Mental Block

How to Overcome a Mental Block & Why It Happens

Mental blocks slow your creativity and make it difficult to enjoy a smooth flow in your work.

Although writer’s block is a common example of the problem, a mental block doesn’t happen to writers only; it certainly isn’t limited to career-related activities either.

You can hit a plateau in your romantic relationship (not knowing how to spice things up) or feel stuck in a rut in your daily grind.

This article is for you if you’re struggling with mental block – the greatest enemy of motivation, creativity, and productivity. Keep reading to learn why you experience a mental block and effective ways to fix it.

Why Do We Experience Mental Blocks?

man watching laptop on his working desk

Nearly everyone experiences a mental block at some point in their lifetime, so you’re not alone in the fight against the psychological barrier.

What causes a mental block, though?

Several factors can trigger an episode of mental block, and many of the common causes are unhelpful habits we engage in for too long. Psychological issues, such as a lack of confidence and overworking your brain, can also cause a mental block.

Here are the common causes mental blocks happen:

  • Inadequate Sleep: You need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep to properly rest your brain and support optimal health. Although many people know this, reports suggest that one out of three Americans don’t get adequate shuteye at night. If you have a habit of sleeping too little, there’s a good chance you’ll experience mood swings, lethargy, fogginess, and mental blocks during the day.
  • Self-Medication: Using unprescribed medications or taking medical advice from unqualified people can lead to many unpleasant side effects, including mental blocks. If you have any health issues, your best bet would be to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for proper diagnosis and prescriptions.
  • Poor Eating Habits: Eating foods lacking essential nutrients might contribute to a mental block. Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, may result in pernicious anemia and cause temporary dementia, mood swings, paranoia, and other mental disorders.
  • Clutter: It is common to experience increased stress when working in a chaotic environment. That’s because a cluttered environment promotes the production of the stress hormone (cortisol), which increases your stress level and hinders creative thinking.
  • Self-Doubt: Constantly doubting yourself or thinking that you are not a good fit for a task can prevent your brain from coming up with great ideas to complete the task at hand. This is known as imposter syndrome, a mental condition that prevents you from exerting yourself to achieve success.
  • Perfectionism: If you find yourself thinking, “There’s no point doing this because it won’t be perfect?” you are stuck in perfectionism, and that’s not a good place to be. Perfectionists believe that everything they do must be perfect, or there’s no need to do it. This belief prevents you from attempting anything unless you are sure you will get it right the first time. Sometimes, you waste too much time and get stuck trying to get things perfect, so you don’t make any progress.
  • Mental Fatigue: Mental exhaustion is common these days, especially considering the increase in workplace stress. When you overwork your brain, straining it to make too many decisions, it will eventually “shut down” on its own.
  • Procrastination: Putting off too many tasks, particularly important ones, will eventually come back to bite you. Procrastination leaves you at sea when it is time to work on your tasks. And because you are likely to get to work on the tasks when time is no longer on your side, you’ll increase your stress and anxiety, leading to a mental block.

10 Effective Ways to Overcome Mental Blocks

relaxed female with feet on table in workplace

If you can’t do the things you want because you feel stuck, these tips will help clear the mental block and unleash your creativity again.

1. Declutter Your Work Environment

Tidy up your work environment by getting rid of clutter. Rearrange your desk, keep tools you frequently use at arm’s reach, improve the lighting, and increase ventilation if necessary.

The more efficient and “calm” your workspace is, the higher your chances of getting into a flow state.

2. Take Short Breaks from Work

If you can’t get past a mental block, take a break. Go for a short walk, enjoy the fresh breath of air outside, watch a funny clip, chat with a friend for a while, or take a nap.

The idea is to do something completely unrelated to the task you’re trying to complete.

By taking a break, you ease off the stress on your brain and help your mind work on the problem at an unconscious level.

You’ll probably be amazed how easy the solution is when you resume the project because your brain is well-rested, and your mind has connected the dots during your break.

3. Prioritize Self-Care

Most people run with the idea that highly successful people develop a habit of waking up early to prepare for the day. They don’t realize that successful people also create time to rest their bodies and minds.

Working hard is great, but so is resting well, too!

Don’t subject your body to stress all day without giving it enough time for rest and recovery. You should listen to your body and practice self-care if you struggle with mental blocks.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Eat a healthy diet, making sure to eat foods rich in vitamin B12 (eggs, fish, chicken, cheese, etc.)
  • Spend about 15 minutes or more doing exercise
  • Make sure you sleep for 7 to 9 hours every night
  • Don’t take work home

4. Resist Putting Off Tasks

Procrastination will only make mental blocks worse. Instead of putting off an entire project, consider breaking it into smaller chunks and completing the tasks one batch at a time.

Take breaks between batches to prevent overworking yourself. This way, you won’t feel stressed, anxious, and stuck when the project is almost due and you’re still far behind schedule.

5. Complete Easy Tasks First

It is common to feel overwhelmed and experience mental blocks if you have many tasks to complete and don’t know where to begin.

Anytime you feel this way, remember that eating an elephant in one go might seem impossible, but taking one bite at a time will get you there eventually.

Make a list of everything you need to accomplish and start with the easiest or smaller tasks. Your motivation will grow, and your creativity will increase as you keep checking items off your list.

6. Reframe Negative Inner Chatter

Negative self-talk might pose as fear of rejection, self-doubt, or perfectionism. Whichever form it takes, negative inner chatter can stop your progress mentally and physically.

Tackle self-criticism by analyzing thoughts that tend to put you down, make you anxious, or fearful. Are these thoughts facts or merely exaggerated fears? Learn more about dealing with limiting beliefs in this article.

7. Improve Your Skills

Be open to new information and incorporate continuous learning. This will reduce any feeling of inadequacy or unpreparedness to handle tasks.

Researching and learning improve your skills and expands your horizon, making you confident to take on projects.

8. Get a Different Perspective

Like taking breaks, getting an outside perspective might help get you unstuck and help break through any mental barrier.

If you can’t make significant progress on a task or project because you can’t seem to get past a pattern of thought, you might be looking at things from only one perspective. Consider talking to others, particularly experts on the subject. They can help you get fresh ideas, explore new angles, and think outside the box.

9. Focus on the Present

Deliberately bringing my focus to the present is one trick that has helped me whenever I feel stuck. I recommend using grounding practices like meditation and mindfulness to help you live in the present.

Here’s why.

Worrying about an undesirable outcome in the future or obsessing about past failures can prevent your creative juices from flowing.

Sitting in silence and focusing on your breath for a few minutes helps create inner peace and calm. You’re likely to think more clearly in this calm state and get on with your work.

10. Reduce Overall Stress

Lastly, take steps to minimize your daily stress level. If you are not in a position to reduce your workload, consider creating a daily schedule or a to-do list. This helps you prioritize tasks and stay more organized.

The more organized you are, the less stressful you’ll feel. And the less stressed you are, the less chance you have of experiencing a mental block.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see that stress is one of the major factors for mental blocks, meaning there’s a higher probability of experiencing mental blockage and burnout if you can’t reduce stress-causing activities.

Prioritize your mental health and overcome mental block by giving your brain and body adequate rest. Eat healthily, exercise regularly, and practice mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety.

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