How my concussion helped me to get out of my own head
After suffering a concussion, I was forced to unplug from all mental stimulation for one month as best as I could. This was not an easy task. It involved me not using my phone, computer, television, not reading, not exercising, and not driving. Though the first week was incredibly boring, I slowly got into a different rhythm that made me identify the ways my brain conspires to drive me crazy.
While sitting in silence for hours on end during my recovery, I was confronted with all of my thoughts—the good, the bad, and the ugly. During this long period of self-reflection, I had a life changing realization that I am rarely in the present moment. I spend so much time worrying and stressing over things that have either already happened or things that have not happened yet. I have an urge to control the future and fix the past. Because of this, I become less grateful for what I am experiencing day to day and I become unsatisfied and anxious. I end up missing out on life. I realized that my mind spends hours wasting time trying to fix things over which it has no control.
Because we all naturally have a tendency to think cyclically and replay stories over and over again in our minds, we can spiral into a pattern of negative thinking that isn’t healthy. Having the time to observe my thoughts helped me to become more aware of my inner “Negative Nancy” and my inner hamster thought-wheel. By probing deeper, I could dive into the feelings behind my thoughts and defuse them by acknowledging that they aren’t totally real. We do not have to believe every thought we have. Eventually, I was able to watch my thoughts, let them arise and then pass but not take them too seriously. I decided to continue practicing this approach even after recovering from my concussion because it let me live the way I always wanted to live: not stuck in my own head replaying things over and over again.
Marianne Williamson once said, “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” Having a month to confront my mind and literally sit with it, didn’t just change the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. I began to take my time with every activity and cherish it. I started giving thanks and appreciations for my friends and family. I was able to sit outside and be in awe with nature. I let myself relax and worked on letting go of the idea that I had to have control. This changed my life and let me—for once—be okay with letting the past be the past and letting the future happen without trying to proverbially control the weather. In the words of poet Brian Andreas, “If you hold on to the handle, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”