We all have those days when focusing at work feels downright impossible because our brains are already stuffed to the brim with other meandering thoughts. Sometimes, they’re simply distracting, but other times, they’re downright unsettling. So if you are hoping to harness control over that monkey mind — and fast — consider the following eight tactics for mental decluttering. You’ll be feeling more like yourself in no time.
1. Reassess your calendar
If your to-do list is reaching an overwhelming length, it’s time to identify at least one (if not a few) tasks or meetings that can be put off for another time. You don’t need to pick up your clothes from the dry cleaners unless you plan on literally wearing them tomorrow (or over the weekend). You can tell your parents you’ll call them later on in the week when you’re feeling rested and in a better headspace to carry on a meaningful conversation. The more you can reduce your obligations and focus on yourself today, the better.
2. Make time for meditation
You probably saw this one coming, right? The best thing to do when you’re feeling all out of sorts is to simply pause, drop whatever it is that is causing you stress, and let your mind naturally sort through its internal clutter. Sit in a comfortable position with a string of mala beads and, with your thumb and forefinger, glide from one bead to the next as you complete a full inhale and exhale. You’ll be amazed by how helpful just a few minutes of meditation can be.
3. Tune into your emotions
If you feel like your thoughts are just running rampant and you have no control over them whatsoever, pick several points in the day to literally check in with yourself. Every few hours, turn inward and ask, “How am I feeling right now? Am I stressed? Upset? Excited?” And then dig a little deeper to identify why you’re feeling that way. The sooner you can sort through the causes of your fluttering thoughts, the sooner you can categorize them and get that decluttering action going.
4. Create a sacred space for yourself
Surround yourself with mess, and you’re bound to have a jumbled brain as well. So curate a comfortable, zen space for yourself either at home or work (or both) — wherever you think you can benefit most from recentering your mind on the things that truly matter. Light colors, minimalist decor and an essential oil diffuser are all must-haves in these special personal spaces.
5. Ditch technology for a while
All of those text, email and social media notifications are only exacerbating that monkey mind of yours, so either turn that phone off or leave it in the other room for a designated portion of your day. That way, you can successfully quiet one of the main external noise creators in your life and fully focus on yourself.
6. Talk it out
Sometimes, the best way to slow down a racing mind is to outwardly express the stressful thoughts that are causing it. Lean into a supportive friend, family member or even therapist if you’re lucky enough to have one and vent a little bit so all of those pesky voices in your head can finally be heard and calm the eff down. If talking makes your anxiety worse, though, just journal instead. Writing is another great way to physically express what you’re thinking or feeling, leaving your mind free to address other things.
7. Get outside
Adrenaline and endorphins are your body’s best friends right now. Whether you want to take a long, peaceful walk or run a couple of hard sprints, getting up and outside and moving can be one of the best ways to clear a cloudy head. That direct sunlight exposure doesn’t hurt, either. The natural vitamin D boost will up your natural energy levels, and there’s just something so soothing about feeling those warm rays on your face.
8. Just breathe
It’s incredible how few people actually know how to breathe properly, and breathwork is such a profound tool for bringing peace to the mind. In the moments when things feel like they’re really slipping out of your grasp, focus on really breathing. Stop what you’re doing, sit up tall and take a nice, long, deep inhale through your nose, followed by an exhale of the same duration through your nose as well. It might feel dramatic, but even just four solid deeps breaths like that can reset your brain and its frenetic tendencies.