But even when we do get the chance to take a break, it can be hard to rest. If you’re like me, the challenge of quieting my “monkey mind” has gotten a lot worse in the last year or so.
What’s the monkey mind?
The human mind is a part of your brain that deals with higher-level functioning. It’s what makes us “human,” thoughtful, and purposeful. When we’re working or relating to friends and family, we want to be using our human mind.
However, the human mind is computationally intensive – it can only do so much at once. If we’re tired, stressed, lonely, or hungry, our human mind works at a deficit. When our human mind runs out of gas, our monkey mind enters the stage!
The monkey mind is geared toward clearing the decks. Its goal is to make quick, mindless decisions to calm the rest of the brain down and get back into equilibrium. It’s trying to help, but that help often looks like distraction and spinning wheels.
So when we’re trying to figure out where to get a vaccine, when you’re going to get to the grocery store, why that project is late, and how to get your son focused on his homework, your monkey brain kicks in, and you find yourself scrolling Twitter for an hour instead of writing an email (Hypothetically, I’m talking in hypotheticals…) your monkey brain is to blame!
How do I tame the monkey brain?
You can do three things to put out the fire in your brain and get back to productive work.
1. Stop multi-tasking
I’ve had to go hard-core on this.
This is more than just turning off your notifications and shutting down your social media, email, slack, and other distractions.
I’m trying to make sure that I have one purpose for every hour of the day, and if I find myself working on something else, I return to that one purpose.
2. Get grounded (breath, observe, be)
When I find the monkey brain running around my brain, I know I need to stop and attend to that monkey! If I ignore it, it gets worse.
How do I attend to the monkey? I stop. I focus on my breath, notice what’s happening in my body and be for a minute or ten.
I often find that the monkey brain covers up some deeper worry, stress, or “upset” feeling that needs my attention.
Going for a walk – even if it’s just to the bathroom and back can often break the spell and give me some perspective. Bonus points if I can get outside!
What are you doing to stay in your human mind more often?