Monday, January 11, 2016

Clearing the Fog

I've gotten so forgetful lately, I've been scaring myself. Although details aren't my strength, I usually stay responsible over the things that need to get done by deadlines. But, somewhere between baby one and baby three, my brain juice started to evaporate. Or perhaps they just needed it more than I did and it was drained in-utero. Either way, my thoughts have become a frenzied cartoon of Family Circus (something like this comes to mind).   

As most moms can relate, we start a load of laundry and realize that we've left some dirty clothes in the bathroom. So, before we put the soap in the washer, we run to get that stuff, but on the way to the bathroom, we trip over a scooter (that should have never been in the house anyway), which we conveniently sidestep to discuss with our children the need to put away toys and keep bigger stuff outside. Help the oldest with some math questions. Then, we notice that the youngest is attempting to get himself a snack and has left the refrigerator open. We close the drawers, peel the apple, and then, of course, the dishes need to be put in the dishwasher, which reminds us of the other washer, which we then close the lid on (forgetting the dirty clothes in the bathroom we went to retrieve in the first place).

This little scenario is one of dozens I encounter in a day. The distractions are understandable: who wouldn't forget a few things with all those interruptions? But, what's more scary is how cluttered my mind has become. 

Experts say that the more clutter we have in our house, the more stressed we are (high blood-pressure, digestive issues, anxiety, etc.), but how do we de-clutter our minds? After all, sticky notes will only get me so far. 

Today I drove somewhere in my house-shoes and on the way home I didn't remember to put on my seatbelt until I was 1/3 of the way home (my uber-safety-conscious receptors never let that happen...until today). I have this over-arching fear that I'm going to wind up somewhere in my pjs, having gotten all the kids ready while completely forgetting to dress myself...or worse yet, I'll forget one of the kids. 

Call it what you will...brain fog, stress, "too much on my mind", but it's time to clear the mental desk and organize a few things.

First things first. 

1. Make sure every day you take 15 minutes to debrief. Now, I'm not referring to "emptying your mind" or even meditation. No, nothing as spiritual or mystical as that. Simply put, you need to time to let your brain "freewrite" about the day. Let it categorize a few things, but don't dictate how you think. If you are on outward processor, talk to a friend or journal. If you are more introverted, sit in a comfy chair and stare at the wall...or better yet, close your eyes. If 15 minutes is "too much" than you need to greatly reduce your schedule. 

2. Give yourself permission to have an "off day". Just so you know, my type-A, task-driven nature cringes over this idea, but I think it needs to be said. We give ourselves far too little grace (apparently I'm in the queen-status on this one) and we need to allow ourselves hours or a day to say "I'm not going to worry about it." For me, that day is Sunday, but sometimes it's Thursday: I have next-to-no expectations for myself and I certainly don't have a to-do list. We don't have to wear a cape all the time. Tell yourself, I am just human. I'm going to make mistakes. This day isn't going to be perfect and neither am I. 

3. Don't multi-task so much. As a stay-at-home, home-school mom with a stay-at-home online job, multi-tasking is a necessary evil at times. But, where I can reduce, I try to...and every year, I think I get a little better at saying "no" and letting things go. Number 3 correlates to #2. The expectation bar needs to be realistic.  We think we are multi-tasking effectively, but trying to do more than one thing at a time reduces focus, efficiency and ability to remember. It actually puts a wedge in the brain between what we hope to accomplish and what we actually do. We may "finish" several things but we didn't really cross the finish line with any of them. The goal and the end result are different. 

Of course, there are other ways to help clear fog and maintain focus on what we need to recall, but some of those tips give me a headache. For example, brain games? Sheez...I don't need something else in this life to make me feel stupid and inadequate, thank you. But, if you go for that kind of thing, pick up a crossword puzzle. 

Most importantly, get rest (sleep isn't optional) and eat healthy. Detox your mind and body with exercise.  And take a moment to just exhale. Go ahead. 


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