How to get over a mental block
Brain fog, mental block, fuzzy thinking — whatever you want to call it, it’s a phenomenon that we’ve all dealt with at one time or another. The feeling of complete inertia that cripples you and seems to hold you in a place like an invisible force. It prevents us from being productive, expressing ourselves creatively, and accomplishing even basic tasks.
Yet, there are ways you can fight this mental malaise and battle your way through the clouds to clearer skies. In this guide, you’ll see ten of the best creative ideas for overcoming mental fatigue so you don’t have to succumb to complete inactivity during these moments.
1. Go back to basics
It sounds overly simplistic, but every now and again, it’s worth thinking of the Maslow hierarchy of needs to see if there’s something you’ve been neglecting. Maslow said that we can’t focus on getting anything more important done if we haven’t attended to our basic physiological needs.
It could be that you’ve spent the past four hours working without so much as a sip of water or a bite to eat, and you’re struggling with dehydration or lack of energy. Maybe you just finished a grueling week-long project, and you’re unable to focus on your work — which could simply be the result of operating at a sleep deficit.
How can you expect to do your best work when you deprive yourself of your basic needs?
There’s a simple fix to avoid overlooking your needs, and it’s to bring mindfulness to your day. You may have heard of the 20-20-20 rule to avoid eye strain — every 20 minutes, look away at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds — but do you actually apply this principle during your workday?
It’s so easy to go through an entire day without checking in on what your mind or body needs, so a quick checkup every 30 minutes or hour can make a difference.
2. Shift your perspective
Sometimes it can feel as if you’ve hit a brick wall; that you’re confronting an insurmountable problem. This is seldom the case since most problems have been solved by someone before, so the knowledge and resources are out there.
In this instance, one of the best things you can do is shift your perspective and try something new. Labeled by some as the ‘fresh eyes approach,’ switching up your point of view can work wonders for clearing mental blockages.
Take the example of designing a house.
Say you’re trying to configure the living room, but you can’t pinpoint the perfect arrangement. What if you were to put yourself in the shoes of a working parent who gets home from work at the end of a long day and wants nothing more than to enter an inviting living room and sink into the couch?
This simple perspective shift, in which you view the problem through a different lens, can help you think about a problem in a novel way.
3. Take a break
Remember how your parents used to tell you to take a break whenever you’d get frustrated trying to complete a level of your favorite game?
Well, as reluctant as you might have been to put the controller down, the truth is taking a break often helped. We’re here to tell you that this strategy can work just as well for allocating your company’s budget as it can for beating Bowser.
Sometimes, all it takes is a 10–20 minute break to recharge your batteries and approach a task with renewed enthusiasm and make the breakthrough.
4. Beat inertia through action
Inertia saps your energy and puts you into a daze in which nothing seems possible. Even the smallest of tasks or movements seems like a Herculean effort — be it a phone call to your internet provider or writing an email to your boss asking for time off.
The best way to beat inertia is to shock it out of your system with quick, decisive action.
Pick up the phone even when you don’t know what to say, start typing that email even if it sounds too informal, and open that blank Word document even if the very thought of doing so strikes you with crippling fear.
5. Tackle small tasks
Sometimes, the inertia or mental block you encounter isn’t down to feeling swamped or being stuck on one particular problem. Instead, it’s a result of contemplating the sheer magnitude of a task on your plate.
Let’s say you’ve made the big decision to move abroad to a foreign country. You might feel confident about the process and know exactly what steps to take, but it can still seem like a gargantuan undertaking.
In this instance, it’s best to work smarter, not harder. Breaking down the process into a series of small tasks is your best bet. For example, one day, you could call an immigration lawyer, and on another, submit your application and supporting evidence. This should clear up any paralyzing mental fog that threatens to keep you in place initially.
Remember, inertia despises action-takers, so if you can be decisive and build momentum with small tasks, you’ll reach your goal sooner than you think.
6. Go for a run
It may be a popular Hollywood blockbuster cliche, but that montage in which the protagonist finally gets their act together usually involves some form of physical activity.
We’re not saying you need to channel your inner Forrest Gump and become a veteran runner overnight, but moving around can be the best remedy to stagnation. A mental block might not seem like a physical problem, but sometimes releasing trapped energy can help you restore balance to the body and clear your mind.
Some of the best thinkers cite a daily walk or run as instrumental in any breakthroughs when digesting a big problem.
Even Ancient philosophers like Aristotle were known for going on long walks. They even had a word for people like Aristotle back then, ‘peripatetic,’ which means someone who paces while teaching. The movement was seen as the key for unlocking deeper thinking and conversation.
7. Use productivity tools
Productivity tools were invented for a reason — to help you bounce back from a slump or simply streamline your productivity efforts. With the right tools, you can better focus on the task at hand, block out distractions, or organize your workload.
The Stack spatial browser allows you to do all three, so you can take control of your digital life and better equip yourself to deal with modern-day distractions that can throw you off course.
8. Take a breather
We’ve explored the benefits of taking a break from what you’re currently working on, but how you spend that time is also important. One of the best things you can do is sit upright in your chair and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
It doesn’t have to be a formal practice of meditation to be effective. All you need to do is take a moment or two to focus on something other than the swirling maelstrom of thoughts in your mind that threatens to tip you over the edge.
Sometimes, your best ideas will come to you when you’re not actively thinking about the problem. Let your subconscious mind get in on the action by giving your conscious mind a brief respite.
9. Clear your workspace
Marie Kondo made minimalism popular with her immensely satisfying home makeovers and principles for living a simple life. Living clutter-free is more than just a way to derive satisfaction, though.
When you clear your work environment, you allow your mind to focus on one thing without wandering. Everything on your desk, even if you don’t think about it, could be distracting you. The biggest culprit is your phone — you know, the device that incessantly buzzes and lights up the side of your face with notifications.
10. Ask for help
Even if you’ve tried all of the strategies outlined in this guide, you might need assistance to hurdle your mental block.
Maybe you’re struggling with a work project and have a coworker who could lend a hand, or perhaps it’s a university assignment, and you have a lecturer with open office hours during the week.
Whoever it is, asking for help from someone else can help you realize that this mental block is temporary — and that it’s something we all deal with from time to time.
Mental blocks are tough to deal with, but with the right actions, you can fight your way out of them. Most effective strategies for dispersing mental fog involve taking a break, re-focusing from a different perspective, or breaking your workload down.
Once you’ve overcome mental blocks a few times, you’ll know what to do the next time the fog descends.
Use the Stack spatial browser to free yourself from mental blocks and focus on individual tasks without getting flustered. Join the waitlist for Stack Next today.