As I mulled over all of these ceaseless and prevalent pressures, all the while attempting to shift and steer about town, negotiating the signs, potholes, and traffic, I realized that the notion of continuing in my current state of mind was a foolish one.

So I got an idea. Through all of the frenetic contemplation and pondering emerged perhaps the most useful life hack I’ve ever employed. I decided to stop. In the middle of all of my introspection, and under tremendous self-imposed pressure to tackle all that needed to be accomplished I simply pulled over and parked in front of a coffee shop. Grabbing my notepad and a pen, I left the car, entered the restaurant, and found a nice and quiet corner table and ordered a cup of coffee.

The smell of coffee beans permeated the air as I pulled out my pen and set out to write down all of the things that were occupying my mind. I felt if I could just write them down, if I could somehow drag them from my mind and put them on paper, that perhaps I might be able to better manage them there, put them in order; perhaps then I could return to some semblance of sharpness, to lucidity. I began writing down all of my worries.

The first came quickly and easily. I felt relieved the moment I wrote it down. It was not near as daunting on paper as it was in my mind. The second came more slowly. It was actually difficult to define, and there was really nothing I could do about it. It was just there. So I wrote it down as descriptively as I could. Having it there on paper, where I could look at it squarely, I realized that my mind was making much more of it than it deserved, and there would be plenty of time to deal with it later, if at all. So I drew a line through it and it was gone from the paper and from my mind.

The third and fourth came slowly. I had to concentrate hard to remember them, to encapsulate them. In the end I found that these two buggers were simple to accomplish in a short amount of time. As I wrote them down I took the extra step of defining exactly how, when, and where they needed to be done. I tried hard to find something else to write down. That was all I could muster. Three things. Really? Three things down on paper and my mind was clear, absolutely clear.

As I looked down at the three items that were plaguing my mind, debilitating and distracting me, pressuring and prodding me, I realized the value of stopping, of finding a quiet place and writing down my thoughts and clear my mind. I’d allowed these quite manageable concerns to consume me. Perhaps it was self-imposed pressure. Maybe it was an innate, mental survival technique meant to make small, but important things bigger, to keep them in front. I am not sure of the reason that I let these things run amok, but I am sure of this: relaxing, reflecting, and recording can restore calm and clarity in a crazy, confounding, and confusing world.