Refreshing Change of Scenery

The mind is like any other muscle in the body—it needs rest from time to time. The more information you try to process at once, and the longer you try to stay laser-focused, the wearier your brain will feel. I’m sure all of my readers remember cramming for a test at one point or another and how exhausting it is. In addition, there are activities—an important exam or any other very stressful, detail-oriented task that can leave you feeling mentally worn out. This will, in turn, affect your memory and both make it harder for you to recall information you already knew in addition to having trouble converting new information to memory. It is a type of mental fatigue that we’ve all experienced.

The question is, what do you do about it?

For me, the answer is easy—I take a break. Sometimes all I can manage is a quick 10-minute meditation session where I sit and quiet my mind. If that doesn’t work, or if it has been a particularly exhausting time, I find that the best thing to do is take a real break from my routine. Camping provides an excellent escape from the grind for me. I find that when I am doing things like gathering firewood, putting up a tent, fishing, or simply hiking to the campsite, I am not struggling to multitask. I can put all of my energy and focus on one thing at a time, something that I have trouble with at home. I can almost feel the mental fog lifting as I prepare the campsite and let go of things like work, school, email, and social media.

After a particularly grueling week recently, I went camping with a friend. It felt good to escape for a little while, even if it was only an overnight trip. We had heard that there was the potential for some rain that would make for a chilly night, so I packed my portable kerosene heater and some waterproof matches to the list of necessary items for me to pack. After a short hike to the campsite, we found that we were definitely going to need the heater for at least a little while. The ground was damp everywhere and dry wood was nearly impossible to find. As the sun set and the lack of kindling made it hard to keep our little fire going, we were able to turn on the kerosene heater and stay warm. We sat in front of the heater for a long time, making plans for the next day before turning in earlier than usual.

The next day dawned clear and bright, so we were confident we would be able to find some dry firewood. We went fishing and caught ourselves some dinner then headed back to the site. I cleaned the fish—another single-focused activity that helps me clear my mind—while my friend gathered the firewood we would need to cook the fish over; we were right that things dried out overnight and under the warm day’s sun. By the end of the day, with my belly full and my mind sharp and clear once more, I was nearly ready to go home and tackle the world again.

So the next time you find that it seems hard to recall information or remember what just happened, you might need to take a break. Listen to your body and do it!