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Danielle Polgar, M.A.


'Blank Canvas Blues'

"Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself…a lllll day, and a llll night." - Fiona Apple.

Some days I wake up with ideas popping in my head like popcorn kernels.

Somehow, a few hours whiz by and none of these ideas have taken form. Then I freak out a little.

Admission: I'm a "do-er" and prone to perfectionism. And when I procrastinate I get the Blank Canvas Blues.

It's something I made up. It's the equivalent to staring at a blank canvas paralyzed with ideas. 

Here's the thing:

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "we are human beings, not human doings".  Sure, I agree.

And yet - we are creative. We LOVE to DO things. We have these fantastical organs inside our skulls (our brains) that enjoy making things happen. These intricate computers process enormous amounts of information everyday. 

Just like computers, sometimes our programming gets a little wonky. We have moments when that dreadful color wheel starts spinning out on the frozen screen of our minds. Some days, we may even experience a malfunction so big that our system shuts down and, "OH MY GOD", all the data (ideas) we just had are gone.

These temporary brain farts or meltdowns need to happen sometimes.  

It's ok to shut down and start over - again and again. It's part of being human.  

Let's quit being so hard on ourselves already. Being human is kind of crazy!  

So what to do?

Well, here are some things I do to help manage BCB's:

  1. Write encouraging "To-Do" lists:  I write a note on top of my lists that says “If two of these get done today, you’re awesome – if none of them get done, you’re still awesome!" and hang it somewhere I can see it. This helps bring me back to the heart of the matter - that I am totally ok (and even awesome) even if I don't do a damn thing. 
  2. Give myself permission to do nothing 1 day a week. I carve out a day of the week to do absolutely nothing. I mean it. I bask in the glory of resting and allowing the day to go by without things getting done. This is sometimes a big stretch. I have to practice stillness.  I don't make plans, and I don't write a to-do list. It's a fascinating practice, I promise.
  3. I enter the storm. When I've unconsciously slipped into the storm of overwhelm, that's when I have to let go. I breathe and allow my mind to freak out. I watch my thoughts float by like clouds knowing the storm will eventually pass. I understand frustration and overwhelm is an indicator that I want something I don't have yet. I become the witness to my inner critic as if it were a crying baby. I let it have a good cry. 
  4. I move. Stop, drop, and roll. I put out the fire of mental chaos by moving my body.  Movement is so helpful for the brain and for managing anxiety and depression. Using my body is a powerful way to release and move stagnant energy. I move the chaos down from my head to your toes by stomping on the ground or dancing like no one's watching. And if they are, I'd still be dancing. Or, I stop what I'm doing and go to the gym. I do something to get the blood pumping and remind me how alive and strong I am.
  5. I clean. OK I know this may appear the antithesis of relaxation, but here's the kicker - by taking out the trash, or clearing space - I invite more clarity. Our external world is often a representation of our internal process. When my space is messy, my mind feels messy too. By organizing and getting rid of stuff I don't need, I start to release stuff on the inside. Some of my greatest "ah-ha" moments come to me when I'm cleaning. It's a meditative practice. I will admit though, I also use this to procrastinate sometimes so I try to be mindful of the value it's providing. In times where I may use cleaning to procrastinate - I get out my journal and write down all of my ideas.  It's kind of like dumping the trash from my head on paper so I can see what I want to keep and what needs to go away for good.
  6. Rescue Remedy. It's not some hippy-dippy magic potion. OK, it kind of is. But that's what makes it even more fun! I love them. They work. 
  7. I drink water. A simple and effective solution. I experience this amazing sensation that happens the moment after I guzzle a glass of water - it's like I just cleaned my brain.

Which idea is your favorite? What other tricks and ideas do you have to manage your overwhelm? Share below in the comments section.  

Dani B. PolgarComment