Do you ever feel “stuck in your head”?
There is a lot going on in our lives, and consequently there can be a lot going on in our heads.
Thoughts swirl around to-do lists. The “don’t forget about…’s” interrupt the worries, which creep right into the middle of the chaos. Clutter, clang, grrrrr.
In this state, there is a sense of turmoil and at the same time a feeling of being stuck. It can be like a traffic jam in a city – a lot going on but no going anywhere at all.
It’s not just in your head.
When you’re caught up in your thinking, what you notice is the churning in your head, but there’s a lot going on in the rest of you too. If you step back and observe, you’ll find that your body mirrors this state of mind.
Even though you might not be aware of it, you might have a similar whirlwind of activity in your chest or belly. Your shoulders, neck and jaw may become tense. Eyes can be focused and intense. You might have a sense of trying to “hold on”, clenching your hands and arms.
Together, the brain and the body end up in a gridlock.
Getting things moving.
There is an easy way to get out of your head – it’s to get INTO your body. But what does this mean?
All this language about being “in your head” or “in your body” can be a little funny. After all, you can’t actually turn off your brain, and when are you NOT in your body? It’s not like a set of clothes that you can take off and put on.
What happens in the brain affects the body and what happens in the body affects the brain. Together they create your state of being.
A key to changing your state of being is what you pay attention to.
When you are focused on your thoughts, that’s what you’re going to notice, and that’s going to shape the state you’re in. This state can create that sense of being “stuck in your head”.
If you move your attention to your body, especially if you intentionally try to create a more relaxed state, you can get “out of your head” and feel more embodied.
Picture yourself in the city traffic jam with all the cars and noise and activity. If you focus on the blaring horn-honking, that’s where your attention is going to be drawn, and that’s what you’re going to respond to. Likely with tension or frustration.
Now imagine focusing on the music that you have chosen to play on your car stereo. If you turn up the volume and get into it, that just might change your experience of that stuck-in-traffic situation. It might loosen things up, help you relax. Hey, it might even be fun.
YOUR BODY KNOWS
If you give it a chance, your body knows how to get things unstuck and get your thoughts moving so that they can flow and you can change your state of being.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or energy either. Here are three simple ways to change your focus and get out of your head. Try out a couple and see what works for you. Maybe you could even take a minute or two right now?
1. Move your body.
Any way you’d like. Even 30 seconds can make a difference. While you’re moving, pay attention to your body and what it feels like to move it. Enjoy it! Some ideas:
Take a stretch break.
Take three generous but gentle breathes in and exhale fully.
Do a yoga pose.
Put on some music and dance for a few minutes.
Put on some music and lie down for a few minutes.
Do 10 jumping jacks.
Stand up and survey the space you’re in with your eyes – really scan and look for what catches your eye.
Run up and down a set of stairs or down a hallway a few times.
Play with a child.
2. Do something creative.
It doesn’t have to be a big artistic endeavor. It just has to be something that can balance your “thinking brain” a little bit. Some ideas:
Listen to music.
Read a poem.
Draw in a coloring book (there are some amazing options for “grown-ups”)
Write a quick handwritten note to someone.
Make a sculpture with objects on your desk.
Keep a few “art supplies” handy – colored pencils, crayons, sharpies, a sketch book, a coloring book.
3. Get outside.
Connecting to the world around us and to nature can do wonders for expanding our state of mind. Some ideas:
Get outside even if it’s only for a couple minutes.
Look up at the sky.
Listen to the sounds.
Open a window – even if it’s cold, just for a minute. Breathe in the air.
Listen to nature sounds when you can’t be outside yourself.
Put a picture of your favorite outdoor spot where you can see it (above your desk, on your bathroom mirror, on your computer screensaver).
A little change can make a big difference.
If you try these ideas or some of your own, I hope you will discover how powerful it can be to move your focus from your head to your body, even with short, simple steps. I encourage you to find ways to put them into your day and remind yourself to do them. Post it notes, phone reminders, a “get-out-of-your-head” buddy at work.
When you need more help.
These little steps can be helpful to anyone. Sometimes you need more. You might find yourself stuck in your thoughts enough that it impacts your wellbeing, your relationships or your work. You may have a hard time getting the relief that you really want or feeling the freedom that comes with making these changes.
It might be a good idea to get some help with the “traffic jam” of thoughts if this is the case.
There are many options for support, from friends to self-help books, spiritual guidance to therapy. If you’re interested in a free consultation to see if a creative, body-centered approach to therapy might be right for you, please get in touch.