Let your brain breathe

Would you expect to stay alive if you never took a breath? Not the occasional breath so deep it makes your lungs hurt, but any breath at all.

I didn’t think so.

And yet, most of us go through life at breathtaking speed.

We wake up, go to work, take care of “life” after work, get home, go to bed, repeat. We never let our lives breathe.

Most people – myself included – can relate to the existence outlined below:

You open the door after a long day – one too many emails and your nightmare client decided to call you fifteen times. You haven’t had an evening at home in two days, and the night before that you spent folding laundry and cleaning. Tonight your best friend is in town. You agreed to meet up at a restaurant with piercing background music and crowded tables because it is her favorite place. Tomorrow you have your weekly club thing, which will keep you up later than you’d like. “Day after tomorrow”, you say to yourself, “that’s when I can relax”.

If your ideal day includes running around on a hamster wheel trying to keep up, stop reading right now.

Forget to-do lists for a moment and re-read that paragraph.

Humans are great at imagining – you can just see the dirty socks in the corner of her room, taunting her. Imagining that life makes your stress levels rise, and yet we put ourselves through that reality more days than not.

The elusive “space” is oh-so-important to keeping stress under control.

Our brain is a rubber band.

If you stretch a rubber band around a watermelon that keeps on growing (read: you always have somewhere to be or something to do), it extends. Most of us have stretched our brains and bodies to the point that one good night’s sleep isn’t enough to recuperate. The rubber band is almost permanently stretched out. Almost, but we are smarter than a rubber band and can do something about it.

We are our brains and our bodies. Even though we can’t see our brain being stretched, we feel it.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

How do you give the rubber band a chance to relax? You schedule it.

It seems counter-intuitive, but schedule doing nothing. We have forgotten to be bored as a society, so if that seems too imposing schedule craft night, or reading-by-yourself night if you aren’t quite up to resisting the lure of Netflix.

To be clear, TV is not nothing. TV is opting out.

TV seems relaxing, but substitutes overwhelm with avoidance – it doesn’t actually help you solve the underlying predicament. Ignoring the piece of bread on the counter doesn’t stop it from growing white, hairy mold. It just creates a bigger headache. That inner voice we talked about last week? TV drowns it out by substituting the wants and desires of a billion dollar industry.

I’m not saying throw out your TV (brown-noser), I’m saying make sure you have non-TV rejuvenation time built into your schedule. TV is an easy culprit for finding breathing room in your life. If one day a week isn’t feasible, make sure there is one evening every X days that isn’t on someone else’s schedule at someone else’s location. X is different for everyone.

Don’t have a schedule? You have some sort of system.

Post It notes, email reminders, Facebook events, etc. If it’s all in your head, well, you’re just causing more stress than necessary. Not only does your brain have to deal with life, but it also has to remember that you RSVPed to a wedding in six months so you don’t double-book yourself.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Do yourself a favor and find something that works for you.

Chances are the first system you try won’t be the right one, so if you attempted a calendar last year and kept forgetting to use it, try another. Go paper (flip charts, Bullet Journal, planners, etc) or electronic (the app on your phone, the calendar attached to your email, etc) – whatever works. Just remember to schedule breathing room.

Your brain needs time to unwind. It gets tired too.

Give yourself a break – read a book, take an online class (key point here: one that allows you to go at your own pace), do a coloring book, learn yoga, journal, clean the bathroom. Whatever floats your boat, just do it for you and make sure it gives you all the happy feels when you do it.

Letting your brain breathe allows the connections to reset and your body to heal.  It is like sleeping – absolutely critical for a successful day but the easiest thing to let go when you have too much on your plate.

Let your brain breathe, and breathe new vigor into your life.

What are you going to schedule to unwind?