It’s now 12.15AM and you’re lying in bed wide awake with your mind racing as fast as Lightning McQueen did in his beloved Piston Cup (you can see I have a toddler).
You try not to look at the clock but you can’t help it.
Half an hour later, you get up from your bed because you know how this will go – if you stay there, you’ll still be wide awake and you’ll just feel like you’ve wasted your time.
You just can’t seem to find peace.
What’s the solution?
You need to learn how to declutter the mind. Slow it down. Make it focus.
Yeah yeah, easy to say but almost impossible to do.
I know exactly what you mean since I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten out of bed at around midnight because I couldn’t sleep. Some of those times, I end up making myself hot cocoa with maybe a dram of whisky.
But why don’t we take a step back from an alcohol-based solution and see if we can find peace some other way – perhaps by learning how to declutter the mind instead of numbing it.
Decluttering the mind doesn’t seem very easy, at least at first. Our minds are usually full of stress, anxiety, dark thoughts and worries. They also tend to go on a loop. On and on it goes without stopping – like a roller coaster sans the breaks. And that’s the reason why it can be very hard to let go of things and relax.
Reminder: There’s no one right way of doing this but I encourage you to try the tips I’ve included in this post. I’m an insomniac with a tendency to get anxious so believe me when I say that I know how it feels. The tips below are what help me when the worst of it strikes (usually when I’m too tired, believe it or not). Perhaps they’ll help you too.
What You’ll Learn
I keep going on and on about the benefits of journaling but really, this is one of the best ways to de-stress and remove anxiety from your life.
Put all those thoughts whirling around in your head in writing. For some reason, it somehow eases the pressure on the mind – like Dumbledore removing his memories and putting them in a pensieve.
Whether you want an electronic journal or an analogue one, that’s completely up to you.
Although in the interest of full disclosure, I personally stopped using any electronic device for journalling. I felt that the blue light and all those distracting apps (I’m also a recovering social media addict) were making my insomnia worse.
Nope, I do bullet journalling and use a dotted A5 notebook.
There’s something very therapeutic with the actual act of holding a pen to paper and writing.
Another very important thing to consider is what you write.
Yes, you can totally free write if that’s what you’d like to do. And in fact, that can also be very soothing but if you want a more focused kind of journalling, then you might want to take a leaf out of our mini-eBook, Five Steps to Freedom From Worry and start asking yourself the following questions:
- ✦ What is it exactly you’re most afraid of?
- ✦ What’s the absolute worst that could happen?
- ✦ How probable are these outcomes?
- ✦ How long will things stay the way they are?
- ✦ What would you be prepared to do?
Set goals and priorities
It’s a lot easier to declutter the mind when you have clear goals and priorities. If you can, I recommend setting aside a good few hours of your time when you can write without interruption.
First, create a goals list and divide it into categories: long-term, mid-term and short-term goals.
What do you plan to do in 5 years, 3 years and 1 year? How about in 6 months, 3 months and 1 month? What are your goals for the next 2 weeks and 1 week?
Second, create a daily list that includes the steps you need to take to accomplish the goals you set for longer time periods.
Make a plan no later than the night before. What do you hope or need to accomplish the next day?
Third, choose one task as your main priority. This needs to be the biggest goal that will make you feel satisfied even if it’s the only task you manage to accomplish that day.
Finally, and as a reminder, never put more than four important tasks in your to-do list.
Yes, I know (trust me, I do know). It makes you feel busy and important when you look at your jam-packed to-do list. And crossing each task off is an amazing feeling (it’s not just me, right?), but planning too much can really backfire big time. It can lead to feelings of helplessness, rebellion, resentment and discouragement.
It can even demotivate you to the point where you give up without even trying to accomplish anything because a full list combined with a tight deadline is like being forced to climb Mt Everest before lunch: it just can’t be done.
Better to take smaller bites of the massive cheesecake before you end up getting sick of and from it.
Make time for meditation
Before you roll your eyes and moan about already not having enough time and now having to do some extra task, let me just say, “I hear you.” I have a high-needs toddler who needs a lot of attention and I have a business, manage two websites and run two blogs. The stress is insane and I sometimes feel like a hamster on its wheel running like crazy and can’t seem to stop.
