Is it possible to turn off your brain?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always equated drinking coffee with stimulating conversation.

That’s why now, when I find myself far away from family and friends, I reach for the phone the minute I put my Italian coffee pot on the stove.

Call it the need to have human contact or the need to interact, but whatever the reason, I always walk away from these conversations a little more knowledgeable…or a little more confused.

This morning’s conversation dealt with a rather disturbing observation that both my sister and I share.

It’s this: there are times that we are unable to shut off our brains.

It sounds crazy, but hear me out before you think we’ve lost our minds.

Have you ever gone to bed or tried to take a nap only to find you can’t because your brain just keeps bombarding you with thoughts, ideas, and random images?

You can almost hear your brain working as it shuffles episodes from your day or plans ahead for the next day, without so much as asking for your consent.

This invasion can take the form of conversations you want to have or wished you’d never had, or it can consist of rumination where you ponder the negative, blame yourself, or kick your own ass for whatever the reason.

You feel helpless as you try to quiet your mind so sleep will take over and you’ll finally be able to turn off your overactive brain.

And yet the reality is, you can’t.

One worry after another, creeps its way into your state of consciousness and you are unprepared to deal with the assault.

You try taking deep breaths, visualization, and repeating a mantra, but all to no avail; like the Energizer bunny, your brain just keeps going and going.

Now I’m not as simple-minded as to believe that you can actually turn off your brain like you would a light switch.

However, it would be good every now and then, to be able to close your eyes and drift off; to have your brain switch into “idle” mode.

But alas, I’ve yet to experience this.

The minute I close my eyes, it’s like I trigger neural activity and my brain begins to archive data.

I told my sister that this process is more exhausting than actually staying awake, no matter how tired I may be.

However, she told me that she’s not prepared to “idly” sit by and let her brain continue to pull a coup d’etat; sabotaging her attempt to get some z’s.

The only question is, how can we take back our power?

How can we stifle the incessant brain murmuring, shuffling, and filing?

We’ve come up with a list of things we are going to try in the attempt to declutter our mind and reduce the state of anxiety we sometimes work ourselves into.

These include:
~Exercise more so that we’re more tired and find it easier to fall asleep.

~Document our worries and fears in a journal so we can revisit them at a later time.

~Memorize the words of a poem or a song that we can recite when our brain starts to pull a fast one.

~Establish a word or image that will symbolize “stop.” This can be the image of stop sign, the color red, or even the word “stop,” and invoke this image or word when our brain becomes overactive.
~Concentrate on our breathing. And I mean, really concentrate by listening to the sound of our breath as we inhale and exhale.

~Read something inspirational before going to bed.

This is the knowledge I walked away with after today’s conversation.

And, I wanted to share it with you.

What do you do to quiet your mind?


16 thoughts on “Is it possible to turn off your brain?

  1. When that happens to me I refer to it as “The Gerbils are busy in my brain.” Sometimes its just hard to get to sleep. Even the dumbest thing can keep me awake at night. Even things that don’t matter. I feel your pain. Good luck with your ideas to calm yourself down at night.

  2. Bella,
    I am lucky for the most part, my brain does shut down at night. My problem is during the day. I always feel like I am skeet shooting. Let me explain, I yell “pull” a problem goes in the air, and I shoot it down, then another and another. Sometimes I feel like I can’t catch my breath.
    Does that make sense?
    Can I have some coffee?

    1. Georgia, excellent! I love your strategy! I think I will try it the next time the need arises! Wouldn’t it be grand to have this conversation over coffee? :)

  3. I had one of those nights last night. I tried counting backwards in Italian from 1,000. I hate numbers, and I’m bad at counting in Italian. It was extremely boring and difficult, but by the time I got to about 780 (piu o meno), my brain was fried and I was out.

  4. great insight as always! i agree and this reminds me to move my butt and start working out again. i spoiled myself a lil too much during my bday week … thank goodness for a new month and new week!

  5. I think everybody has experienced that brain working when you want to sleep!, but your advices to reduce anxiety are great, some of them sometimes work on me (more exercise, recite some poems or multiplication table!). I wish all we could stop worrying every time we need it!

    1. Gracias, Señora Allnut! I agree, stopping the worrying process would be the key to never being worried. The question is, how can we accomplish this! :)

  6. Walking does wonders for me as I’ve found myself doing a 4 mile round trip distance up and down the mountain and then I don’t even remember much of it. Why? Because all the while I’m letting my brain “do it’s thing” and by the time I get back home it’s all puttered out. My only fear is that one of these days my brain will have so much to unload that I keep on walking…and walking…and don’t remember to turn around to go back home!

    1. Good one, Rowena! I agree, walking is quite soothing and induces sleep. I always feel like I’ve regrouped after a walk with Roxy.

  7. Bella, don’t shut down your brain at night, that’s probably where we get some of those great posts from. I think our brains are working even harder during our sleep to help us solve some of our daily problems, we just have to let go. I think maybe you are right, shut down your conscious brain and let it truly go unconscious. Easier said than done. Otherwise i wouldn’t be up at 1:30 in the morning ; )

    I need to more, but swimming would do it for me. I would count my strokes one, two, three, breathe, one, two three, breathe. I’d listen to the water, my breathing and the repetitive counting in my head and it would shut my brain off. I loved it. Sorry this is so long. Maybe i should go find a pool.

    1. Hey, I love long messages! Thank you for taking the time, Una! I agree with you, swimming is quite therapeutic. Now if only I had the courage to put on a swim suit! :)

    1. There are times I’m lucky enough to fall asleep within fifteen minutes and there are times it takes a lot longer. So consider yourself lucky! :)

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