How To Prevent Your Brain From Overworking Yourself

For as long as it takes you to put the same amount of energy into something as you’re putting into something else, your brain will be working excessively.

Let’s examine this as it applies both to me, and the rest of this post. First off, I’ve been spending way too much time on this blog lately. But I had to do it. I couldn’t stand the boredom, I needed the energy, I needed to express myself properly, I needed to vent. No one really had those kinds of needs! Then, it dawned on me–I’m writing about exercise here. I get asked these questions all the time–how to exercise–how did I become fit–can diet be part of physical fitness.–I had one of these, too, for a while. But now that I’ve actually put in some serious time, I can state that exercise isn’t needed to become fit. In fact, you can become fit, in the same way that you can get fit by not exercising–you just need to be consistent.

A few years ago, I read David Epstein’s book Hard Times . This was well after I had become a full-time writer (or semi-full time, rather), and the book was focused on how the financial crash had impacted the real world at-home. He writes in the acknowledgements that, “At the time, I thought that my job and life had been tough and depressing because I had to do these things, and that I just didn’t have the patience or time to be able to do them. And then I realized that my life wouldn’t have been nearly as tough or as depressing if I had done it all.” Epstein goes on to assert that in order for our lives to be as much fun as they can be, we cannot take on unnecessary, overworked tasks that are not part of our day-to-day routine (i.e., we don’t have to be running errands and other errands, and we don’t have to do the “stuff” that’s so important to our survival and satisfaction).

What was surprising to me was that I hadn’t really thought of this myself, until I read Epstein’s book. I still don’t think that being overly energetic is part of our day-to-day routine–we’re supposed to be in the present moment, doing things that we enjoy. But Epstein says that sometimes we can neglect other important tasks to put more energy into them. When he reads emails from people who are complaining that they can’t find the time to put the work they’re doing aside to focus on their interests and passions, he asks how he should respond?

He says, “If you are really stressed out or in fact you’re exhausted and your mind is in a bad mood, find ten minutes a day to just take your mind off what you’ve been doing. Get up and walk around, exercise, work on a hobby that interests you. Do something you love. Find hobbies that really give you satisfaction.”

I’m not sure if this is the “right” thing to do, but it’s something I’m starting to implement. Maybe not every day–maybe only until I can get more organized so I’m working with more time instead of being in the same “rut” time after time–but when it happens it’s nice to know that I’m doing it. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, just keep in mind that you can’t do it just for the sake of doing. It’s important that the work is the right work for this moment–it’s not just “working out” so you can go do something else. That’s a distraction that’s likely to lead you astray. 

Next up in line, Epstein recommends that we all start practicing mindfulness—mindful awareness at all times, in all your thoughts and experiences. “If being in your current place gives you a headache,” writes Epstein, “you’re probably not in the present moment at all (you’re focused on something else), so I recommend getting out of your head and trying to pay attention to something else.”

This has to be done with an open mind, of course.