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As a social worker in a busy hospital, I often find myself overwhelmed with requests, crises, and pressing issues that need an immediate resolution. Sometimes, I feel so bombarded by demands that I freeze, not knowing where to even start.
When working in healthcare, there is little room for error. Tasks need to be completed thoroughly, accurately, and right this second. This is quite the challenge when my brain feels overloaded while I’m being pulled in several different directions.
All of this leads to distraction, a lack of focus, and, ultimately, mistakes.
Being able to stop and instantly clear my mind is a critical part of being successful in my career. But this is not unique to me. Gaining mental clarity–being focused and having a clear sense of your current state of being–allows you to observe, interpret, and organize your thoughts. In turn, you can work and live more efficiently, become less stressed, and be more content and engaged in every moment.
We all have days that seem to get out of hand. On top of a heavy to-do list, your calls and emails won’t seem to slow down and the never ending interruptions keep disrupting your thought process. You’re moving so fast that you feel sloppy, on edge, and unproductive. What’s more, you can't turn your brain off because you might miss something important.
Don’t let these unruly days lead to unruly nights, ending with taking your frustrations out on friends and family. Instead, take some time to gain control while things are hectic. You can definitely learn how to create calm amidst a world of chaos.
In this article, we will explore the value of mental clarity and some strategies you can use to instantly clear your mind. So first, let’s look at the benefits of knowing how to purify your cluttered brain.
In our busy world, it often feels impossible to find a quiet minute. But learning how to prioritize this is vital to your mental health. Taking even just a few minutes to clear your mind is a critical component to maintaining your wellbeing. Having a clear mind will allow you to focus, work efficiently, and be confident in what you’re doing.
When negative thoughts or overwhelming stimuli pollute your attention, it makes it difficult to be present and enjoy the moment. Whether you’re ruminating over something that’s taking up all of the real estate in your psyche, or you just have too much going on at once, having a cluttered mind causes stress, which we all know has some serious implications.
Rumination in particular has evolved as a critical component in the understanding of both negative physical and psychological health outcomes. There is so much research that addresses the effects of rumination, and there is consistent evidence that it plays a role in the development of anxiety and depression.
But when you can rid your mind of rumination or an overload of intrusive thoughts, you can gain clarity and peace of mind that allows you to see what's important, eliminate distractions, and focus on an end goal and how to achieve it. If you know where you’re going and what you want to accomplish, both your concentration and your performance will improve.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 11 strategies you can use to instantly clear your mind.
‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I write and I understand.’-Chinese Proverb
Sometimes you need to do a good brain dump to get all of the unwanted thoughts out of your mind. By transcribing all of your thoughts onto paper, you will be sure that you won’t forget anything that’s potentially important circling around up there. Also, writing down any worries to save for later can give you the time you need to reduce the significance of the issue. Sometimes things work themselves out with time, and other times something that may seem like a really big deal right now may become a thing of the past in a day or so.
Writing has become a common therapy for easing psychological stress. One theory posits that getting things ‘off your chest’ in the form of writing is a powerful therapeutic process in itself, as it can facilitate cognitive processing of past events, which can help people better understand themselves and their experiences. Writing organizes your thoughts and can help you naturally arrive at solutions.
Even if you don’t really know what is filling up your brain, you can make progress in the process of emptying your mind by just doing some freewriting and seeing what comes out. Putting your thoughts on paper can help you free yourself from worry and anxiety and even offer some meaning to past experiences that may continue to haunt you.
Resource: Here are 7 printable braindump worksheets you can use and here are the best journal and diary apps to help track your daily thoughts.
In addition to organizing your thoughts, make sure that your living and working spaces are tidied up as well. It’s so easy for us to worry about things that are out of our control, so instead, focus on the things you can control, such as your environment. This will help you avoid frantically looking for lost items or racking your brain for that one thing you know you had to do before leaving the office.
When you’re trying to function in a chaotic environment, it can deplete your mental energy. Oftentimes, your physical space reflects what's going on in your mind. To keep this positive, take a few minutes to sort through papers on your desk, clean out the kitchen sink, or create a task list. No matter what you need to properly arrange in your life, consider each item that you put away to be one fewer aggravating thought or concern that’s on your plate.
Resource: Here are 17 apps to help you get organized and streamline your life.
“Good plans shape good decisions.” -Lester Bittel
Part of being organized involves planning ahead so you know all of the upcoming tasks that need to be completed. You can instantly clear your mind if you already know exactly what you need to be doing at the moment, what is coming next, and what you can expect for later in the day/week/month.
Planning ahead is an important aspect of reaching your goals without letting your mental chaos slow you down. When you plan ahead, you become proactive and gain the ability to anticipate issues or barriers that you may face, and figure out either what you need to do to avoid these things or how to face them with confidence.
