Give Your Brain A Break

Angela slumped down in the chair of my coaching room. A lady in her mid 40s, CEO of a successful medium-sized company, happily married and with, to all intents and purposes, a successful life. But she explained that she was bored, had lost her drive and focus, felt unhappy and purposeless and on a treadmill she felt unable to get off. She was lost, stressed, frustrated and not able to manage her own wellbeing. 

Paul, a young man in his 20s, highly intelligent, sporty and a really good communicator and a high academic achiever also sat across from me admitting that he felt stressed out, isolated, and was wrestling with anxiety which had brought him to a suicidal place.

What do these two completely different clients have in common? It is something I see more and more in my coaching practice. Both Paul and Angela, alongside other strategies, needed to give their brains a break!

Our brains are being bombarded with information and communication like never before. Whilst this opens up immense opportunities, and seemingly the ability to be more productive the fact is that when we do not manage and bring our brains into rest, it becomes hugely detrimental. The constant assimilation of knowledge, information and communication and being permanently ‘switched on’ is creating an epidemic of anxiety, stress and exhaustion.

Debbie Hampton in The Best Brain Possible writes, “Your brain never gets a break, so you have to intentionally give it one.” 

There has never been such a need to understand that we need to govern and manage our minds and thinking. We need to intentionally create spaces in our lives where we can step back, calm down, switch off and restore. If we don’t we’ll find that there will be a constant mental drive that will govern our physiological systems adversely, shape the way we see the world and relationships and govern our emotional state - and not positively!

It seems completely counterintuitive to say that if we want to be more creative, innovative and productive we should actually slow down or even stop!  But when we are in a restful state and not processing and managing things, it allows the creative and subconscious part of our brains to rise to the surface. Social scientists also talk about rest allowing us to be able to listen to what we really think and feel about something. This connection with our real selves promotes not only authenticity but the ability to connect, to raise the creativity and  strategic skill sets that reside within us. And this allows us to bring those things to the table, making us more productive, creative and content in our life and work. 

This is the time of year where are we all beginning to look towards holidays and rest and refreshment. As her coach, the first thing I did with Angela was to prescribe that she took a holiday. This was a huge step of faith for her, in the context of the huge pressures of her company. I promised her that if she took a step back and allowed herself to switch off from her work, her computer and her digital devices and did things to refresh her soul and quiet her mind she would return with strategies and vision and energy to direct her company in the way that she was designed to do. Sure enough, a few sessions later she had rediscovered some vision and had gathered fresh strategy, energy and enthusiasm. Now she not only has as successful but rewarding business but a more creative, productive joyful life. In fact, the last time I spoke to her she was booking 3 holidays a year, as well as retreat days. I’m actually jealous!

Paul’s work centred around giving his brain break in a different way. It centred around the governance of his mind - what he was going to choose to think about, setting boundaries around how much he was going to let certain parts of his creative and intellectual brain run freely and when he was going to intentionally dial that down and switch it off. We also worked around developing things for his physical and emotional health to balance out the dominance in his life over his thinking, and his magnificent brain. Over our sessions we saw the diminishing of anxiety and isolation and the steady balance and health of his overall life return. 

So, wherever you are in your work and life right now, make sure to give your brain a break!

9 practical tips to switch your brain off:

  • Know that you can!

  • See your thought life in the same way as you see other areas of your life that you need to lead, decide about and govern.

  • Meditate on something simple and positive.

  • Do something you find fun and exhilarating. What hobbies or activities did you enjoy but have dropped over the years?

  • Turn off devices, especially an hour before bedtime.

  • Set aside time in the evenings, or at weekends or holidays when you will be in a non-responsive and non-reactive mode. For example to your mobile, your email and other devices.

  • Go outside, take a walk, observe the world around you, be in natural surroundings.

  • Listen to your breathing, notice and identify how your body is feeling.

  • Find something to focus and distract your mind from dwelling on work tasks or allowing your thinking to run away with you. Listening to music, watching or doing sport or reading are among things that can really help.

If you or anyone else you know needs help with turning your brain off to become more creative productive, healthy and happy do get in touch at

Image from / Markus Spiske

Debbie Hampton, The Best Brain Possible