Do you ever feel like your mind is racing at a thousand thoughts per second? Do you have constant brain fog clouding your ability to think clearly and focus on important tasks?
You’re not alone. Millions of people across the globe experience these issues.
We’ve compiled nine proven practices you can try to improve your mental clarity. Here’s how to clear your head and unlock your mind’s potential.
When your mind is racing with stressful thoughts, the first thing to do is identify the root cause of your stress. What are you anxious about? Recognizing what’s causing you to feel overwhelmed is the best way to shift your perspective and calm your mind.
This, of course, can be easier said than done.
Journaling about your worries and racing thoughts is one of the most effective ways to pinpoint your stressors. Get a notebook and pen, and find a quiet place to spend uninterrupted time alone.
Close your eyes, take 10 slow, deep breaths, and allow your emotions to rise to the surface. Don’t fight them. Let them be acknowledged and focus on how you feel. Spend about five minutes just “feeling.”
Next, open your notebook and start writing in a stream of consciousness without stopping your pen. Don’t worry about how the words come out. Just keep expressing your thoughts and feelings.
This style of written venting can help you process your thoughts in order to discover the underlying emotions beneath your thoughts. As you uncover the emotions you’re feeling at that moment, go deeper and try to identify why you feel that way.
Is there something going on in your personal life that’s stressing you out? Are you having issues with a close friend, spouse, partner, or family member? Is someone close to you ill? Are you going through a break-up or divorce? Are you planning a big event like a wedding?
Perhaps something is going on at work. Are you anxious about an upcoming deadline or worried about losing your job? Is a colleague giving you a hard time?
Maybe you’re having money trouble. Are you struggling with debt? Have you recently lost your job and are finding it difficult to secure a new one?
Really dig deep into the emotions you’re feeling, and don’t hold back. Ask yourself if you’re feeling angry, afraid, sad, confused, disappointed, or hurt. Then write about where these emotions are coming from. Do they remind you of previous experiences when you felt similarly?
There’s no right or wrong way to journal. But it’s important to be fully honest, authentic, and vulnerable. Remember, this information is just between you and your journal. It’s safe to share whatever you truly think and feel. The more honest you are, the more you’ll be able to clear your mind and find greater mental focus.
2. Create a Detailed To-Do List
Once you’ve identified what is causing you stress and anxiety, you can create a plan of action in order to decrease your stress. First, distinguish those things you can change from those things that are out of your control.
Anything that’s not in your power to change must be put on the back burner—for now. Focus on the things within your control. Next, create a to-do list of everything you need to get done.
Whether you need to complete an urgent work project, paint your baby’s nursery, go to a doctor’s appointment, or pick up groceries, write it down. Empty your mind of all pending tasks and put them on paper.
Once you have your detailed list, identify the high-priority items and add a star next to each. Reorder your to-do list from most to least urgent, write down the activities associated with each task, and indicate the estimated time to complete them.
If it helps, consider using the Eisenhower Matrix to organize your tasks into one of the following four categories and work on them in that order.
- Urgent and important
- Non-urgent and important
- Urgent and non-important
- Non-urgent and non-important
Remember, the more information you get on paper, the less cluttered your mind will be.
Once you have everything down, start working on the urgent and important tasks immediately. Don’t wait. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. It only increases your stress levels, keeps your mind preoccupied with impending tasks, and adds guilt, which further increases your stress levels. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
Focus on one task at a time and see it through to completion. Break bigger tasks into smaller, manageable bits and take regular breaks with each completed milestone.
The more you get done, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel, and the more motivated you’ll be to keep going until you finish.
3. Declutter and Organize Your Space
Research has found that a cluttered physical space makes achieving the mental clarity required to complete tasks difficult. A cluttered space equals a cluttered mind.
A clutter-free frame of mind starts with getting rid of stuff you don’t need or no longer use. You might be surprised by how freeing and calming it is to declutter your space and create more breathing room to think clearly. There’s nothing more uplifting than working in a neat, clean space.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to keep versus what to get rid of, apply the three-year rule: anything that hasn’t been used in three years doesn’t belong in your space. If it can’t be repurposed into something useful, donate it or throw it away.
You don’t have to declutter everything all at once. You can dedicate a short time period every day to clearing your space until you have just the things you need, use, and love in your possession.
Turn on your favorite calming music and dedicate 15-30 minutes daily to decluttering and cleaning. Set a timer if necessary so you don’t get carried away. You’ll be amazed by how different your space looks in just a few days.
4. Move Your Body
Physical activity is incredibly helpful in clearing your mind. And it doesn’t have to be a long workout at the gym in order to be effective. Even 10 minutes of movement at home can have tremendous benefits on your mental clarity.
Physical exercise shifts your focus from your thoughts and worries to your body. It causes your brain to release endorphins, hormones that make you feel happy and energized.
It helps you release stressful energy from your body and reset your focus. You could take a short walk around the block, do some stretching and deep breathing, play with your dog, or put on your favorite music and dance.
Any kind of physical activity that helps you release tension and shift your focus will improve your mental clarity.
