It’s the bane of the high-achieving woman—you probably never run out of things to do—or ideas about what you could be doing. Sometimes it’s fun. Creative high-achievers tend to be talented at creating work they love. But the constant doing can also work against you and lead to a decrease in your productivity, your focus, your energy, and your passion.
Too many ideas in your head can even prevent you from taking action because you feel overloaded or confused about where to start.
- Is your head too full?
- Do you have a hard time stopping—even when you know you need to?
- Have you sought out so much advice that you feel like you know “too much” and can’t even find a place to begin amidst all the rules and wisdom you’ve acquired?
- Do you know that you need to do to relax, reduce your stress, or refocus but you aren’t sure how to stop your life long enough to do it?
- Do you have a pile of books or an in-box full of recordings that you feel like you need to listen to before you can move forward?
Then you could probably use a detox. Not a nutritional cleanse, but a process for clearing out the gunk in your headspace—the garbage that’s overwhelming you, throwing you off track, or keeping your life so full of “shoulds” that it’s hard to work on the motivation to do any of it.
Luckily, you don’t need a week at a spa to embark on a mental detox. Here are some steps you can take today to start cleaning out your brain.
- Examine the junk that’s weighing you down. Take a look at what’s swirling around in your mind. Sometimes the thought of cleaning out a messy closet is so overwhelming, that we just avoid opening the door. It can be the same with our thoughts and the expectations that we hold for ourselves. One symptom of overwhelm can be a tendency to avoid your thoughts—overeating, or choosing mind-numbing activities instead. Grab your courage, take a deep breath and a clean pad of paper. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Now write down all the gunk that’s in your head. This includes everything you feel you need to be doing, the expectations you have for yourself (these usually start with “I should”), the unhelpful stories you are telling yourself (these often begin with “I can’t” or “I don’t” or “I never”) and anything else that feels like it’s mucking up your life. Get it out of your brain and put it on paper. Now get a different colored pen and circle the ones you want to keep.
- Create your own clarity. Get a clean piece of paper. Take another deep breath. This time, ignore all the “shoulds” and the rules and write down what you know to be true of you. Write down what you know about what you need to be successful, to be fueled, and to be at your best. I’ll give you an example. A client who is coaching with me to take charge of emotional eating and to lose some weight was feeling lost about how to approach her upcoming vacation. She felt like she “should” continue with the Emotional Eating Toolbox™ program she had started. She felt like she “should” be writing in her journal and meditating. She was worried about overeating on vacation and gaining weight. She was also worried that she would drive her partner up the wall talking about what to eat and worrying about getting things “right.” I asked her what else she knew. She knew she desperately needed and wanted to relax and that if she gave herself permission, she could actually do so on this week-long trip. She knew that she was already automatically using many of the tools in the emotional eating program—when she was present and relaxed. She knew that the more she got wrapped up in “getting her eating right,” the more she was going to overeat and binge and not savor the foods she was looking forward to. She also knew that there are certain foods that her body doesn’t handle well and that she needs to avoid them to feel her best, and that to do this successfully, she needs a game plan and a few minutes every morning to connect with herself and get her head on straight. What my client knew and what you know about yourself, is the starting place for creating your best plan and deciding what you need and what you can let go of.
- Start the detox process. Go back to your first list. What can you let go of? For now. What parts of those swirling thoughts in your head a) aren’t a priority and don’t need to be addressed NOW, b) are unhelpful or are confusing or otherwise getting in your way, 3) don’t fit your mission, your purpose, or who you are—today (hint—many of these things may be a part of someone else’s agenda, but not yours). Cross them off. For now. Be sure to look for mindsets and beliefs that you can let go of as well. As my client reviewed her list, she easily saw a number of things that she didn’t want on her agenda during the next week. She also quickly realized that perfectionism, and her expectation that she needed to perform at a certain level, was sucking the joy (and the benefit) from several key activities in her life. On top of that, the expectation that to be successful she had to be perfect was keeping her stalled and unable to move forward on a number of things.
- Rinse and repeat. Overwhelm comes back. That’s okay, it’s one of the hallmarks of a rich full life. The key is having strategies to handle it when it happens. A periodic detox can be just the ticket for rebalancing a life or a brain that’s gotten too full.