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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Vella

Have You Rested Your Brain Lately?

Anytime is a good time for an always much-needed reminder about the importance of deep rest (as in: resting your brains!) so here it is: your brain needs rest, too!

A cartoon drawing of a human head with a brain full of monkeys and red arrows pointing outwards from the head
The Inside of My Brain (Artist's Rendering)

I don't know about you but I use my brain a lot and I’m so grateful it works fairly well most of the time. But every so often it seems a bit… off. There is a fuzziness to my working memory, it’s harder than usual to recall words or information, and I’m generally irritable and impatient. Those are all signs that my brain is stressed. They are also warning signs that the path I’m heading down could eventually lead to burnout, which is a real bad time according to literally everyone I’ve ever spoken to who has experienced burnout.

It’s important to stay on top of these things, so noticing early warning signs is key. Although I am consistent in taking time to do self-care, there is a catch: so many of my ‘go-to’ self-care activities stimulate my brain. I make time for reading, socializing, journaling, listening to music, exercising, and so on. While I truly enjoy these activities, they can become a bit less useful in times when I need to rest my brain.

One of the reasons I am good at doing self-care is because I like doing shit! I am good at getting shit done and I am not so good about taking a break from doing shit (i.e. resting). I know I am in good company because many of us are busybodies (and busy brains) like I am. Have you ever heard that expression about how we are human beings, not human doings, and so we need more time and space to just ‘be’? While I agree with this concept I do feel more like a human doing much of the time, which is precisely why I need that deep rest where I am just being and taking a break from the do-i-ness of life. So I am working on it! Some restful activities I (now mostly) enjoy are:

  • Staring out the window and watching the world go by

  • Laying down to rest my eyes (I highly recommend doing this with a furry friend because cuddles are great and it’s harder to get up prematurely when there is a cat or dog or bird or something on top of you)

  • Spending quiet time alone with myself, often just thinking or doing whatever I feel like - as long as it’s quiet

  • And, yes, I wish I had a fourth list item, and No I don’t because this really is a new adventure for me (again, I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoy doing shit!)

My two cats Arjun (darker tabby) and Boomer (lighter tabby) sitting in front of a screen door
Cats excel at staring out windows, among other restful activities

Another thing I’ve learned to do is take a broader look at my cognitive load which is all about how you are using your working memory resources (because there’s only so much to go around!). Not overextending your brain in this specific area is really helpful for focus and productivity (which I enjoy, of course, because they are related to doing shit!). Some strategies I use to reduce cognitive load are:

  • Reducing the number of decisions I need to make wherever possible

  • Embracing good-enough-ness and resisting perfectionism

  • Choosing monotasking over multitasking whenever possible

  • Taking breaks throughout the day instead of waiting until the end and crashing

I’d love to know what you do to rest your brain and reduce cognitive load. Is this something you’ve thought about before? Do you resonate with those feelings of brain fatigue I described experiencing? Let me know in the comments!

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