5. Get Better Quality Sleep
The CDC estimates that nearly a third of American adults don’t get sufficient sleep. Poor sleep quality is a major contributor to stress, anxiety, and brain fog. Try incorporating mindfulness into your nighttime routine if you’re having difficulty falling or staying asleep. Here are a few things you can do:
- Create an evening routine to help you wind down after a long day and condition your brain to know when it’s time to sleep.
- Get as much natural daylight as you can during the day. Take a quiet stroll outside during your lunch break and spend 15 minutes soaking up the sunlight. If you work in a particularly busy part of town, throw on your headphones and listen to soothing nature sounds to drown out the sound of honking car horns.
- Turn your phone on “do not disturb” at least two hours before bed and set it aside. The blue light emitted by your cell phone disrupts the release of melatonin in the brain, which helps you feel sleepy, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Take a warm bath before you lie in bed to help you relax.
- Spend some quiet time reading a book while sipping on sleep-inducing herbal teas such as chamomile, passionflower, and lavender.
- Add a few drops of lavender, peppermint, bergamot, or ylang-ylang essential oils to your bedroom oil diffuser to help you relax, clear your mind, and fall asleep.
- Listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation for sleep to help you drift off easily.
Recommended: Deep Sleep Celtic Meditation Music
6. Be Mindful of What You Eat and Drink
Did you know how you feel is often a direct reflection of your diet? That’s right. A recent report by Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine reveals that individuals who regularly consume highly processed foods are more likely to suffer from adverse mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
If you feel stressed and cannot focus, you might want to look into what you’re feeding your body. Sweetened breakfast cereals, candy, chocolate, hot dogs, burgers, sodas, etc., could be responsible for your lack of mental clarity. Processed foods and sugar-laden drinks cause inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
To clear your head and boost your overall mental health, minimize your consumption of junk food (or eliminate it entirely from your diet) and focus on eating brain-protective foods such as green leafy veggies, legumes like lentils and beans, salmon and other omega-3-rich foods, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit.
It’s also important to practice mindful eating. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel after you consume them. Listen to your body and let it help you make food choices.
Gut bacteria release several neurochemicals the brain uses to regulate various mental and physiological processes. Did you know that 95% of the body’s serotonin, a powerful mood stabilizer, is manufactured by gut bacteria?
If you tend to make unhealthy food choices when you’re stressed or anxious, it might help to journal about your feelings when you get the urge to eat.
Journaling and practicing mindful eating can help you uncover underlying issues your subconscious is grappling with and find healthy, productive ways to deal with them without turning to emotional eating.
Healthy eating is key to having a healthy mind.
Meditation is one of the most effective strategies for clearing your head in the midst of stress and anxiety. Even a short 10-minute meditation can help you calm down your racing thoughts, identify the raw emotions underneath your thoughts, and set your intentions for how to deal with them.
Mediation, regardless of the type, can help calm your mind and improve your focus. One effective meditation method for stress relief is mantra meditation. The word “mantra” translates to mind (man-) release (-tra).
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat silently or out loud during your meditation. This phrase you recite repeatedly can help your mind release self-limiting beliefs and unwanted emotions, allowing you to focus on and manifest your desired intentions and feelings. The more you use your chosen phrase in your mantra meditation practice, the more you associate it with feeling calm and centered.
If you need to clear your head before a big presentation, interview, meeting, or event, take a few minutes beforehand to close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and focus on reciting your mantra. Here are some affirmations you can use for inspiration.
- I am cool, calm, and collected. Nothing can faze me.
- I have peace of mind and peace of heart.
- I am still like the calm waters of a well.
- I am enough. I am worthy. I belong.
- I release the past and look to the future.
8. Avoid Ruminating on Your Problems
Rumination involves continuously thinking about, talking about, and revisiting your problems in your mind. This behavior not only stirs up negative emotions within you but also exacerbates symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Co-rumination with friends is just as destructive. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with venting to others about the struggles and issues you might be facing, you need to be clear on why you’re doing it.
Healthy emotional processing needs to be productive. The support you seek needs to be helpful and ultimately be geared towards identifying ways to solve your problems or highlight positives in your situation you might not be aware of.
If you find yourself repeatedly ruminating or co-ruminating on your problems, be mindful of your thoughts, identify the triggers that cause you to slip into this negative mindset, and look for healthy ways to process your feelings.
Consider journaling or going to therapy to help you work through your emotions. It’s okay to vent your feelings when necessary, but remember to be solution-oriented in your thinking so that you walk away with a positive outlook and a game plan for improving your situation.
9. Talk to a Therapist
Although you may feel like no one would understand what you’re going through, you are not alone in your problems. Regardless of how big the issue you’re facing might be, there’s someone who’s been in your shoes or understands how to help you navigate it.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances in your personal or professional life, talking to a qualified therapist can help take a load off and provide a fresh perspective. If the strategies we’ve outlined so far don’t work to ease your mental strain, seek professional help from a licensed psychologist or therapist.
Quieting your mind when endless tasks and growing worries weigh you down can be difficult, especially when your anxiety is through the roof.
Fortunately, practices like journaling, prioritizing tasks, organizing your space, exercising, eating healthy, meditating, or getting therapy can help you gain the mental clarity you need to become a peak performer in every aspect of your life.
In the meantime, did you know that focused breathing exercises can boost your concentration? Learn how here.