Let’s face it: there’s no better feeling than going to bed knowing that you’re well prepared for the next day. So, in this podcast (episode #316) and blog, I am going to talk about how to self-regulate your thinking using the Neurocycle to prepare for a busy week and reduce your stress levels and risk for burnout.
As you have heard me say many times before, mind-management plays an important role in everything you do. The mind comes first, and everything else follows. Getting your mind right for a busy week may take you around 5-15 minutes, but this effort could save you hours of anxiety and frustration, while also reducing feelings of being overwhelmed.
We can build neural networks into our brain to prepare us for the week ahead—we can literally build the week as we go forward. But how? Below is an example of the most recent Neurocycle I did to prepare my mind for a busy work week. As I discuss in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, my app Neurocycle and my recent clinical trials, the Neurocycle is a deliberate, intentional and sequential 5-step process designed to help you control your “messy mind” and wire healthy thought patterns and resilience into your brain:
1. Gather Awareness:
What are your emotional warning signals? Are you anxious, fearful or worried as you think about the week ahead? What are your physical warning signals? Are you grinding your teeth? Are your shoulders tense? Do you have a sore stomach? What are your behavioral warning signals? Are you more snappy than usual? Do you find it hard to smile? Are you complaining a lot? Lastly, what is your perspective? Do you feel overwhelmed?
Why do you feel the way you do? Answer this question with as much detail as possible. Do you have too much on your plate? Do you have an intense schedule, with no room for a break/rest period? Are you trying to deal with multiple issues at once?
Once you have thought about the “why”, ask yourself this affirming question: “Am I going to be happy with this decision hours, days, or months from now?”
3. Write: note down the information you collected from the gather and reflect steps above to help organize your thinking and look for patterns.
4. Recheck: What are your thought “antidotes”? How can you think of ways to change your thinking, choices and behavior? What new habit do you want to build? For example, do you need more breaks in your schedule? How many? What would these look like? I personally love taking mental health breaks by relaxing in the sauna or watching my favorite TV show. Ask yourself questions like:
- What can I change?
- What can’t I change?
- What is my mindset like?
Often, we don’t even realize that negative conversations and thoughts can influence us for hours and even days—I often forget about this! Indeed, for most people, it even feels natural to complain about the weather, politics, or their job as part of their daily routine. However, if you start your day by complaining about your job, workload partner, family, or whatever is on your mind, you can take that negative mood with you for at least a few hours, and sometimes even for the entire day!
Yet, if we are constantly complaining, we tend to focus on obstacles and problems, which can make it harder for us to recognize opportunities. When we do this, we tend to feel less empowered, and are less likely to start the day off on the right foot.
If this sounds like you, you can reconceptualize your thinking in this step by reminding yourself that:
“My thinking, feeling, choosing and subsequent thoughts will not only affect my motivation, but also my entire state of mind for the week ahead. If I start my day by just complaining, I may find more and more things to complain about throughout the day because whatever I think about the most grows. If, however, I focus on another perspective, I may come across even more things that will cheer me up and boost my perspective. Instead of looking for things to complain about, I will choose to focus on the things I am excited about and grateful for, and all the benefits that the week ahead may bring.”
If you struggle to come up with items for your list of things to be happy about, I recommend starting with the more obvious but often overlooked things, such as:
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I love
- I’m grateful to be able to share what I do with the world
- I’m grateful for the impact my work is having/will have
- I’m excited about X
- I won’t assume the situation is going to be difficult; instead, I will list what the possibilities are and what questions I should ask myself to find out more – maybe the situation won’t be as challenging as I imagine!
When I do this, I am able to plan my week well and fit in the breaks I need because I start the process with getting my messy, anxious mind under control.
5. Active reach:
Take action to solidify the new way of thinking and acting that you rechecked in step 4 above. I recommend typing your plan reminders into your phone or device, so that you can remember to follow through with them throughout your day. But remember to keep an open mind, or what I call a “possibilities mindset”. Be open to changing this plan if the need arises, or if what you are doing is not helping you.
And don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed in the early hours of your day. Prepare ahead and set your priorities in the evening before your day begins.
I also recommend that, when planning your daily schedule and tasks, you make sure to keep it to a minimum, so you don’t stress yourself out even more. Your schedule shouldn’t contain more than a few important tasks per day, if possible (some work periods/deadlines will be the exception).
For more on managing stress and burnout, listen to my podcast (episode #316), and check out my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and app Neurocycle. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
To learn more about how to manage your mental health and help others, join me at our 7th Annual Mental Health Solutions Retreat, December 2-4, 2021! The core focus of this conference is to give you simple, practical, applicable, scalable, and scientific solutions to help you take back control of your mental health, help others, and make impactful changes in your community. You will also learn how to manage the day-to-day stressors of life as well as those acute stressors that blindside us. Our goal is to address your most pressing mental health concerns, help you find answers, and equip you with the knowledge and resources you need to make the change from a life of barely surviving to one where you are thriving. Register today at drleafconference.com!
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2:30 What happens when you go to sleep anxious about the week ahead
3:33 Planning for a busy week using self-regulation
4:40 Why I like to use the Neurocycle for everyday anxieties & worries
5:50 What happens in the brain when you feel overwhelmed
6:10 The importance of balanced beta energy in the brain
12:25 Why the mind always comes first
13:00 How I use mind-management when I have a busy week ahead of me
14:00 How to use your mind to prepare your brain for stressful periods in your life
16:00 What is mind-management & how do you do it?
17:20, 24:00 Using the 5 steps of the Neurocycle to plan for the week
26:00 How to make a busy week for you instead of against you
30:50 The importance of building rewards & rest into your week
31:10 How over-complaining can affect your mental health
This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.