How to tame a busy mind?

brainI have long suspected that I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

And – I have recently been entertaining the idea of visiting a psychiatrist and getting myself on a Ritalin.  Seriously.  Sometimes, I think (very!) strong drugs are required to keep my mind in check – to get me to FOCUS.

I have a very… VERY…. busy mind.  There is always noise playing inside my head… there’s clutter… there’s chaos… there’s at least 80 new ideas and plans that ignite every day – and I plan them out in fine detail (and I’m not exaggerating).  My brain sparks ideas all the time.  And I mean ALL the time.  Ideas wake me up at night.  Ideas have me “disappearing” into thought while someone is trying to talk to me.  Reading magazines and books spark off MORE ideas.  Watching a good movie or a documentary sparks off even MORE ideas.

It is impossible for my brain to relax.  Actually – I can’t remember ever “relaxing” inside of my head.

The last time I enjoyed a full day at a spa – I tried to desperately to get my brain to align with my body and to just… relax.  But no.  My brain did not relax at all.  The smell of the massage oils sparked ideas.  The touch of the therapists hands sparked ideas.  The decor in the therapy rooms sparked ideas.  The background music sparked ideas.  Ideas… ideas… ideas…!!!

ALL.  THE.  TIME!!!!

For people who find it difficult to come up with ideas – this may seem strange.  Trust me, it seems very strange (to me) that there are people out there who find it hard to imagine… create… invent… come up with ideas.  I’m built this way.  It never – ever – stops.

Place 3 random items in front of me… and I will come up with at least a dozen ideas on how they can be used… re-purposed… manipulated… built… created…. into something else.

But… today I think I had an epiphany about all of this….

Maybe there IS something to be said for creating “calm” spaces for people like me.  Maybe there’s even something to be said about that Feng Shui stuff (that I always considered to be a bit woo…)

My house – my studio – the places I try to work (like coffee shops) – are all WAY too overstimulating for someone like me.  My office shelves are overflowing with books… pieces of artwork… articles I still want to read… CD’s and photos I need to organise… gifts I want to wrap… ideas I want to follow through on… brightly coloured bits and pieces… children’s toys… coffee cups (maybe caffeine is also NOT good for someone like me).

The walls are brightly painted…  there’s colour… and “stuff” everywhere I look (and it is very – VERY hard for me to reel my brain in and focus on my work).

Perhaps some folk NEED the visual stimulation…  but I think… I’m beginning to realise that I’m almost always over-stimulated… and it’s possibly also why (when I visit places with lots of people / noise / colour / movement / stuff happening)… I tire very easily.

Which is also frustrating – because I simultaneously LOVE colour… and design… and art… and music… and people-watching… and food tasting… and… and…

The other day, it occurred to me that I’m like a kitten… playing with a light reflection.  A kitten can be sleeping peacefully… but can never resist play time.  If you bring out the toy mouse… or a shiny reflection… kittens ‘have’ to pounce & play.

I’m like that.

I am very easily stimulated – through all of my 5 senses, but especially sight and sound.  Pinterest is a PROBLEM for me…  an hour or two on Pinterest are able to shift my goals from (reasonable, well thought-out goals that will get us to our desired destination in life)…. to….  “That’s it!  I’ve made up my mind!  We’re going to buy a vintage caravan… and renovate it… and paint hearts on the exterior… and install a window-box… and I’m going to make stationery… and sell jam… and I’m going to launch pop-up stores around South Africa… and I’m going to illustrate a range of greeting cards and sell them out of my vintage caravan… and then I’m going to make a tee-pee for the kids… and… and…. and…”

Then I reel myself in again – and give myself a stern lecture.

“Focus, Heather!  FOCUS!”  I tell myself.

But – all it takes is a visit to Exclusive Books… or the Neighbourgoods Market… or Arts on Main… (or blasted Pinterest)… and I’m:  “That’s it!  I know what I’m going to do….  I’m going to…. (insert long list of new ideas here)….”

It just takes a bite of my cousin’s chocolate brownies for me to have (mentally) opened a coffee shop of my own… complete with name of said shop… branding… decor… the stuff I’ll sell (apart from coffee & brownies)… the events I’ll host… the cute, unique packaging for the brownies…. and… and… and…

It takes a listen to one new song to have be composing 6 different theme tunes in my head… lyrics… harmonies… everything.  Then I start thinking about the CD I want to record and the artists I want to collaborate with and the message I want the music to bring… and the unique way I’ll get the music out the world…. and… and… and…

It takes my daughter to just play with my hair for 2 minutes…. and I’ll be inventing different hairstyles… which makes me think of Amanda Palmer (I like her hair)… which makes me think of outspoken artists… which makes me think of Sinead O’Connor… which makes me think of Ireland… which makes me think of my friends, Sarah and Graeme… which makes me think about babies… which makes me think about… (on and on it goes)….

It takes a glimpse of a moving photo… to have me conjuring up my Master Plan on how to make the world a better place… the people I’d collaborate with… the projects we’d work on… the ways we’d get people to think differently about tough issues… the ways we’d find the sponsorship and help… the ways we’d share the important stories that need to be shared….

It takes a single whiff of an exotic spice at a market place – to instantly imagine myself in India… and to plan (in detail) our exotic Asian trip… and the things we’d do… and places we’d visit… the food we’d try… and the saris I’d buy (I’ve always wanted a beautiful pink sari)… and… then India makes me think of the Inspired Individuals (I shared a room with a lovely lady from Mumbai at our last conference)… and Inspired Individuals make me think of My-Master-Plan-to-Change-the-World… and on, and on it goes….


Sometimes, when I’m visiting with friends and relatives – and my brain is freaking out and exploding with noise and ideas… I say to myself:  “They have no idea.  My friends have no00 idea that they are sitting across the table from a barking mad lunatic!”

