Your mind is so active it is exhausted. It has been churning over and over all the things that need to be done, that could be done, that ought to be done, it has been shouting at you, berating you, blaming you and generally never, ever shutting up. It is on overtime, it’s tired, it has become so exhausted with the tangled web of possible directions and decisions that it has stopped being able to help.
We need to allow it to have a break, to stop a while and clear some space for new thinking to come through. When a bin is full, you don’t keep chucking in the rubbish until it overflows all over the kitchen floor (at least not for long anyway!), you get a new bin liner, you empty the bin and you start afresh. The brain needs emptying on a regular basis to create the space for all the new thoughts you are going to fill it with.
When we are stress, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed we have metaphorically reached a point where the rubbish is spilling all over the kitchen floor.
This metaphor has limits of course, I’m not saying that everything we put into our brains is rubbish – although there is something to be said for sorting through the trash now and again and thinking about what we want to keep and what can be thrown away for good.
The thing about the mind going over and over things is that it gets to a point where it will be forced to stop unless we help it to slow down and clear. It will eventually go into a forced shut down and that’s when we go from endless distractions to just sitting and staring.
Where are you right now on the brain crash scale? Is your mind in a state of leaping from one thing to the next, forgetfulness, panic, headless chicken mode? Or has it gone full out into sit on the sofa and do nothing? Wherever you are right now, your brain is giving you a clear message – “stop this now or I will stop it for you”.
Most of our brain crashes result from having so many or so few options that we go into ambivalence. Having too many choices brings us to a standstill because they all seem like they could be good options, they could all be the ‘right’ road to take. But how do you know? What if one of them is the ‘wrong’ road? How do you make the decision?
The same results when we have too few options, we go into a sort of desperation mode. Do we choose to keep things the same, where they are at least safe and known or do we take a leap into the unknown where we may crash and burn? What would happen then? Especially if we have responsibilities and people who rely on us, would it be selfish to go for something different? To create uncertainty and possible hardship just so that we can be happier (perhaps). What if it doesn’t work out? We have let go of everything that was certain and faced the fire only to get burned ourselves and have burned everyone we love in the process.
When we are in headless chicken mode we are charging from one thing to the next, nothing is ever satisfactorily completed, things are forgotten, appointments are missed, work goes unfinished, stress permeates everything that you think, say and do. You are the king or queen of ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I can’t cope’ and it is the first thing you think whenever another task is placed before you.
It seems like no one understands the strain that you are under and yet you feel guilty too because you know that you should really be able to get more done and for things not to be as hectic as they are, you just don’t even have the breathing space to get organized. So you plough on, the days get filled with more and more stuff, your head stops you sleeping because you have so much you need to run over and consider.
Your relationships may be struggling too because you are so distracted with your to-do list and your growing list of ‘things not done’ that you can’t take the time out to relax with them, to really listen to them (your head is too full of your own stuff to be able to fit in theirs too), to make love to them or to understand and fufill their needs.
Your children are given the minimum interaction, you try to be there for them, to show that you are listening but really you are just going through the motions. Really you are desperate to get back to what you were doing, to thinking about what to do next, to come up with solutions, ideas and strategies.
Your social life is there but it is again, a bit of a pain to engage with it because there is so much you should be doing. When you do go out you want to numb your chattering, overworked mind and the best way to do that is to drink too much, feel like crap the next day and set yourself even further back on the path to making things happen.
It’s not that you want to live like this, you just can’t see another way at the moment. You don’t have time to smell the roses, to go to that exercise class, to do all the things that you suspect might help if only people would understand that you DON’T HAVE TIME.
Only you know you DO have time, you know that if someone would just show you how to relax and reorder things in a different way, time would appear and things would go well. Knowing that there is time and finding that time are two different and conflicting concepts that can perpetuate headless chicken mode for as long as your mind can take it.
What happens when the headless chicken can’t take it anymore? Read the next post in the series here.
If you feel like you are in Headless Chicken Mode right now then let’s have a chat about how I can help. You can book a free 30 min sessions with me here.