Thursday, October 24, 2013

6 Ways I Want to Stop Wasting Mental Energy

Thinking...
(Credit:Klearchos Kapoutsis)

Sometimes when a season is stressful and busy, my brain goes into slight overload.  My brain is foggy and I even have trouble carrying on a proper conversation.   Some of this is just living in a different culture where you are speaking a second language or it is a busy season at school.  It could even be a big decision that needs to be made or a relationship that needs extra work.  When my mental energy is in limited supply, there are some things I can do to reduce this mental drain.  This summer and this fall I have been working on reducing my mental energy waste so I can function better and focus on what is truly important.  So here are 6 ways I waste mental energy.

1.  Trying to use my brain as a day planner.  I asked a friend today what took most of her mental energy and she responded trying to remember her to do list in her head.  We talked about how much less energy it takes if we would just write down dates on a calendar or put on paper that to do list.  I have another friend who is a teacher and has alarms that go off 5 minutes before all specials during the day.  It lets her focus on her class and not worry so much about the time.   Why spend energy trying to remember if I can create ways to help me remember that use less energy?

2. Worry.  Both my friend and I agreed this was number two.  As moms, we worry way too much.   Is my child getting the schooling that he or she needs?  Will my school get the funding it needs to continue?  What will happen if....?  We all know the verse in Philippians that tells us to "be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."(Phil 4:6 NIV)  The problem is putting it into practice.   Two things that help me are journaling about my worries.  As I pray and write, I often find hope or peace but hopefully both.  The other thing that helps me is to pray about it with a friend.  As we talk and pray through it, the problem or worry seems to grow smaller or even go away. 

3. Procrastination.  Now you might think that this should go under #1 but I will often have things written down that I need to do and just keep putting it off.  I hate to make phone calls, and I will spend half the day thinking about the phone call I need to make.  If I would just make the call, I would waste less time and mental energy.  I read the other day where if a task could be done in less than two minutes than you should do it right then.  Don't wait.  (Sorry, I can't remember where I read this to give credit to them.)  I have tried this with other tasks and it works great.  With phone calls, it is still a work in progress.

4. Analysing conversations or choices I have made.  My husband and I have had conversations and then I will replay it all again in my head often adding to it my point of view.  This is dangerous because I will sometimes assume something that is not there.  If I need to clarify something I need to do that but not over analyse it.   The same goes for choices even simple ones.  I can order something at a restaurant and then second guess myself for the next ten minutes.  It could even be something bigger like our schedule during our home leave.  We will set it and then I will fret about whether we should see this person or that.  Are we spending enough time here or there?  My husband reminds me that it always falls in place as we let God work in his way and timing.  

5. No Margin.  When our schedule is too full, I get extra tired not so much from all the activity but from making sure we get where we need to be with all the supplies we need.  Sadly, if it is time with a friend, I find myself not being all there.  I am thinking ahead to the next thing that needs to be done.   Also, if I don't have time in my schedule to recharge, I wear out a lot faster.  Last year at school, I would often get to my class after lunch about 5 to 10 minutes early.  Sometimes I would just sit there.  Other times I would pray or read a few pages on my kindle. By the time my students arrived, I had regrouped and could greet them with a smile and questions about their day so far.  This year we are homeschooling and I find taking a break right after lunch makes the rest of the day less tiring.  

6. Conflict in Relationships.  Whether it is in my relationship with God or others, the longer conflict is allowed to remain the harder it is to deal with. Until it is dealt with, it is always there at the back of my mind sucking the energy out of me.  Keeping a clean slate with God helps not only clear my mind but sleep better at night.  It may be a day or two process with tears until it is all sorted out, but it is worth the effort.  With others, reconciling can be harder.  Part of this is due to #4,  I need to clarify instead of assuming.  I need to be willing to be vulnerable and wrong.  Often when in conflict, I want to retreat from the relationship when I need to reach out, give grace, and understand.   Hebrews 12:14 encourages us to live at peace with all men if possible.  Now if I can just put that into practice.

What are ways that you waste mental energy?  How do you deal with it?  Do you agree or disagree with the ones I listed?  I would love to hear what you think?

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