By: Greg Jost
Call mental exhaustion what you will: dead head, study head, sleepy head, brain drain. It's the numb feeling that swells deep inside the cavity your brain. I know the feeling firsthand. As a Radio-TV-Film major attending college, I get it nearly every waking moment on the day before a due date. One of my rituals is writing screenplays, and I really can't stress to say how often "brain drain" happens. It sneaks up and jabs you square in the skull; and in next to no time you're about ready to collapse in the throes of Dreamland. It's as if you were blackballed down a blind alley.
It happens, like that, all the time.
My efforts to combat the problem surfaced only recently, and I say this to emphasize both the ease and the probability of a "cure." Mental exhaustion sweeps in during times of increased study and concentration. Stress may be a factor, but it surly is not the only cause. As a writer, brain drain always hit whenever I pushed myself to overcome a bout of writer's block. I would focus intensely for hours at a time. And like an unseen cloud overhead, it would enshroud my skull. My natural instinct would be to plop my head face-down atop the table. The day would go swirling down the drain by the time I woke up.
Needless to say, mental exhaustion can really sap the time out of the day. It may even lead to depression and increased anxiety, but hey, I'm no psychologist. I'm a student, and what I do know is that it's a big time killer. Sitting down with an open book but a closed mind has to be one of life's biggest frustrations.
The obvious causes for this kind of dysfunction stem from a lack of sleep and a proper diet, at least for me. Think of your brain as having its own gauge. When you put the pedal to the metal and concentrate in full throttle, the rational diagnosis is that the gauge steadily drops to zero. From that point onward, you're just grinding gears. To no surprise, the body needs nutrition and rest. Deprive yourself of those two vital components and, well, your influence over your own body will gradually slip away. It's not a matter of ridding yourself of this mental exhaustion; but on a broader scope, it's a matter of regaining control over your body.
Good sleep does not necessitate the amount of time slept. It is about knowing your body's own biological clock. I discovered that not only did I wake up earlier the sooner I went to bed, but I also felt more refreshed throughout the day. Think about it: how much time do you spend awake versus sleep? The two should work toward an ideal balance; otherwise, a large chunk of sleep after a long and tiresome day does not restore the balance. The bottom line is this: a long day that was spent half asleep (we all know those kinds of days), met with an overdue long night of sleep, will not equal a refreshed tomorrow.
Besides taking up a better diet, the other solution is to practice a better study routine. Breaks may seem unprogressive to a study session, but in actuality they are invaluable. Your brain, like your legs, cannot run for so long without slowing down or sitting completely.
Of course, just remember the difference between a break and a distraction...
Call mental exhaustion what you will: dead head, study head, sleepy head, brain drain. It's the numb feeling that swells deep inside the cavity your brain. I know the feeling firsthand. As a Radio-TV-Film major attending college, I get it nearly every waking moment on the day before a due date. It sneaks up and jabs you square in the skull; and in next to no time you're about ready to collapse in the throes of Dreamland.