Your heart may already be racing from all of the things going on in your mind, so get up and go outside for a brisk walk around the block. This will allow you to have a break from any immediate turmoil and help your mind let go of the urgency of chaos. Consider these breaks to be a form of self-care. When you go on your walk, you can take some time out to focus only on the world around you.
Without allowing yourself some time to rest while you’re working, you will end up being so mentally exhausted that you make mistakes. Don’t be hesitant to allow yourself some breaks. And a little bit of exercise can help release endorphins, which will lift your mood and help combat your stress.
Taking a walk will help you return to whatever you’re working on feeling refreshed and clear-minded. When you give yourself this type of necessary break between tasks, you will also find that you’re much more productive than if you try to push through all of your work consecutively.
Resource: Here are 7 apps to help you master the pomodoro technique, which helps you schedule breaks into your day.
I know you might think that external influencers cause you to think negatively, but the truth is, you are the only one who has control over your thoughts. Research shows that mindsets greatly impact life's outcomes. By learning to shift your mindset, you can decrease your stress and increase your ability to be resilient to any challenges you face.
Don’t allow your mind to be taken over with negativity, as this will prevent you from ever really maintaining a positive outlook. Learning to let go of negative thoughts and discovering how to not let things bother you so much will relieve your mind of needless clutter that’s taking up your time and energy.
Music is easily accessible to almost everyone, and it can have a profound impact on what’s going on in your mind. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have found that listening to music may impact brain functioning to the same degree as medication.
Upbeat music can help increase your alertness, optimism, and concentration, while a slower tempo can help clear your mind and relax your body. Studies have found that listening to music that’s about 60 beats per minute promotes alpha brainwaves, which results in a relaxed and conscious state of mind
You can instantly clear your mind by replacing the “white noise” of intrusive thoughts when you’re stressed with some relaxing music that will block out mental clutter. Just make sure to listen to some music that you enjoy to help enhance your mood and help you unwind.
Resource: Try these songs, which are all about gratitude and showing thanks.
Practicing gratitude will help you focus on the good things happening in the present moment. Giving yourself a small reminder that you’re capable and worthy may be just what you need to instantly clear your mind and get back on your feet. By shifting your attention away from toxic thoughts and feelings and onto the good things in your life, it can be hard to go back and ruminate on negativity.
Make a list of the things, people, places, or memories that you’re thankful for, and whenever your mind becomes cluttered, go back and read your list. This will positively shift your thoughts and endorse the knowledge that you can be happy and content, even if it's for the smaller things in life.
If you keep getting interrupted while your mind is already struggling to stay on track, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed and get nowhere. Every time you’re interrupted, it negatively impacts your productivity, so try to shield yourself from distractions whenever you can.
For example, if you’re working on something important at work but you can’t seem to make any progress with the hustle and bustle going on around you, consider taking the project home (if you’re able to) so you can avoid the common interruptions that occur in your workplace.
There are so many ways that people can put off work that needs to be done. Consequently, one of the biggest contributors to a cluttered mind is overdue tasks that are still on your to-do list. These incomplete tasks will sit in your mind and nag you so you can never completely focus on another task at hand.
The best way to fix this problem is to do whatever you need to do as soon as you can, which will allow you to get it off your mind and create some space for whatever is next. So instead of putting your energy into contemplating doing something, just commit yourself to doing it so you can cross it off your list.
Practicing mindfulness is about letting go of the unnecessary thoughts that are polluting your mind and refocusing on the present moment. Feelings and emotions are continually changing, so it’s okay if you’re not sure why certain things pop into your mind at times. Just let these thoughts come and go without judging them.
Being mindful takes practice, and it’s not supposed to be easy to do right away. But, the more you do it, the easier it will be to clear your mind and find peace in the moment.
At times, you may need to stop and take some deep breaths. Doing so can allow you to center yourself. When life becomes hectic, it’s easy to forget to breathe. But taking controlled breaths can instantly clear your mind, reduce your heart rate, and help you feel more relaxed. This will allow you to find a sense of peace and quiet among the chaos.
In the same realm of mindfulness, practicing meditation can also help you instantly clear your mind. Practicing meditation helps eliminate distractions by helping you focus on the connection of your mind and body.
Research has shown that meditation can help increase your focus and improve your ability to multitask, which may offer you a huge boost in productivity. Studies have also shown that even for people who are new to the practice of meditation, a brief session helps improve one’s allocation of their time and attention.
In this article, we looked at 11 strategies that you can employ when you need to instantly gain some mental clarity and refocus your energy on the task at hand. Hopefully you can incorporate some of these strategies in your everyday life to not only clear your mind, but to also prevent it from becoming cluttered in the first place.
If you need some other instant boosts for your day, here are 101 simple pleasures in life that can brighten your day.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.