What to do When Your Brain Doesn’t Let You Work

When your brain is distracted, and your head is foggy, do these things.

Like every single human ever (I say that so you know you’re not alone), I have off-days. As much as I’d love to be productive on these days, my brain just isn’t feeling it.

I get distracted by things that don’t usually steal my attention so easily, and if someone peeked inside my head, they wouldn’t find a brain — only a foggy graveyard.

I’ve noticed that I have trouble controlling the attention I give my thoughts, too. Humans are always thinking and daydreaming, but we’re good at not letting our thoughts overwhelm us.

On these days, however, every thought screams and fights for a place at the forefront of my mind.

Trying to focus while dead zombies growl loudly in that foggy graveyard that is your brain is like trying to write in the midst of a raging party.

Yet, I’d try to get some work done anyway because it’s what everyone says to do. If you’re sick, work. If you’re tired, work anyway. If your head hurts, too bad! You’ve got to work.

I figured if I sat down, opened my laptop, and started typing, that distracted and foggy feeling would disappear. I was wrong every time.

I’d end up seated for an hour, trying and trying, only to end up having wasted time with nothing good to show for it.

What made it worse was the disappointment and anger I’d feel afterward. I’d beat myself up for not trying harder or being unable to work through it. That made the thoughts in my head even louder, and the anger, stronger.

So, I quit trying. I can work if I’m tired or I have a cough and runny nose, but I can’t work if my brain doesn’t let me. Instead of working, this is what I do so I can work.

1. Turn off all of your devices

When I start working, and I get that unfocused vibe from my brain, I know I’ll only end up wasting time.

Instead, I close my laptop and turn off my phone. Social media, texting, or even reading articles from Medium aren’t going to help.

Your best bet is to get off of technology for a couple of hours.

2. Take a break

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

You have to stop thinking about the work you have to finish.

Trust that the best thing for you is to back away and take care of yourself first so you can focus later.

You want to do something that puts your brain on chill-out mode.

The things that have worked include playing solitaire while listening to a relaxing playlist, reading outside, taking a walk or cruising on my skateboard, working out, and journaling.

Since these activities require no stress, they help calm my thoughts.

You can build a puzzle, ride your bike, go for a drive, paint, or anything else that forces your brain to unwind.

If you took a nap, you’d be escaping those thoughts, not calming them. It’s crucial that you do something you know will help you regain your focus.

4. Do this for at least two hours

I’ve noticed my head doesn’t calm down after twenty-minutes into my break. It takes hours for me to fully relax, and that could be your case too.

You don’t have to stick to one activity. You can go from working out, to taking a bath, to building a puzzle on your kitchen table. These are hours of self-care, and you can do whatever you want.

Don’t take it lightly. You should take self-care as seriously as you take your work.

Don’t apologize for taking the time to care of yourself and refuel.

5. Don’t watch any TV

It’s really easy to be tempted to escape into another world, whether that’s through a film or a Netflix series, when you feel this way.

I know because I’ve been tempted and have caved in to that temptation numerous times before to see if it helps. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Watching TV actually makes me feel worse, and you likely won’t feel any better either.

6. Get back to work

Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Pay attention to how you feel. If your brain is quiet, your heart is calm, and you feel at peace, then you can get back to work.

Once that fog has cleared, and the graveyard has transformed into an actual brain again, you can finally do what you do best and work your ass off.

Don’t force yourself to work if your head is saying you can’t. You’ll only waste time, and it’s important you put yourself first.

You’re not going to accomplish anything, so you might as well do something about it.

What are you waiting for? Go relax!

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