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Are you a mom struggling with a noisy brain that’s making you stressed and irritable? Learn how six simple tips can help you clear mental clutter.
No, I don’t want to play a board game with you right now!!!!
I felt bad as soon as the words left my mouth. And I felt even worse when I looked into my sweet 7-year-old’s face and saw how hurt he was.
But, Mama, I was just DONE.
I was sitting on hold with the pediatrician’s office while trying to place a grocery order on my iPad. I’d been deciding what to have for dinner next week while listening to my two boys squabble upstairs.
I’m preaching to the choir here. I know you’ve been there.
Your mind constantly jumping from one thing to another. You can’t complete even one simple task because of interruption after interruption. All of this while carrying the mental load.
You know the mental load.
We moms are the keepers of all the family’s information, and we remember the shoe sizes, which kid doesn’t like broccoli, and when each family member’s birthday happens. We maintain the grocery list, know who has clean underwear in the drawer, and remember who needs to go to the doctor next Tuesday.
While managing all this crap, we are constantly being interrupted by little people requesting a glass of water, telling stories about their favorite cartoons, and crying “he hit me!”
We reach the end of the day stressed, exhausted, and at odds with our families with seemingly little to show for it. There’s no doubt that the mom brain has a lot to manage. I managed to clear some of my mental clutter, though.
Here are six easy tips for doing it yourself.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #1: Write it down
One of the keys to eliminating mental clutter is reducing the number of things you need to remember. I started regularly perform a “brain dump”–writing down all of the things that are rattling around in my head. These things may be tasks I need to accomplish, important dates that are coming up, or simply facts I don’t want to forget.
Once I’ve compiled this giant list, I transfer important dates to the calendar (with reminders scheduled if I think I’ll need them). I put my notes and to-dos into Trello so they’re easy to organize and find later.
On Sunday nights, I look at my master Trello board to create a shorter list of the top things that need to be accomplished over the week. During the week, If other non-urgent tasks pop up that are unrelated to the things on that list, I’ll jot them down on my master list for another time.
READY TO GET ORGANIZED, MAMA?
It’s time to Master Your Mom Brain with Trello! Trello is a free app available on desktop, iOS, and Android that makes managing your mental load easy. I’ll show you how to use it and why the heck you’d want to bother. When this course is over, you’ll know exactly how to use this system to banish mom brain forever.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #2: Resist the urge to multitask
I am always tempted to listen to that podcast I’ve been wanting to enjoy while cleaning the bathroom, send a couple of emails while I’m on the couch watching TV, or, yes, order my groceries while I’m on hold with the pediatrician. The problem with multitasking like this is that neither of the things I’m trying to do gets done well, and my brain gets maxed out trying to manage both things. Indeed, research shows that multitasking actually lowers your productivity.
I’ve noticed that I am much more likely to snap at my kids when I’m trying to multitask. Their simple questions or requests add too much to my already maxed-out brain. I am really working on doing one thing at a time. I’ve felt much calmer, less distracted, and less irritable as a result.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #3: Clean up your physical environment
Visual clutter is distracting and anxiety-producing. A study of families done by UCLA found that mothers’ stress hormones spiked when surrounded by their families’ clutter.
Having a cluttered environment can make finding the thing that you need difficult, and constantly cleaning up a mess takes mental energy away from other things you need to focus on. Strive to keep the number of your possessions manageable. Put things away after you’ve used them. Most importantly, encourage your family members to do the same.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #4: Turn off notifications on your phone or tablet and put it down
Smartphones and tablets are such wonderful tools, but they are also incredibly distracting. It’s hard not to respond to the little dings and flashes when notifications pop up. It’s tempting to pick up a device to check what the name of that actress is in the movie you’re watching. It’s difficult not to check the news or pop onto Facebook for a second.
Consider turning off notifications on your phone and tablet. If you’re afraid of missing something important, you can schedule several times during the day when you can check for messages or you can allow notifications to come through for your most important contacts.
I recently turned off all notifications except for calls/texts from my family and best friend and found that even that small change made me feel calmer and less distracted.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #5: Meditate
I know, I know.
When would you find the time to sit and meditate? Mama, it’s worth it. Training your brain to be still is one of the best ways to clear mental clutter. There are loads of ways to meditate and plenty of ways to learn the skill.
Regardless of the method you use, strive to spend a few minutes every day with a quiet mind. I’ve started meditating for just 10 minutes or so every morning, and I notice such a difference in the way I feel.
Clear Mental Clutter Tip #6: Repeat to yourself, “this is what I’m doing right now”
Even after putting the five steps above in place, my brain still races from one thing to another much of the time. It’s so hard to concentrate on the task at hand.
It feels a little silly, but when my mind is racing, I’ve found a spoken reminder can be the thing that finally makes my brain shut up. If I’m writing a blog post, but thinking about the pile of laundry that needs to be folded, I’ll say “I’m writing now.” As a concession to my busy brain, I might write “laundry” at the bottom of the page, but stating my purpose out loud has a way of refocusing my attention on the task at hand.
The six steps above have really helped clear some of my mental clutter, and as a result, my mind is a little quieter.
No, I’m not using this system perfectly yet. Last night, I sent a few emails while playing the kids their nighttime meditation instead of focusing on enjoying the calming time myself. My ‘brain dump’ notes can get scattered in several places. And I still sometimes snap at my sweet 7-year-old when he doesn’t deserve it.
In general, though, I feel calmer, less distracted, and less irritable since I’ve started clearing the mental clutter.