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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind

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Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind

My daughter forgot her Chromebook at home; that tweet is going to cause a media storm; the space heater is making me sleepy. This laundry list of random thoughts flips through my mind while I’m trying to focus my brain on writing, creating a solid case of writer’s block. You’ve likely experienced this kind of mental blockage, as well.

A mental blockage is the inability to complete a train of thought. It gets frustrating as your thoughts are derailed by something. However, life keeps moving, and deadlines don’t change because you feel like taking a nap. Furthermore, big breakthroughs often wait just on the other side of these blocks.

Try these quick fixes the next time you need to get your thoughts back on track and get rid of mental blockage.

1. Remind Yourself That Mental Blocks Don’t Actually Exist

I know I just gave you a list of reasons I can’t write at the moment, but the reality is I’m still writing.

I pushed through the mind games and just put my fingers on the keyboard. I forced myself to write and got rid of all my expectations and fear of failure.

That’s the key: refusing to accept that your mental block exists and do the work anyway. Let’s apply this technique to something outside the literary world.

Say you are having trouble parenting your teenager. Nothing you’ve done is working, and you’re pulling your hair out trying to get through to them. You’re worried changing your parenting game will screw them up.

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Just try something, and get over your need for perfection when experiencing a mental block. Maybe you write him/her a letter and pour out your frustrations and love. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture.

Once you start, you will have feedback. You’ll have that glorious feeling of progress. Either you can keep making small steps forward, or scrap that idea and try something new.

2. Avoid Your Crutches

Coffee, alcohol, sugar, and drugs can get you through a moment, but they don’t clean up the clutter or help you overcome mental blocks for more than a few minutes.

You don’t have to give up the cup of your morning ritual or the piece of cake to celebrate your loved one’s special day. It’s the moment you want to reach for that extra cup of coffee to churn out that big presentation that’s your greatest barrier.

If you’re stuck with mental blockage, mental stimulants won’t guide you through. They will add to the clutter and may only worsen the situation. Instead, stick with good nutrition and stay hydrated to keep your brain in optimal form.

3. Time to Turn in

Instead of heading to the kitchen to jump start your thought process when you feel overwhelmed, try crawling under the covers instead. Sleep is one of the best ways we can sweep the cobwebs off our minds.

When your foggy brain is begging you for that caffeine fix, try laying down for 20 minutes. You may not sleep, and that’s okay—just let your mind drift. This break from problem-solving mode might just be the breakthrough you need.

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Let’s say it’s 10 pm and you’re slumped over in front of your laptop, doing your best to stay focused on the design details of your client’s website. Instead of agonizing over subhead text options for another half hour, shut it down and head to bed.

You know when it’s been too long. Even if you’re up against a hard deadline, a well-rested mind will make better decisions in a lot less time.

4. Exercise

It’s common to hear someone say, “I’m going to take a walk to clear my head,” and that’s because it works when you’re feeling stuck.[1]

Is walking too mundane for you? Try running, and if that’s not your thing, jump on the Pilates reformer. There are a lot of exercises out there, even if you’re too busy to do them regularly.

If you’re living a busy life but still want to get into the exercise habit, check out this Lifehack course: Busy Yet Fit Programme. It will help you jumpstart your workouts and get into a great fitness routine.

5. The Headshake

Have you ever caught a teenager mid-daydream while studying? A quick “hey” breaks into their stream of consciousness. They shake their head and go back to math homework.

It’s a simple gesture, and almost automatic.

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Next time you catch your focus stuck on the same problem playing over and over in your mind, try shaking your head. Imagine that as a way to reset your brain and try again.

6. Write It out

You’ve heard the advice to write out what’s on your mind before, but there’s a twist. There are different ways to write, and you have to choose one that will move your mental blockage.

  • Brainstorm: Grab a piece of paper or a digital notebook, and write whatever comes to mind. My favorite way to brainstorm is by mind mapping.
  • Journal: This is the big brother of brainstorming. Here you are writing about your mental blockage in complete sentences, but there’s no formal structure to your writing. It’s just a stream of consciousness put into words on paper.
  • Pros/cons list: This is a favorite for the indecisive.
  • Essay: Imagine that your high school English teacher wants you to write a persuasive essay about your mental blockage.

7. Get Comfortable Being Alone

Mental blocks linked to complex problems require both focused and diffuse thinking.[2] Diffuse thought happens when your brain is on autopilot (like those “aha!” moments you have in the shower).

Focused thinking takes more effort and a quiet workspace. For those of you living in quarantine with a full house, this will be a challenge. When was the last time you reached a flow state while working from a laptop that’s propped on your kitchen counter with a household buzzing around you?

Here’s a secret for those of you in this current situation. You need to block off time while everyone else is asleep. Set your alarm for 5 am, and sit with your mental block. For you night-owls, stay up and get that alone time in after everyone is asleep.

8. Fix the Actual Cause

Say your mental blockage is on how to improve sales. You’ve scheduled time to meet with your marketing team, but this new product launch is falling flat. Your creative muse is hidden by the replay of the fight you had last night with your spouse.

It’s time to pick up the phone and rehash the argument about the family gathering plans. Your brain won’t stop replaying this loop until you spend time letting it play out.

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If it’s an obvious problem, that is what’s preventing you from moving ahead—an issue that comes into your head every time you sit down to work.

9. Take a Fresh Perspective

Try looking at your problem through the eyes of a child to tap into a new creative process. Better yet, ask your kid for ideas on how to move your mental blockage or solve a problem.

Kids have a sense of wonder when they look at the world. Lacking years of experience from looking at the same problems, their opinions are unfiltered.

Imagine giving a toddler free access to a cabinet full of Tupperware. They will entertain the kiddo for hours as they build towers, knock them down, bang on them, and maybe even pretend they are cars zooming around the kitchen. The last thing they will think of is filling it with last night’s pulled pork and plopping it in the fridge.

Of course, you can’t expect a toddler to figure out a marketing strategy for your product launch. However, I bet you could get some interesting ideas from a ten-year-old if you took the time to listen. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective.

Final Thoughts

Mental blockage can come in many forms, and it can even manifest as stress, depression, or anxiety. When you notice you can’t get your thoughts to flow in the right direction, it’s time to choose one of the strategies above and try to punch through the mental clutter. This can take hours, or even days, but once you’ve pushed through, you’ll get back to being productive and less stressed.

More Tips on Clearing Mental Blockage

Featured photo credit: Nik Shuliahin via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Jennifer Theuriet

Writer and productivity coach for creatives who hustle.

Mental Blockage: 9 Practical Ideas to Clear Your Mind How to Train Your Brain to Be More Creative How To Generate Great Ideas Like An Ideas Machine

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

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The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

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OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

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2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

3. Work Outside Home

In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

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I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

4. Go Out!

Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

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5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

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