Meditation has never been my forte. The whole “now relax your mind” thing has never worked out well for me. If you have a Type A personality – constantly working against the clock; setting high unimaginable expectations; competing against invisible standards etc. – then you probably are well aware how hard it is to turn your brain off. I didn’t even realize how Type A I was until I started working in NYC and noticed that even on my off days, my brain would not shut up.
We should add this to the business! What about this patient’s charts, did that get put in right? I think I missed something – let’s go over the entire day again….
My brain just loves to torture me in these ways, regardless of time or circumstances.
“Just meditate,” I have been advised numerous times. “It can help.”
Have you even tried meditating and somehow you get imposter syndrome? Even in my youth when yoga was part of our standard gym class practice and they played a guided meditation, I could not for the life of me, relax. It is almost like a huge part of me didn’t deserve to relax.
It took me a while to realize, that my struggle with meditating was because my brain is wired on. It is not a lightbulb that can be switched off at will. In fact, yelling at my brain to shut up and kept making it worse for me! Standing still to meditate just allowed me to stay in my head more often than not so, that wasn’t working for me. Yoga made me hyperaware of others and even if I try to focus on myself, I hear the voices of self-doubt: You’re doing it wrong. Were you suppose to come up on an inhale or an exhale? Why does that hurt; did I stretch incorrectly?
This leads me to my biggest challenge yet – how do I meditate without letting the stressors of being Type A work against me? I’ve come up with a few tricks that help me and so far they have been successful in terms of quieting the intensity of my brain. Do I still get my Type A thoughts? Oh absolutely. But the solution I realized I needed to relax was not going against my brain, but to go with it.
Trick 1: Take A Walk
- If your brain wants to think, you got to let it think. But do something else that is completely different can help relax it.
- Enter walking. It is very hard to mess up walking (I have messed it up on various occasions but even for the classic klutz like me, it’s hard). Walking allows your thoughts to think to its heart content. But guess what? You will get caught up in the distractions that nature has to offer – whether you are strolling through your city, your town, or your street. You have to worry about crosswalks, busy streets, lights, etc. Even walking on a treadmill offers the same type of relief because you are working with a machinery that demands your attention.
- You can try your best to think about work and walk, but it becomes much difficult when you are walking. There is something that will distract you and take your mind off work. Even if it’s for a second, it helps.
Trick 2: Play the Right Kind of Sound
- Music can supposedly help you relax your mind. So I tried listening to music while I work.
- I am a fan of Pop and Indie music and always thought those music would help boost up my work if I played it. HA! My brain was already making enough blood-pumping noise for me that it only agitated my workload. The reality is that no one can truly multitask – our brain has to filter to fully process one thing at a time. Your brain may think it thrives on music in the background, but it only heightens it and makes your brain choose between listening to the music in the background or listen to the task at hand. If you want to trick your brain to relax, yes have music in the background, but not one that you need to pay attention to.
- “Listen” to instrumental music from your favorite non-action movie. Something that’s soft and slow-pace will trick your brain into thinking that it’s playing music to boost it, but in reality it is tricking your brain to relax and focus on the task at hand.
- “Listen” to a podcast or ASMR. You want to pick something that you do not need to pay attention to, but will give you the benefits of calming your brain.
Trick 3: Work On a Project With A Different Skillset Than Work
- Eventually the Type A mindset craves work, even though its addiction will lead to its downfall. Lets trick the brain again and give it work – but make it use a different part of the mental toolset you are used to working.
- Example: If you’re a fiction writer, start a cooking project. Reason being? A writer’s brain is constantly creating and inventing new characters, plots, descriptions the whole nine-yards. Cooking, especially first-time “chefs,” have to follow the rule-books. This creates friction that you are not used to. But doing this can help slow your brain down because it is not working in its territory. Not only will it have to truly think about something other than work, but it has to calm itself down for a couple of minutes to focus on the task at hand.
- This skill can even be translated to watching Netflix for the 8+ hour workaholic. Say you have tv shows on your “To Watch List.” Great! Convince your brain that’s another task – not that it’s for you to “relax” because, as mentioned before, when you tell your brain to relax, it wants to reject it. It doesn’t think it deserves it and it thinks your trying to turn it off when in reality, you just want to lower its intensity. You will feel accomplished that you crossed off another movie from your list, while also getting your brain to not to talk about work so loudly.
Have any other suggestions? Feel free to write it in the comments!