The Restless Mind
Has it happened that you have a good night’s sleep and feeling physically rested but tired in the mind? Or, an easy day at work. Not very many stress points. But, at the end of the day one feels exhausted and mentally drained.
This is a common occurrence with me. And, it took me many years and a lot of reading to realise, the problem is not with activity but our restless mind.
At the end of a tiring day or even after a hectic party we come home ready to hit the bed. Sometimes, we crash out within minutes sinking into deep sleep. But, when we wake up don’t feel fresh and ready for the day.
Morning blues are generally associated with clinical depression. But, I am not talking of that here. I am referring to plain exhaustion and lack of energy. On such occasions, I would urge you to reflect a little on dreams. What goes through our mind even in sleep determine the subconscious quality of the sleep.
It is not always anxiety or nightmares that cause the problem. That’s a different proposition. But, sometimes the mind is over active while we are sleeping. There are times when I get up for a comfort break at night. But, on returning to bed sit for a couple of minutes to pause the thoughts. It feels almost like taking a short down time at work after an intense mental activity.
The day time syndrome I mentioned is not boredom. It is one of those easy days that releases a lot of free time. We experience it at home on holidays or long breaks. These are days when we let the mind free almost like, you may not like the analogy, letting a cow graze in the field. The problem arises not because of releasing the tether but not keeping an eye on where the cow is going.
Before we realise, thoughts gush in. Very soon the chatter in creates turns to a loud background noise. In no time the mind sputters in all directions. Social media is the new monster on the block. Once sucked into it, we surrender our mind control and get sucked into its vortex. Binge watching television — like Netflix — also has a similar effect.
The first step is to be aware. We need to be conscious of the thoughts floating into the mind and not get caught in their web. If we let go, it will either take us to uncharted territories triggering emotions and reactions. One thought will lead to another. Some may get us worked up. Others can cause anxiety or panic attacks. We may jump into doing something for the sake of it and get further trapped in a cycle.
The answer is not to substitute one kind of activity with another. Easy days and holidays are essential for our productivity and development. But, the key is not to lose control.
It is useful to engage ourselves in activities that are not taxing yet enjoyable.
It could be catching up on some old personal mails. Reading some articles that we had stored away for later. A visit to a library or art gallery. A lunch with a colleague that you have been putting off for a long time. A call to an old relative. Even a walk in the park it the weather is right.
But, avoid something that involves a lot of physical effort. For example, travelling in traffic. which itself can be tiring. For those so inclined (and have the opportunity) a work-out in the office gym or a mid week game of golf may work well.
But, we are not suggesting taking the day off — but how to make use of a light day gainfully. Whatever you do, the test should be at the end of it you should feel happy and energised.
Dealing with sleep is another ball game. Sleep specialists growing by the dozen and sleep clinics mushrooming everywhere. But, the subject here is not clinical sleep disorders like apnea or insomnia. For those problems you must go to qualified professionals. Here we are talking of calming the mind.
From counting sheep we have come to #AriannaHuffington’s sleep rituals. But, the idea is to calm the mind and cleanse it of the day’s residues before we shut our eyes.
Our scriptures say, we wake up with the thought that we go to sleep with. It works on the subconscious mind during sleep. Some, recommend short prayer or reading a holy or spiritual book. It could be the Gita or a book on Zen. Could be the writings of advanced souls, whom we admire or revere. I can think of many examples. Take your pick from — Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Autobiography of a Yogi, Thich Nhat Han to name a few. You can chose anything that attracts and you can relate to. Some find listening to chants helpful.
I have found one technique very useful and effective. It is a short less than two minute meditation. Closing your eyes you rewind in the mind the days activities in reverse sequence. That is starting with the end of the day to what you did the first thing in the morning. The trick is not to get caught in any particular action or sequence. Turn the clock back as we used to do with our old video players. End it with a short prayer or thanks to any deity or power that you may believe in.
It helps me. May or may not for you. Give it a shot if you like. You could well end up discovering on a method of your own.
As my Amazon Alexa says — “sleep tight, sweet dreams — it’s a cliche but it works”.