The Two Forms Of Racing Brain Syndrome – Part II

A Brief Recap

In part I of this two-part series we talked about the first form of what I call “Racing Brain Syndrome”, the “Stress Induced” variety. To briefly recite the main points:

  • It is usually caused by underlying anxiety about some aspect of your life, be it work, home life, or just plain keeping stuff in your head about things you’ve committed to doing.
  • This “stuff” can be either real or imagined (i.e. you’re going to get fired for writing a personal e-mail at work, once)
  • It is best remedied by either:
    • writing things down and clarifying all the details of what you need to do to take care of whatever is bothering you (best for dealing with the former “real” source of anxiety)
    • practicing a little psychological technique called cognitive behavior therapy, which teaches you to examine and refute irrational thoughts using logical techniques.

Now we’ll talk about the second form of RBS, called “Excitement Based”.

It’s, well, due to excitement (duh)

Yeah, that does seem pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

In some ways this form of RBS can almost be seen as a positive thing, in that it means you have some good positive feelings about your life. Think about it: if you were bored and depressed, would you be waking up at three in the morning with some fascinating new take on that problem at work? At the time you may find yourself more annoyed by your brain’s utter refusal to quiet down, but if properly harnessed, these midnight revelations can actually greatly add to your productivity and creativity.

The trick to properly capturing these sudden bursts is to do just that: capture them

“Huh?”, you may say. Well, think about it this way: the very reason why your mind is refusing to let you drift off is because it’s saying “Hey, I have this great idea, but if you go back to sleep, you’ll forget me and I’ll be lost forever!” In a way it’s almost a built in self defense mechanism, designed to keep your late night brainstorms from slipping through the cracks.

To convince your brain not to concern itself with retaining this newfound wisdom, I suggest you follow the same basic tenet of GTD we used to combat the stress-induced variety of RBS: get it out of your head, now. Write it in the notebook you keep by your bedside table (you do keep one there, right?), send yourself a quick e-mail on the CrackBerry (yes, I’ve been known to do that in the wee hours of the morning), even scribble it on a spare Kleenex or other handy medium if you must.

You might think this behavior will just exacerbate the issue, since it will likely make you more fully awake. While that’s true, I would suggest that until the thoughts rolling around in your brain are properly captured and accounted for, you’ll likely find yourself tossing and turning restlessly anyway. This way, you’ll at least get things recorded so that you’re not battling that inner voice, nagging you about unfinished business. Trust me, that’s a battle you’ll come out on the losing end of every time.