Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Relaxation Techniques: Purge and Stimulate

My favorite quote from my notebook of fortune cookie wisdom

“A relaxed mind is a creative mind.”

This is my favorite quote on creativity. It is attributed to Yogi Bhajan, but I’m ashamed to admit that I
discovered it in a fortune cookie.

While I love this quote, “relaxed” is not my natural state of being. A "relaxed mind" for the most part is a foreign concept to me, but I'm trying to get better.  Like most women, I love to picture myself as superwoman, flying from one cry for help to another, accomplishing amazing feats. It is a proud banner to wear, yet it is also an exhausting one.

No question, things need to get done. The problem comes in when we live every day in high
production mode. You might be "getting things done," but your frenzied mind has a harder time coming up with fresh ideas. And it is also far more prone to burn-out.

Lately I've been experimenting with a two-pronged approach to reviving a stress-damaged mind: first purge it, then stimulate it.

Purge the Mind
You can't cram good ideas into a cluttered head. So rather than forcing yourself to "find inspiration" take a break and clear your head. The closer to burn-out you are the longer the break
may need to be. Here are some of my favorite mind-purging activities.

  1. Meditate: This can be as simple as sitting in your garden or staring into a campfire. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the time.
  2. Take a walk: Concentrate on your surroundings. If your mind wanders back to your to-do-list gently redirect it.
  3. Capture thoughts: Find a trusted way of capturing ideas and to-do-list items, so you can get them down on paper and give your brain a break.
  4. Clean: Physical clutter adds to mental clutter. Put on some lively music and clear those cluttered thoughts away.
  5. Fast: Take a short fast from social media and other mental energy zappers. Set aside social media free times to give your brain a rest.

Simulate the Mind
Once your mind is calm, it becomes a powerful receptacle for new ideas. Stimulating your mind can help you see things in a new light.

  1. Seek new inspiration: Does something outside of your specialty catch your eye? Is there something there that you can adapt?
  2. Stimulate the senses: Essential oils are a good source for mental stimulation. A couple drops of peppermint oil in a bowl of water near my workspace does wonders.
  3. Take a mini retreat: When you feel open to some major brainstorming, arrange some dedicated time for it. Sit in your special place and allow yourself to dream, sketch, and jot things down. No computer and no distractions.

All of these suggestions are simple in theory, but it will take some patience on your part before
you see results. Start small and slowly add one or two into your routine and build up from there.

What techniques do you use to purge or stimulate your mind?


  1. Sometimes I do something mundane like clean out a drawer or roll up coins to take to the bank to purge my mind of thoughts. (I found a 1952 Wheat Sheaves penny that way recently!) Also, making lists helps me know what I have to do so I don't have to wonder what I "ought" to be doing. You have shared some great ideas, thank you! Where do you get your essential oils?

  2. I'm a big fan off list too! They are a great place to catch everything that is falling out of my head :)

    I highly recommend Liz's essential oils. I love to combine a few drops of lemon and peppermint in a hot shower in the morning!

  3. Knitting has been very helpful is helping me focus. I only knit things that don't have to fit, so that it remains relaxing. . .Also, since I started taking Alexander Technique lessons in December, I've been doing "constructive rest"--lying down with a book under my head and my knees up for about 15 minutes a day. Gravity helps me release all the tensions I'm holding in my body, and the semi-supine position helps my spine realign. I like the emphasis on release of tension in Alexander, rather than relaxing(or collapsing as my teacher says), because I've never been good at relaxing!

  4. Great ideas, Margaret! I'd love to learn how to knit. In fact it is pretty close to the top of my "what's next" list.

    The "constructive rest" intrigued me so I gave it a try. It is kind of a neat feeling to be reclining yet still have some tension in the body. Much easier that trying to go from the rush of your routine to straight relaxation.


Ooh,a comment! How delightful.


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