Are You Taking Time For You? How Your Brain Can Help You.

I am writing this piece at a time when, for me, caring for a 3 year old, going back to work after over a year in lockdown and juggling home life means the answer to the title of this paper is definitely NO!

If this rings true for you, or even if it doesn’t, then you may want to keep reading as I’ll be sharing my own challenges and solutions to this problem and discovering how our brains are wired to help us in this area of enquiry. 

These past few weeks as lockdown has eased, and the demands on my time are getting greater and I grapple to keep up with the speed at which life is changing, I have less and less time set aside for myself. So many other things are taking my focus such as childcare, travel, cleaning, shopping, cooking, working and life admin. It’s tricky to find that ever changing sweet spot of life V’s me. 

As a mum I suffer terribly from mama-guilt if I feel I’m putting my need for ‘me’ time above the needs of my child. I know many of you will know exactly what I’m talking about! It’s a terrible dilemma because the only way to meet my child’s needs is to meet my own needs first. I know that giving myself that little slice of freedom during the day will enhance my parenting ability, lengthen my patience and give me better focus, but oh the guilt that comes with it!

My other challenge is that when I’m stressed, overworked or spiritually undernourished my art suffers. Suddenly there’s no space in my timetable (or in my mind for that matter) to paint or draw – Im drained of creative energy. When we have demands on our time we use up our stores of energy, if these stores get depleted then the last thing we feel like doing is being creative. It doesn’t matter how many tubes of paint we buy in anticipation of painting something, anything! It doesn’t matter how many art classes we join or YouTube tutorials we watch. So what can we do about this? How can we start to introduce guilt-free time for ourselves again? How can we strike that balance between life and creativity? Where’s the sweet spot?

Well, the good news is that Neuroscientists have uncovered a correlation between your brain’s resting state (or idle mode) and creativity. Yesterday I was listening to the wonderful Neuroscientist, Sabina Brennan. She has a wonderfully funny podcast called Super Brain and a book ‘Beating Brain Fog’ where she talks about exactly this. For more information on the various studies try reading this article

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/ It’s pretty lengthy so go to half way down where the science gets uncovered. 

In a nutshell Neuroscientists are saying that when we stop juggling our daily tasks and allow ourselves to sit still for a little while our brains start to go into idle mode (a bit like a car engine smoothly idling). This actually leads to increased brain activity compared to when we’re actively engaged in a task. Neuroscientists believe that this is when ideas and creativity emerge. Cool huh? Giving ourselves time to sit quietly and daydream/reflect, without going into boredom, helps us to generate ideas, problem solve, have greater creativity and much more. It’s doing all the hard work for us whilst we sit and relax, restoring our depleted energy stores and giving us a daily boost of creativity. It’s a similar scenario to when we’ve gone to bed thinking about a problem and then we wake up in the morning with the answer. I love it when this happens, Iv wasted no time or energy racking my brain for the solution, instead the solution has found it’s way to me. 

So the next time you have a chance to sit quietly with a cuppa don’t reach for your phone or that magazine, just sit there and let your mind wonder, watching your thoughts emerge and then drift away as if in meditation. Yes, that inner voice might say “but hang on you’ve got stuff to do, people to call and dinner to cook” and it might be absolutely right, but not before you get your 15 mins of creative stillness that is just for you. Before you know it you’ll have enough creative energy to start your art practise once again and then you’ll have that sweet spot of ‘me’ time.