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karen allen

Your Brain Is Trying to Tell You Something



Tell me if this sounds familiar…


You’re sitting at your workspace, and you sense that you’re in your flow. You’re in the zone—you’re energized and confident and productive. You’re killing your to-do list, and it feels ahhhmazing. In the past hour you’ve gotten more accomplished than you ever could’ve imagined, and you just keep pushing, riding the wave. You are feeling like a superhero!


And then, all of a sudden, it’s gone.


You’re staring blankly at the screen. You feel hazy and you can’t focus. Finishing this current task feels like a massive hill to climb and you have no idea where all of that motivation went. You start thinking about what you’re going to watch tonight on Netflix, or you suddenly start to wonder if you should retile the shower in your master bathroom. Or maybe you just start thinking about your cozy bed and taking a nap.


What if I told you I know exactly what went wrong!?


Are you ready for it?


NOTHING.


Absolutely nothing went wrong! You are not unfocused or lazy or easily distracted, so let’s kick those narratives to the curb. Your brain just did exactly what it was supposed to do. Give that beautiful brain of yours a round of applause!


I’m going to get a little science nerdy to explain…


What just happened was an absolutely necessary part of your BRAC—your “Basic Rest-Activity Cycle”—and understanding how it works is a major key to making your days more productive.


See, our brains have a natural rhythm. Each BRAC lasts around 90 to 120 minutes. In the first half of the cycle, your brain is firing on all cylinders. You’re hustling and achieving and feeling unstoppable.


But here’s the thing, our brains can’t keep up that pace forever. It’s like setting out for your morning run and trying to sprint the entire time. Eventually your body runs out of the energy it needs to keep moving forward, and you have to stop and rest.


Turns out our brains work the same way. When they are firing off those fast brain waves in the first part of your BRAC, they’re using sodium and potassium, which are necessary for sending all of those electrical signals that keep you in a state of flow.


Eventually, though, those reserves start to get low, usually a little more than mid-way through each cycle. In order to restore the balance, your brain needs to slow down, rest and regroup.


To do that, our brains shift into a cycle of slower brain waves. Those slower brain waves make us feel dreamy, creative, and maybe even sleepy.


That’s right! That sudden feeling that maaaayyybeee you should just take a suuuuuuuuper quick nap is actually a sign that your brain needs a minute to regroup and restore that balance of sodium and potassium. After about 20 minutes of running on slower brain waves, it’ll have enough reserves to let you kick into high gear again and get back in the game.


The problem isn’t those periods where we’re struggling to stay on task. The problem is that we try to power through them.


Our brains physically can’t keep going at that pace, and they’re sending us a gentle reminder that they need a beat to rest. Our minds try to tell us that we’ve got to maintain that go-go-go pace if we’re going to get everything done on schedule.


But it just doesn’t work that way.


As my brilliant friend and performance expert, Dr. Lauren Hodges, would say, “We have to learn to work with our BRAC instead of against it.”


If you want to be your most productive self, you’ve got to build in breaks and embrace your BRAC. The more fully you disconnect from your work activities and allow your brain to regroup, the more effective you’ll be when your brain is ready to kick it into high gear again.


So when you sit down to work, take a minute to plan for those breaks. Set yourself a timer on your phone or in your calendar—every 60 to 90 minutes—to remind yourself it’s time to take a break.


And then spend that break wisely, my friend. This is not the time to scroll through your socials or try to solve today’s Wordle. While that might feel like taking a break from your work tasks, those activities are still using your brain's reserves. Instead, take this time for quiet, mindful activities that allow your brain to replenish its reserves.

Here are just a few ideas to get your started:


  • Stretch. This doesn’t have to be a full yoga session—just take fifteen minutes to get up from your desk and stretch out your shoulders and hips.)

  • Take a walk. Nothin’ fancy about it. Resist the urge to use the time to make that phone call. Don’t get caught up in the stats on your fitness tracker. Instead notice what’s blooming in the flowerbeds or which birds are out and about.

  • Soak up the sun. Get up from your workspace, and just go be outside. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Notice how it feels to let the sun hit your face. Name some things you smell. Just be.

  • Draw or color. But make sure this is the no-pressure kind of art. If you find yourself trying to make it perfect or getting too hung up on the details, step away. Remember, this is a time to let your mind wander, not a new task to accomplish.

  • Grab a snack. Put away your phone, and just enjoy your snack or even a cup of tea. But be mindful about what you eat or drink here—choose something nourishing. Remember, the goal isn’t to jump-start your brain. Lots of times when we hit these slower brain cycles, our instinct is to think, “Oh, I need some coffee or sugar to get a boost.” Resist that urge.

  • Listen to music. Put on your headphones, sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and just notice where the song takes your mind.


If you’re someone who believes in pushing yourself to your limits, I see you. Trust me, I know there is a time and a place for that. Sometimes you do have to go above and beyond, and I’m never going to shut that down.


I’m just saying you can’t run on red the whole race.


Tune into your body and learn to recognize the signs it sends you when it’s not functioning at its best. Headaches, brain fog, low energy, dehydration, even feeling tired after a full night’s sleep—all of these are signals your body sends to tell you that it needs a break.


Let’s break this vicious cycle of overworking ourselves and instead build rest into the way we operate so that we can show up fully with a clear mind and positive energy.


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Welcome to my blog. My hope is that every article will give you at least one tid-bit to help you shape your mind and your life in the most beautiful way possible. 😊

Hi, I'm Karen! 

Hi, I'm Karen.

I've made it my life's work to teach as many people as possible about synergistic trifecta of human potential and transformation: mindfulness, positive psychology, and neuroplasticity.

 

This fusion creates a holistic approach to personal growth, well-being, and resilience, empowering you to thrive, navigate life's complexities with grace, and tap into your fullest potential.


​​I've worked with companies such as Nissan, Golf Channel, Google, Universal Orlando Parks & Resorts, LG and many more. 

Whether I'm teaching from stage, in a conference room, or via Zoom, my #1 mission is to help as many people as possible tap into the power of their mindset and start living more fully. Because when you become better, you make the people around you better, and that's how you make the world a little better, too. 🌱 #BetterTogether

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