Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went there? Or are scrolling through Insta and can’t recall the last image you saw? Me too… I call it mental fog, and I’ve noticed that over the past few years, it’s becoming a much more common experience. It’s gone from occasional forgetfulness, to daily mindless-ness, and I’m convinced it isn’t down to simply turning thirty. So, I decided to sit down and really reflect on what has changed over recent years, and how this may be affecting me.
A quick google will reveal the internet’s diagnoses: stress, hormones, lack of sleep, diet, illness, and medication seem to be the top reasons behind mental fog, and whilst it’s easy to assume the worst, I have a feeling that our modern lifestyle is largely to blame.
Like most people in the western world, I’ve embraced new technology and allowed it into my home and life, I certainly welcomed the possibility of drowning out the silence of mundane tasks by watching Youtube on my phone, or beat myself into a submissive sleep by hopping between various social media platforms at 2 in the morning, forcing myself to keep reading until my eyelids couldn’t take it anymore. Technology offered a warm distraction away from the niggling questions as to why I couldn’t stand silence or feared to sleep. I didn’t need to think that deep, I didn’t need to acknowledge the problems I had, I could just plug myself into the tech and spend a few merry hours in the online world- the millennial’s equivalent to the opium dens of the Victorian age!
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but there is no doubting that the constant barrage of stimulation available at a click of a button can have a similar dulling effect on the senses. Looking back, I certainly have used technology as a way of distracting myself from my mental ill-health rather than confronting the underlying issues and, whilst today these issues are a thing of the past, the physical habits I formed back then still dominate my daily routine. An easy example of this is my phone – it’s always in my hand or nearby – a habit I formed back in 2015 when I became glued to the thing as it was my means of communication with my dying dad – I couldn’t afford to put it down as I may miss his call, and I didn’t know which call would be his last. Still today when my phone goes off, I get the occasional lurch in my stomach, before realising that everything is fine, and it’s just a call about PPI!
Even now, writing this, I had to force myself to turn the TV off and write in silence, something which came as a matter of course when I studied for my degree ten years ago- I’ve grown so used to back-ground noise.
With a move to Oxford on the horizon and the opportunity to start afresh, I am resolved to build some new habits. These won’t form overnight, but if I start thinking about them now, I can work to build them into my daily routine, both practically and mentally. Here are some of my ideas:
1. Do one thing at a time. Instead of watching Youtube, updating Instagram and talking on the phone, I will strive to do only one of these tasks at a time (recently I’ve noticed that I tend to do 2 or more things simultaneously to avoid feeling guilty or lazy – this thought pattern is negative and unhelpful so it’s got to go!).
2. Buy an inexpensive alarm clock (the type with hands and a face) and use this to wake me up in the morning instead of my phone.
3. Speaking of the phone, at night, plug it into charge IN ANOTHER ROOM so that I can’t ‘just check Facebook’ before going to sleep, thus avoiding falling into that particular rabbit hole (which usually takes at least 20 minutes to escape from…that’s 20 minutes of sleep I could be having!).
4. Embrace the silence. Whilst music, meditation apps and sleep stories are fun, and certainly have their place (I’m a great advocate of Mindfulness, which given the topic of this post, may seem a little ironic…) for me I need to reconnect with the friendliness of silence and learn to feel at ease with it.
5. Re-establish my meditation practice – The practice of Mindfulness has worked true wonders for me in the past, but I let my practice slip. I need to get back on this particular horse without delay!
How about you? Do you ever feel the mental fog descending, and if so, what do you do/ want to do to confront it? Feel free to leave your comments below! 😊