By Sanah Thakur
I often find myself puzzled at the irony of my expansive, often boastful, self-knowledge, with no real effort utilising that information for self-care. I know myself better than anyone could physically or cognitively know me, yet I struggle to indulge in matters of my mental well-being with the same passion as my mother does. If my personal well-being was a course, my maternal unit would be gracing the assignments with excellent effort grades, while my average grades stared guiltily at the floor. On this occasion of celebrating motherhood, I invite puzzled students to take notes on how to ‘Mom your Mind’.
Under the millennial pretense, “I always have to be productive”, I overload my day with numerous tasks, filling daily planners with ambitious schedules and pretty squares that remain unticked at dusk. I’ve grown accustomed to my mother’s concerned cheer, ‘Slow down’, as I tackle the day’s agenda like a footballer playing a 1 on 11 game. At burnout, it’s coach mom that tells me off with research to back up her claims. The mind tricks us into believing it can hold more information, yet research shows that our short-term working memory is extremely limited. Studies reveal that at one time, the brain can hold only 7 pieces of information in its maximum capacity.
Therefore, emphasising the point that looking busy to show off our skills isn’t the same as focusing to get the work done. To slow down doesn’t mean to reduce pace, on the contrary, it means to prioritise that daily list and focus in a realistic manner. We might reward our minds for achieving that huge list of tasks, but in reality it can’t possibly process all that information effectively at the speed we want it to. Getting those top three priority tasks ticked off my list with a steady mind, would make my mother a lot more content than tirelessly scoring ten tasks in the same breath.
Motherhood consistently proves that caring for one’s child isn’t necessarily giving them what they want or what they like, but offering them what is unquestionably good for them. And it is this crucial lesson, we must learn from our mothers and apply to the nurturing of our minds. Multi-tasking, though considered a trend to be acknowledged in this generation, is not as healthy as we think it is for our brains. Cognitive psychologists have found that switching between tasks causes the brain to drain energy and resources on small shifts. One study showed that it took approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to focus attention on another task after ONE interruption. And we all can shamefully agree that interruptions while attending to tasks are usually in the double digits- so you can do the math. The brain, exactly like a child, enjoys this dopamine-addiction feedback loop and convinces you to reward yourself for losing focus. It’s these areas of our brain, that help us focus and also get easily distracted, that we need to train. In my experience, receiving praise from my mother after consistently focusing on one task, for a longer period of time, is more fulfilling than waiting for a pat on the back every two minutes.
There are innumerable ways in which mothers show their love, and it’s the unconditionality of this love that keeps it strong. It’s time I showered my mind with this same unconditionality. To allow it to sleep when it’s exhausted (even if it is a 30-minute nap), to reward it when it needs it and not when it bullies me into it, to check on the load I feed it and the costs of overworking it and mostly, to make this self-care a daily practice. I promise to Mom my Mind; what about you?
* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
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