It's time to turn your brain off
If there's one thing I've learnt on my year out, it's that sometimes, we all need to shut down.
There are two key aspects of the mental shut down which I now live by. The let out and the chill out.
Primarily, the 'let out' is catharsis.
Crying. Keeping feelings bottled up can obviously have much more exaggerated consequences than letting feels flow out slowly.
Compare letting the air out of a balloon slowly or letting it bang. Nobody wants to explode. But sometimes we find ourselves approaching the explosion point, and that is when we need to let out. In the same way as throwing up after a night out is your body's way of trying to remove the alcoholic toxins affecting it, crying acts as a removal of negative build up of toxic feelings.
An example from my own experience was the death of Allan Rickman. The night I found out he died I watched HP and the Deathly Hallows (pt 2). When I told people this they thought I was trying to torture myself by watching his character die. But no, it gave me specific cause to cry. I released the grief.
Dr Nick Knight (The Independent, 2014) defines three types of tears; basal (moisturising your eye), reflex (to remove foreign material- 'onion tears') and psychic or psychogenic tears (our natural response to strong emotions). The let out, or psychic, 'tears even contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin – perhaps, part of the reason why you might feel better after a good cry!'
Tears come from overwhelming emotion, be that joy, frustration or pain. As Jean Daly (actress and drama teacher quoted by Allison Aubrey, NPR Morning Edition, August 2010), the catharsis of crying is 'what makes us human'. When we cry, and I mean proper cry, we allow ourselves to let go of our inhibitions and release the tension build up in our brains caused by the stress of such intense feeling.
It's not ok to cry, it's GOOD to cry. Next time you feel like it's all a bit much, whoever you are, find a safe space, cry it out, maybe rip up a newspaper if you feel that will help, and look at the situation with fresh eyes. I promise it'll make you feel even a little bit better.
The other aspect of giving your brain a break from stress is the chill out. This one is a little more self explanatory, but potentially harder to accomplish.
When we are working towards a goal it is often very hard to switch our brains off and remove ourselves from the situation. This is even harder now given the infiltration of work emails into our home lives through our smart phones. It's ok to turn off your phone.
The human brain cannot work at 100% power all the time. It is why coffee breaks are a crucial part of the working day. We all have an attention span and we all have a limit.
One way a lot of people shut their brains down is by watching 'trashy' TV shows, the most recent to be studied is the popularity of Love Island among intellectuals and those in high stress jobs. It turns out, this is not a guilty pleasure, but a means to optimise your brain power by letting it temporarily switch off.
Clinical psychologist Renee Mill (quoted by Natalie Green originally on kidspot.com.au) refers to one reason we watch reality TV (along with escapism) as 'switch-off time. Away from reality in a world of ridiculousness which allows the brain to switch off and relax. No thinking needed, and knowing it is dramatic and over the top allows for a certain amount of non-engagement that is a stress release.'
I have found myself in the past questioning why ‘intellectuals’ can love 'trashy' TV and books over more critically acclaimed options, but as Mills reminds us, 'serious movies can be more draining.' After a long day of using your brain, watching Love Island is preferable to watching a political documentary.
Whatever the method is, what matters is that the chill out and the let out happen. Those things that we call 'guilty' pleasures really are not guilty at all- otherwise you're feeling guilty for giving your brain what it needs when to perform its best when called upon.
Some days you do need to cuddle in bed and watch a whole series of Game of Thrones because your brain is tired. Some days you need to cry and eat ice cream. Some days you need to sit in the sun and read your favourite book. Some days you just need to release your stress physically and mentally. It's time to let it all out, and switch your brain off, and that's ok.
I’m Bea. Like the insect, the letter, the verb. Any jokes have already been made.