We all have our talents, and one of mine is that I can, effectively turn my brain “off”. This is something I’ve been able to do for a long time, and while I can’t do it 100% of the time, the majority of the time that I choose to do so, it works. Seeing as I can do this, and a fair chunk of people I talk to, apparently can’t, I figured I’d give a run-down of how I do so. There are some caveats, however. If done properly, this can lead to unplanned naps. This requires a warning, in my opinion, as one of the reasons one might want to “turn off” is depression, and sleep can (and often, does) feed depression. Also, the better you are at multitasking, the harder this will probably be for you to do. I’m terrible at multitasking, so it’s fairly easy for me.
How I go about it depends on how stressed and/or depressed at the time. All methods, however, involve music. Find music that is relaxing for you. Ambient, trance, classical, rap, white noise… Whatever works for you. Make sure it’s music that helps calm you, and not music that you listen to when sad. There’s an important distinction there as music you listen to when sad, sometimes only on a subconscious level, tugs on those strings labelled “sad” in your brain. You want no brain-strings being tugged. And on the note of strings, if classical is your relaxing music genre of choice, stay away from string instruments. Violins, violas, cellos… They’re all motherfuckers.
My first, and primary, method of shutting my brain off is putting on my relaxing music on repeat – either in a playlist, or just a single song – on headphones. I look at a blank wall, without really focusing on it. I just look in it’s general direction. If you don’t think you can do that, just close your eyes. And I listen to the music. But I don’t just passively listen. I listen. And what I mean by that, is I actively concentrate and focus on the music itself, and how calm and soothing it is. Gradually, I concentrate less and less, while still maintaining the focus on it. That may not make a lot of sense. It’s a bit hard to explain, actually. You’re basically making the music the only thing you’re thinking about, until even it becomes background noise. Background noise to a brain that, is hopefully, “off”.
My secondary and tertiary versions of this method are fairly simple, and which one I go for if the primary method doesn’t work depends on my mood. The secondary and tertiary versions are books and video games, respectively. For the book route, find your favourite book – or, if you don’t have a definitive “favourite” or “favourites” – at least one that you’ve read before. Books, by their nature, are mentally engaging, so if you’ve read it before, focusing on the details will be less important, while still giving you something to focus on. With games, you want to go a similar route. Play a game that you enjoy, but doesn’t require you to think about what you’re doing. If playing an FPS is your thing, go that route. If MMOs are your thing, play one of them. But be wary of online play in these games. Depending on whatever it is you’re trying to to avoid thinking about by “shutting off”, online interactions can just as easily trigger the stress/depression as not. For the same reasons, you should avoid social media (twitter/facebook/tumblr) during this process. Remember to combine your relaxing book/game with your relaxing music.
Hopefully, at least one of these methods work for you. They work for me quite well, but again, as I’m bad at multi-tasking it’s easier for me to focus on one specific thing (like music) over another thing.
I leave you with a final warning: Be careful about how often you’re doing this. It becomes harder to do, and less effective the more often you “turn off”. Moderation is key. This is just a temporary escape. You will eventually have to come back to whatever it is that is making you depressed/stressed. Problems don’t solve themselves. This is just, at best, a salve.
Good luck. Have Batman.