Do you ever wake up and feel brain fog? The night before, you set for this day and the goals you want to achieve but, suddenly, you feel foggy as if you can’t move. You know you want to work on them but, for some reason, you don’t know what to do, lest have the desire.
I’ve been there more than I care to admit. So, why does this occur? There can be several explanations but the basic one is that an unconscious thought arose and thwarted you. To understand some basic facts from neuroscience, the thought(s) that arose released some chemicals, particularly cortisol, which goes immediately to the prefrontal cortex or the executive function of the brain.
This, then, puts you into a threat state and we can almost feel paralyzed from taking any action. Because it feels threatening, it’s easier to stay right where you are – in the comfort of your daily actions and life.
Essentially, change is what is leading to the fog – moving from what you know to what you don’t know. So what is the answer? How do you move forward to your goals and this uncharted territory?
There are several steps that I have found that should help you, too:
- Be aware of your feelings, and then dig into your thoughts – feelings are going to be known but it all starts with the thoughts. When you feel that flutter in the stomach, irritability, anger, sadness, etc, that is when you want to stop, breathe, and then check into any thoughts you are having. Writing them down helps to identify and capture them.
- Take a pause – breathe, yawn, stretch, stand up; all of these will calm your mind and body so you can focus on the issue at hand.
- Self-talk – as strange as it sounds, self-talk can snap you out of the fog state. Reasoning with yourself and stating positives helps with motivation, as do positive affirmations. I have found this very helpful to dispute any negative thoughts I am having.
- Ensure your daily goals are written – it’s not enough to keep them in your head with all the millions of other thoughts you are having. Writing them makes them real, so then you can identify specific actions to take. I find fulfillment in crossing off those steps as I get them done.
- Use the 5-Second Rule – if you haven’t heard of it, the 5-Second Rule was developed by Mel Robbins and is a way to circumvent the pause so you take immediate action. I used it today to get up an hour earlier and walk before I started my day; it sounded so good last night but not so much this morning. However, I made the statement to get out of bed and counted 5-4-3-2-1 and immediately stood up. I did take that walk.
I hope these steps are useful for you. Our brains can be a hindrance or we can use them to their fullest. You can train your brain for more positivity and productivity. It all starts with the intention and then action.
One of the most powerful ‘tools’ you can use is that of self-talk; this is where you talk to yourself as if it were a friend, family member, or coach. Self-talk allows you to hear perspectives from an outside source.
Self-talk can be done in both the positive and the negative. From a positive perspective, you can say affirmational words, such as ‘I rock’ or ‘I am extremely talented.’ Tony Robbins says to look yourself in a mirror and repeat ‘you are beautiful’ so those words ‘stick’ in your mind and reinforce positive patterns.
Self-talk on the negative side is when you challenge any negative, or derogatory, words or thoughts you are saying to yourself. Dr. Daniel Amen says to talk to yourself as if a teenager would: “you’re really going to say that you aren’t good enough – remember the time when……..” Disrupting negative patterns will stop this behavior.
However, it’s not enough to stop a negative thought as we need to replace it with a positive. From a neuroscientist perspective, we need three positive thoughts to override one negative which is why the positive words need to come. Consistency is what give mastery, so the more you keep saying positive thoughts the more you will maintain positive habits.
Living in the right side of our brain is what creates a more satisfied and happier life, where you will take risks and move towards your goals and dreams. Being creative through your passions or coming up with ideas, living in peace and love all elevate your mood and outlook. While you may have adversity, you won’t look at them as doom and gloom but as what they are, which will allow you to find solutions to deal with them and to let them go.
I’ve had clients who have used this technique and find their outlook as happier; they feel less-stressed and calmer. Those annoying co-workers may just be having a bad day vs ignoring them, or getting angry; family members who have hurt us in some way can now be viewed as hurting themselves so their actions are not taken as an attack; past failures can now be forgiven and new resolves to learn from them as the norm.
Self-talk is a powerful tool to use to delete negative patterns and to override fears you have. An important step is to reinforce new behaviors you’ve developed so when you find yourself in a situation where you are holding back, you can remember a past success.
Our brains tend to hold onto negative thoughts, which then become predictors for the future; using self-talk to challenge that fear, and then remembering a past success, is what will move your forward. For example: as a child, do you remember when you were learning how to ride a bike? You started off with training wheels but then your parent said it’s time to take them off and ride without them; you may have said no, or cried when it was time, because it was scary and you didn’t want to fall. However, you did- but then you got up and tried again and again and, maybe, again, until you got it right.
When you want to learn a new task, and you don’t think you can, go back and remember your experience of learning to ride a bike but the success you had; self-talk comes into play “See, you can do it – you didn’t think you could but you did.” This will change your whole outlook to move you in the direction you want to go.
Start today to use self-talk when you feel challenged and see how it positively impacts your life. Write down your new achievements as ‘proof’ – you will now be able to work off of them, as your self-efficacy and confidence increases , and to move you through fears that may arise.