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Stressed? Take a Break and Let Your Brain Do Its Job

Monday, March 24, 2014


when stressed, take a break and let your brain workYou’ve got a deadline and you’re starting to sweat. The project you’re working on just isn’t coming together as you’d hoped. It’s like your brain has shut down, but now is when you need it the most. What can you do?

Rather than sitting there and becoming more anxious and stressed, we’re commonly advised to get up and do something not associated with the problem, such as taking a short walk, do some cleaning, or listen to your favorite music. Does this advice really work? And if so, why?

If you’ve tried it, you know that it does work. And here’s why:

Your prefrontal cortex (your forehead area) works to concentrate on the task in front of you but it’s also supposed to retrieve stored information from your memory. Then it combines these two elements so you can solve the problem. The problem that’s described above arises because you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the task. It can’t do the search and retrieval from your memory. When you get up and get involved in a different activity, it gives your brain a break. Now your prefrontal cortex has the freedom to search through your memory unhindered. It can then put together pieces of stored information in completely new ways.

For your brain to come up with creative solutions for your problems, you need to allow your brain to go through these four phases.

Put the knowledge into your brain’s memory banks. Your brain can’t retrieve what’s not in your memory. By reading extensively, conversing with experts, and attending workshops, you can gather a great deal of useful information. This exploration gives a variety of perspectives that you can apply to the problem.

Give your brain a break. Engage in activities totally unrelated to the subject. If you can, take the sage advice: "Why don't you sleep on it?” Getting away from a problem and letting the subconscious mind work on it often allows creativity to spring forth.

Let the brain combine the present task with the retrieved knowledge. This phase of the creative process is the most exciting because it’s at this time that you discover the idea or solution that you’re seeking. Don’t simply dismiss your ideas because they seem too far-fetched. Instead, jot them down. You can refine them later. And, who knows, they may be the beginning of a great solution.

Have the courage and self-discipline to train your brain to evaluate and Implement. Identify the ideas that are workable and that you have skills to implement. If you encounter temporary obstacles, don’t give up. Failure will lead to better ideas.

If you find that you’re prone to jumping from one project to the next, take a look at my website – Personal Growth/Gifted Adults - for why this might be happening and how you can develop your abilities more fully.

Need help unleashing your creativity? Consider setting up an appointment with a psychologist. You don’t have to be suffering to get help, especially if you want to optimize your mental health. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office for an in depth consultation.



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