Tag Archive for: Sleep

RS200 Group B rally car in white with rally lights

Busy Brain and neurodiversity

My busy brain! (The crazy brain that never stops working and sometimes drives me up the wall!)

One of my favourite cars is the Ford RS200, based very loosely on the Ford Sierra. It is an insane Group B rally version of the Sierra, but I think the only things that were original Ford were the doors and possibly the bonnet. The engine in this car revs incredibly high, and its power-to-weight ratio means it has the type of acceleration you would typically see in a Formula One car. And this is how my brain feels sometimes, overpowered without enough traction to stay in a straight line. It looks like a standard car but nothing like an ordinary one under the bonnet.

Keeping my busy brain on the road

My brain often operates like an ideas machine, firing out many wonderful, interesting, far-out-there ways of thinking about a problem or situation.

It sometimes behaves in a way that feels like my mouth can’t keep up, nor can my memory, meaning that ideas are flowing, and I can’t always capture them. It’s incredibly frustrating. I find I get loads of ideas and get inspired, which can take me off on all sorts of tangents. This can be both useful and incredibly tricky to manage. I’m particularly aware that when I’m communicating with others, if my brain starts to rev up, I can lose them and, as a result, have frustrating communications.

Driving in the suitable environments

When I feel safe and listened to, I can operate far better than when I feel threatened or unsure about what is happening. Also, how well I’m operating for the rest of my life and how well I’ve been looking after myself make a massive difference in how my brain works. For example, this busy brain can go into busy catastrophising if I’m having a tough time! So rather like the RS200, I risk blowing it up if I don’t look after it properly.

Keeping things ticking over

Keeping fit and healthy has become essential to managing my mental health, particularly my brain activity. I’ve noticed that when I exercise regularly, my brain operates far more effectively. This means I don’t tend to get overstressed and can also compartmentalise life more effectively. It’s almost like I need to go and burn some fuel to help support a healthy outlook.

Garage time matters

Sleep is essential for all of us, but more important for some. I’ve noticed that my mind is a complete mess when I don’t get enough sleep. I find it difficult to concentrate, can become easily distracted and ultimately waste a lot of time, so having a good sleep pattern means that my busy brain tends to cope more effectively and think more concisely about what I’m doing.

Knowing when you’ve hit the red line with the busy brain

Overwhelm is a reality we all experience, but particularly for me, I’m not always conscious when it’s happening. It will sometimes creep up on me and debilitate me to the point where I’m no longer racing; I’m barely crawling and unable to think or move forwards effectively. Simply put, the best solution is to pause and take a significant break. This means typically putting on my running shoes, contacting a friend and going for a long run. Once I’ve done this, I can generally return and effectively continue moving forward.

Capturing the magic

As I mentioned, my brain often throws out many ideas rapidly, and my biggest frustration is that my short-term memory can’t hold on to many ideas. This means that I get very, very frustrated in missing ideas and rethinking them at a later stage. I then recognised that I already had the thought but had forgotten it. I use Evernote to help me manage this effectively, as it allows me to dictate ideas straight into my phone and file them away. There are many tools you can use, and this is only one of them, but I like Evernote for the following reasons:

  • It’s platform-independent – it doesn’t matter if I change my phone or use my computer; it works everywhere.
  • It allows me to dictate –I can get my ideas out of my head quickly and efficiently.
  • It’s organised – Evernote will enable me to collect and reorganise my notes rapidly, meaning I don’t lose ideas, and I can formulate them in the right place quickly.
  • I can add images – I often think in pictures and get inspired by things I see, so photographing objects or situations and organising them with my thoughts enables me to capture this effectively.

When I am most busy

I find my brain working most effectively in the morning, in the shower, when I’m out on a run or exercising. I’ve noticed that to get the most out of what I’m doing; I need to remove all other distractions and be somewhere different.

How do I get my brain to tick over

Quietening my brain down can be tricky. As I’ve mentioned, exercise can be helpful, but sometimes not even that does the job. Verbalising my thoughts is effective, as when they are stuck in my head, they often whirl around continuously. I do not understand their importance or priority so I can be completely overwhelmed by something unimportant. I also find it helpful to have a structured routine to go to sleep and have time to wind down.

My wind-down routine looks like the following:

  • Screens off (no screens in the bedroom).
  • Get a drink of water.
  • Shower and go to the toilet.
  • Practice crow pose, crane pose, double arm lever and squat (I can give more details on this if you’re interested).
  • Turn the lights down.
  • Make sure the blackout blind is down.
  • Get into bed.
  • Read for 15 minutes.
  • Lights off.

If you would like to discuss managing your busy brain and some of the challenges and ideas I’ve written in this blog, please get in contact.

Warning: These processes have worked for me, and that doesn’t mean they will work for you. It would be best if you approached how you manage your neurodiverse traits like a project. You must try ideas out, keep the solutions that work and get rid of the ideas that don’t. There’s no harm in testing, but don’t throw away a process until you have something better to replace it with.