Do you struggle to really switch off? Maybe it’s because you don’t know what’s holding you back. Here’s three ways to really switch off
In this ever connected world we live in, switching off can seem a near impossibility sometimes. But getting some down-time, allowing our brain to relax and unwind is imperative for the health of our minds and bodies.
3 reasons we can’t switch off
We’re trying to multi-task
So this might come as a blow to some of you. But the truth is no-one can multi-task, not even women.
Our brains are actually like computers, we work in serial. We process one thing after another, never two things at once. What we’re actually doing is switching between tasks, constantly.
Trying to multi-task has a negative impact on the mind and body and puts us into a state of stress. The brain pumps out adrenaline and other stress hormones that give you that feeling of being on edge.
Over time, a steady flow of stress hormones can strain the body and threaten your health. Studies have found that stress can cause headaches, stomach trouble, and sleep problems to name just a few things that stop us switching off.
We’re living in the sub-conscious
How often do you do things without realising? Put down your keys? Got yourself to work? Make a cup of tea?
That’s because the conscious mind only controls 5% of your daily decisions. This means only 5% of the actions you take on a regular day are determined by you engaging your brain and actively choosing to do them.
The other 95% of what you do in your average day is controlled by the subconscious mind. Spending too much time in the sub-conscious, not actively engaging the brain, can cause us to experience higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
We’re addicted to our mobile phones
Our mobile phones are often cited as a reason we struggle to switch off. So why can’t we put them down?
One of the key reasons phones are so additive is because they’re giving us micro-feedback – tiny little hits of positivity when we get a like, or a message or a new friend request.
As the physical world around us stops giving us the endorphin hits our brain craves, we gradually spend more and more time glued to our screens to get it instead.
But excessive use of mobile phones has been associated with anxiety, irritation, frustration and impatience.
3 ways to actually switch off
So now that we know the problems, what can we do about it?
Mindfulness and meditation
I know you’re probably thinking “meditation is just another thing to add to my to do list” but hear us out.
Mindfulness and meditation are actually brilliant ways to help you switch off and worry less. They don’t require hours of your time or perfect silence to get real benefits.
- Help us stay in the present. Being conscious and present with what we’re doing means we get the full benefit from our experiences. We really take everything in and focus on doing one thing at a time.
- Help us identify when our minds wander – having a regular meditation practice helps us notice when our mind has wandered and started to catastrophize.
- Reminds us that nothing is permanent. This isn’t about playing down our worries. But it’s about remembering that nothing, not even the feeling of overwhelm or worry, is here forever.
Try an app like Headspace or Calm to get started with guided meditations. Or for a quick 1 minute mindful check in next time you want to take a mindful pause, try this mini-meditation.
Be purposeful when you pick up your phone
To combat that slide into the subconscious that can leave us scrolling mindlessly through social media and leave you unable to switch off, try to consider your purpose.
Why are you logging onto socials? Are you building a brand? Using it for work? Checking in on a family member? Arranging a meet up with friends? Or are you just looking for a micro-hit of happy instead of just… you know… switching off?
Make sure to remember your purpose for logging on. If you’re being distracted from something other than the task in hand, switch off and allow your mind some free space instead.
Write better to-do lists
You will often find your mind wandering off and worrying about how you’re going to get everything done if you don’t have a clear action plan. You just have a big, scary, unachievable list of ‘things to do’ on paper or in your mind that frighten you big time.
Try to remember: “A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, un-glorious tasks looks like from far away.”
If you split the tasks or your goals, like “change my job” or “save money for a house deposit” into smaller tasks then you are more likely to achieve them.
Instead of change my job on your to-do list, you could break that down into update my CV or sign up for job alerts or research recruitment agents. Or to save money for a house deposit or holiday you could break down the savings into manageable amounts each week or month to put away, leading towards the goal.
These sorts of lists are going to help you stop worrying and allow you to switch off. If you take some time to map out your planned actions, breaking them down into achievable and manageable steps you will see how they lead you to where you want to be going.
We go into lots more detail about stress, overwhelm, mindfulness and meditation on The Reset retreats. For more information visit reset.me