BUT (yes, of course, there was a but coming)!
Meditation and breathing exercises bring in a sense of tranquillity. They help boost your mood fast, you get to lower your heart rate naturally and your blood pressure will drop too. These result in a clear mind and laser focus.
But how do you start when you don’t know how and you don’t have time to stay still for hours?
Believe it or not, you actually don’t need to spend hours a day to reap the benefits (though obviously, the more you do it, the stronger the results). For example, Real Subliminal doesn’t require you to stop whatever it is you’re doing for you to experience the effects. You just need to make sure it’s playing in the background and the volume is high enough that you can hear it.
Oh but I really don’t like listening to babbling brooks and ocean waves. It’s just not me.
Well, lucky for you, you don’t have to consign yourself to these kinds of meditation. YouTube actually has a lot of meditation videos available and they’re not all about babbling brooks and ocean waves.
If you don’t have much time and you really dislike most meditations’ focus on positivity (because really, life isn’t always positive, is it?), then I highly recommend starting off with the 4-minute F*ck That meditation below.
Maintain a sense of gratitude
For some reason, most people seem to focus on what’s not going well in life.
It’s easy to look at our to-do list and only see the pending tasks we have left – the one we were supposed to check off but ran out of time to complete. We focus on the mistake we made whilst talking to our boss or making that important business presentation. We moan at chores we didn’t manage to do: the disaster in the kitchen, the unwashed laundry, the piles of ironing to be done.
Most of the time, we don’t even notice that we completed more than half of the overflowing list in record time. We somehow forget that contract that we managed to secure for our company (that no one else managed to close). And we gloss over that time spent playing tag with our kids, forgetting the laughter and happiness in their faces because they have our full attention (hence, the neglected house chores).
You can make this a part of your journaling routine. Write the one thing you are most grateful for today – you know, the one thing that went well, the one thing you appreciate the most.
It can be as life-changing as you getting the job of your dreams or as simple as your child saying he loves you for the first time in his young life.
Every day, there are moments of beauty that invites gratitude. You just need to open your eyes to see them.
Zone out from time to time
Another important thing I highly recommend you do is to set aside some time to zone out or just do nothing.
It’s hard enough to deal with challenges, much less having to deal with them every day.
When you zone out, you get to think about yourself and what’s important to you. You get to rest and set some time aside for your body and mind.
You need to remember that you don’t always have to be working or doing something that has an underlying reason (like reading because of a test or painting to improve your portfolio).
Have you tried doing something just because you like it?
Yes, I know, this is very difficult and can be very challenging. And since I do this a lot too, you certainly won’t be getting any judgement from me.
For the longest time, I only did something if it can help me achieve a certain goal. I would read a book because it will get me an A in class., go to a restaurant because I’m reviewing it as a mystery shopper and travel to a place because I’m writing a paper on it.
If I just liked it, I didn’t bother doing it.
I rarely took the time to actually savour what I was doing or even enjoy my accomplishment before rushing off to do something else.
It wasn’t until I hit 29 years old and met a mentor who challenged me to keep doing things I liked (with no ulterior motive) that I finally started to gradually wean myself off of this tendency.
I highly recommend that you try it yourself. Just do something – anything – that you love, that speaks to your soul and makes you happy.
Enjoy the little things that life offers.
Believe it or not, it offers a lot.
A few more things you can do to help yourself find peace by decluttering your mind:
- ✦ Get creative: Spend some time thinking about the things you like and enjoy your hobbies.
- ✦ Get active: Choose an exercise routine that you enjoy. Bonus points for cardio-based exercise that releases feel-good endorphins.
- ✦ Get fussy: Control your media intake and set standards. Unless you’re a journalist, you don’t need to read the news(with all its negativity) every day.
- ✦ Get positive: Laugh. Maintain a positive attitude. This might not feel like much, but it will help you get past the challenging times and enjoy life at its fullest.
Now, it’s your turn. What do you do to find your peace – keep your mind free of clutter? Share your experiences by commenting below.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.