Hamster Wheel

Our brain is a very interesting and powerful organ. Whatever we feed it can make or break us. Our minds soak up a lot of information including the thoughts that we have and if we are not consciously filtering our thoughts, they can really take over us. Sometimes this process is slow, or we do not recognize how we are shaping our brain, but it truly does eventually have a great impact.

Have you ever been thinking of something, or worried about something and then before you know it you are thinking about that thought over and over again? Or, maybe your mind may have thought up many new thoughts that led to other thoughts and then you forgot the one you were originally thinking about! Our minds can take a thought and run with it if we let it.

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You may have heard of the terms hamster wheel and snowball effect. Both describe what happens to our brain when we overthink, or think in an anxious manner. The hamster wheel basically describes how someone persistently thinks the same thoughts over and over again, but gets nowhere because their thoughts go around and around in circles like a hamster running on a hamster wheel. The snowball effect states that our thoughts continue to gain momentum and power the more that we keep thinking. Like a snowball that gets bigger as it rolls down a hill, the thoughts keep gaining speed and power as it collects more momentum, our thoughts are fueling more thoughts.

These patterns of thinking happen to all of us, but I feel like they may be more common in individuals that are deep-thinkers, or are prone to anxiety. I know that I fall into both of these categories and once my mind gets going, it can be very hard to get it to stop. I have found ways that have helped though. First, it helps to calm the mind from all of the racing thoughts. Ways to do this include meditation, focusing on your breathing, observing details in the objects around the room you are in, anything that can shift your brain away from the current thoughts you are having. Once your mind is calmer, then you can put your energy into a project, or your to-do list, keeping active to avoid overthinking too much. If your mind was running because you were pondering a decision, or because of a question that you have, once you have relaxed some, try to look at the decision or question at hand logically and try to remove as much emotion as possible. Try to be mindful when your mind starts to wander astray from focusing just on the task at hand, which is to solve your question, or make a decision.

It is definitely easier said than done, but try not to let your mind run away on you! I still struggle with this often, but it really does rob one of a peaceful day. Having some control of the mind makes for a much easier way of life!

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Energy

As much as we would like to think that our mental and physical energy is infinite, it is definitely not. This is a lesson that I have learned over many years. It’s human nature to want to keep going and keep giving, but if we do not recharge and take time for ourselves, we will eventually have no energy left to give to the people and the world around us.

Like all things that require energy to function, the source of the energy must be recharged, replaced, and replenished, in order to keep going and keep working. A cell phone needs its battery charged when it runs low, a car needs its battery changed every few years, or it eventually dies and the car won’t work, a lightbulb needs to be replaced when it burns out after so many hours of shining brightly. People are no different, we need to regroup and recharge in order to function at our highest potential.

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As human beings, we are always giving our energy, our time, and our attention to everyone and everything around us. We are using energy when we don’t even realize it, this can lead to a burnout especially if we do not recognize the signs that we need to stop and recharge before it’s too late. Our jobs, relationships, responsibilities, they all require so much from us. We also must be careful of certain people and situations that drain us of energy. People go through things and no one is positive all the time, but try to limit time with those that are constantly bringing you down and draining your energy, it’s very important to set boundaries. Same goes for staying in situations that do more harm than good. We have this instinct to keep giving our all and keep pushing, but if we do not know when to stop, we are hurting ourselves when we really can no longer even help any else because we are depleted.

I am the kind of person that always likes to help others, always devoting time to lift people up and listen to them, I will do anything in my power to be there for someone that I love and because of this, I have had many moments where I have hit a wall and shut down. I could no longer give, I could no longer even keep myself afloat. I was burned out and could no longer help anyone, including myself. This is why it is so important to recognize when you are over-expending your energy, so that you can prevent burnouts.

There are many ways to recharge. Enjoy your favorite hobbies, watch movies, be with nature, read a book, take a hot bath, journal, just spend time alone and regroup. Remember if you don’t look out for yourself, you can’t possibly give your all to others in your life. Do something nice for yourself, your mind and body will thank you!

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