So.  My request:  anyone out there have any tips or ideas how to “solve” this?

Should I avoid caffeine and create “calm spaces”…?

Or should I just visit the shrink and take the Ritalin and get it over with?

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9 thoughts on “How to tame a busy mind?

  1. Drink Red Cappucinos when you go to coffee shops…(.its all that caffeine that hypes your brain) Keep away from coke as well. Drink camomile tea often…(its a calmative.)
    Put your ipod in and listen to lullabyes when you are in a stimulating atmosphere. I could give another two dozen ideas but I am about to stop the noise in my head and start focussing on the course Im writting.

    • Well… I never drink coke. But I’ll try the red caps and the tea. I don’t have flippin’ lullabies on my iPod, mother! – and even if I did, I’d be composing new lyrics while listening. Maybe I should listen to that whale music…. (?) But – as is plain for all to see – I get this from YOU! Grrrr!

  2. Hi Heather
    I am very keen to understand more. My wife is also experiencing the same thing. Have you found anything helpful since you wrote this?

    • Hi Wesley… I wish I could have something helpful to say… but I am also STILL struggling with this. A friend of mine is now on Ritalin and swears by it. He says it has changed everything and he’s now able to focus. I’m still trying to decide (and I change my mind about this every day)… whether I’m comfortable taking drugs to *fix* my personality. I’m still unsure how I feel about it. On some days, I find a way around the distractions and make it work (and feel happy about the way I’m managing it). On other days, I feel like a lunatic… and it’s VERY frustrating… and I vow that I’ll choose the drugs over the craziness. But then, the day after that – I’ll wake up with a positive attitude and say: “No – I don’t need drugs”. It’s been a never-ending see-saw. Wish I could be more helpful… but, at least I DO empathise with your wife!

      • Hi Heather, this post is more than two years old, but i will reply just in case.

        it sounds like you have a very creative mind. Creative mind can only be satisfied once it creates something. From my experience, i think once you start working on a project your mind will be able to focus on that one project. I would say Embrace your beautiful mind, and be glad it is hyper active with positive ideas. Mine used to be hyper active with creative negative anxiety ideas 😕. Once I started using my creativity to create expressive paintings my mind was able to be at peace. I don’t paint often, for me even painting once or twice a month gives me peace. It is beautiful creative energy, you got to use it creatively or it will accumilate and spin out of control. Please don’t kill it with drugs. 💖

  3. Hi Heather,
    Do not take any drugs! No, no, no! You will miss your life, you will cry with boredom for your imagination… why change it?
    I am the same way and I know there have been hard times when I want to say, stop you foolish mind! … but I know I love this person that is me, the constant curiosity, the never ending enthusiasm. Do things with it and if you cannot do all you want, do at least something you really love. People will gravitate and feel inspired by your zest for life.
    A clairvoyant and astrologer told me once that with my mind so abundant, in order to be happy, I have to stay in the creative flow and find people of my tribe. I found a dancing community since then and I found hundreds of people like me… there is no ugly duck! just different!

    • Thanks for writing, Florentina. After speaking to two creative friends (who previously had a VERY real struggle completing their work due to the lack of focus… and the distraction….) – both of the friends swear by Ritalin. One of them gave me a Ritalin tablet to try… and I tried it… and I was amazed by how I was (finally – for the first time in my life)… able to COMPLETE a task. So… I went off to a psychiatrist… and she told me that I am the “poster child” of an adult with ADD. She gave me a script for something called “Concerta”. I thought I’d give it a try. I was really worried that it would negatively affect my creativity – and specifically my ability to generate ideas. I *LIKE* that I’m a creative creature…. and I *LIKE* that I have a constant flow of new, creative ideas… and I was concerned that the pills would stop the flow of ideas. I told the psychiatrist that I’d give the drug a try – but if it messed with my creativity or my ideas – then I would opt out. Needless to say – I have been on concerta for more than 3 months now. It has not affected my creativity – or my ability to generate new ideas. What it has done – though – it allows me – in a sense – to “tune out” from all the background noise in order to focus-in on the specific task at hand… and to FINISH things. I have left a wide, wide trail of uncompleted work… my whole life… because of my inability to focus-in. Because of this, I felt like such a terrible failure. I knew that I had creative talent – but what USE was that talent if I couldn’t FINISH any of my personal projects or work? Ever since I decided to admit that I really did need HELP… and decided to use Concerta as a tool to help me focus…. EVERYTHING has changed. I have accomplished more in the past 3 months than what I’ve done in 3 years (in terms of my personal projects). I’m 6 pages away from finishing my book. I’ve been able to focus-in…. tune out the *noise* and the distractions… and just work – and get it done. That being said…. I am VERY-VERY-VERY aware that drugs are not necessarily “the answer” for everyone. I also think that ADD – generally (and especially amongst kids) is over-diagnosed… and I *don’t* think that every bored or distracted child needs to be put on Ritalin. But – for a 42 year old – who has struggled with focus (for as long as I can possibly remember)… and especially since I was lapsing into somewhat of a depressive state… and feeling so useless because it was always such a struggle to “finish” anything… I am so relieved to be on concerta. It feels – in a sense – like a new start for me. I am a bit hesitant to post this response to you – because I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m all pro-drug… or that I think that drugs are the cure-all answer to anything and everything. I don’t. But… I’m also not anti-drug. I just think it’s one of those personal decisions that we need to consider cautiously… and carefully… Thanks for responding though. I am SO happy to hear that you’ve found a dancing community and a tribe – good for you! And I ABSOLUTELY agree – there IS NO UGLY DUCK! Just… different. And diversity is a wonderful thing.

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