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Note: This is a guest post by Kristen Galles of BookClubClassics.
Recently I have experienced a spate of technological difficulties of the nature that frequently plague new bloggers who, amazed by the amount of free information available on the web, decide to do everything themselves! The difficulties were just hard enough to be frustrating, but not quite insurmountable so I found myself stuck in a mental loop, obsessing over finding solutions.
I believe the proper psychological name for this is “perseveration” — when your mind worries a problem like a dog worries a bone… like a song that gets stuck in your head and can’t find its way out… like an argument that is resolved only in your mind… over and over…
Realizing this obsession confronts us all from time to time, I thought it might be useful to learn — or simply be reminded of — ways to break out of a mental loop…
1. Get Moving.
Personally, a walk outdoors is the first tactic I try. Any exercise is bound to help, but wide open spaces can provide perspective faster than the interior loop of a treadmill.
2. Find Flow.
Any activity that encourages flow will take you out of your mind and into a more meditative state. Riding my horse does this for me since I must concentrate on her and my surroundings and not on my own mental world. Really, any activity that you love enough to lose yourself in will work.
This item should be no surprise to the readers of my blog, BookClubClassics. When I was recently experiencing computer problems, I was also working on my latest kit which was fortunately on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Just try thinking about anything else while wrestling with Woolf’s stream of consciousness meditations on mortality — I dare you! Within minutes I was trapped in Woolf’s mind rather than my own, which was a welcome diversion (obviously my own issues were pretty severe…)
4. Sleep on it.
This trick worked well for me in college when I was struggling to find an original, interesting thesis. Think of the problem or, even better, write the problem down, right before going to bed. Now, I recommend then reading a bit of fiction to free your mind from your problem. When you first wake up — see what solutions have come to you in the night.
5. Talk to a friend.
My introverted nature compels me to place this tip last, but many would prefer to try this first. Finding a good listener who allows you to work through your condundrum verbally is invaluable.
This time around, my technological problems were resolved by the time I reached tip #3, but I’ve used all of the above with success. It is easy to forget that our brains are able to work on problems subconsciously, and sometimes the best thing to do is to get out of our own way!
Hope these tips help the next time you are trapped in the confines of your mind. Any other ideas? I would love to hear them!
Kristen Galles has taught English at a public high school for 15 years and writes about yesterday and today’s literary classics at her own blog: BookClubClassics. If you enjoyed her post, consider subscribing to her feed or check out one of her favorite posts 5 Ways to Finish That Book Even Faster.
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