Thought blocks occur particularly frequently under stress. They describe a state in which the brain can no longer grasp clear thoughts. It is, so to speak, "blocked".In this article, you will learn about the most common causes of a mental blackout and 13 ways how to reduce a stress signal 👋

Mental Blocking 🚧 13 Ways How to Reduce a Stress Signal

TL;DR Blockades of thinking are caused by stress. Learn 13 ways to reduce a stress signal to avoid stress and frustration.

Ernest Hemmingway’s greatest fear was “a blank sheet of paper.”

Hard to believe, because he worked as a war reporter, was considered a fearless adventurer and devoted his passion for writing and big game hunting. Yet he feared the one thing that we probably all know:

The blockade of thought.

It usually comes at the most inopportune moments. For example, when an important deadline is approaching. And then there is often a more threatening emptiness in the head than in the fridge, while productivity has dropped far below sea level. It is also called “blackout“. Perhaps you have experienced this phenomenon at presentations or job interviews.

Pressure to perform and stress can make clear thinking difficult. This makes our thoughts spin in circles. Concentration decreases and you can no longer see the forest for the trees.

“Thought blockades are warning strikes of the overloaded brain”.

But certain methods can help to create more clarity of thought.

What happens in your brain during a mental block?

What happens if you block your brain from thinking?

Responsible for the “blockhead” is the “Hippocampus“. This part of the brain is mainly involved in the formation of long-term and short-term memory. Its smooth functionality can be impaired by the stress hormone cortisol, which favors thought blocks.

A study by the University of California in Berkley showed that the formation of new brain cells is inhibited by stress hormones. Instead, under prolonged stress, envelope cells are increasingly formed. These not only impede the growth of new connections between the nerve cells, but also the reabsorption of information in the memory.

Did you know that mental blocks are a basic instinct?

They were even vital for our ancestors to escape or fight potential dangers (such as the saber-toothed tiger). This phenomenon is also known as “Fight or Flight Mode“.

Let's transfer the "Flight or Fight Mode" now to our modern life:

For people in the twenty-first century, “dangerous situations” in everyday life are no longer life-threatening situations. It is much more psychological stress that causes stress. These can be high work demands, long to-do lists, important conversations, presentations or 13 missed calls from mom.

Normally our brain is designed for “fighting” in the performance-oriented society. This enables us to achieve a lot. For example, we are able to submit a task by the deadline and successfully master challenges.

The problem: If we are constantly under current and do not allow ourselves any rest breaks, our brain will no longer participate at some point. In these moments the hippocampus rebels and decides to flee instead of fighting.


But in modern “dangerous situations“, the escape is unfortunately mostly unfavorable. Because you can’t just run away from work without consequences. Since escape is not possible, the hippocampus is dead in excessive stress situations. This physical reaction was still helpful at that time not to be discovered by the saber-toothed tiger. For modern man, this neurological impulse is rather counterproductive.

In summary: Thought blockades are a stress reaction of your body and usually occur when you allow yourself too little rest. As a result, the hippocampus ceases its activity due to flooding with stress hormones, which can lead to a mental block.

By the way: Thought blocks can also occur even though certain information is already stored in long-term memory. This usually happens when information is stored in a certain context. If new associations occur, the brain takes a while to reconnect the information. Then the unpleasant feeling arises that “something is on your tongue“.

The most common causes of a mental block

As you now know, stress is a frequent main trigger of a thought blockade. But what other factors play a role?

Lack of motivation can cause mental blocks. As a result, you work less focused and constantly wander off with your thoughts. Procrastination often goes hand in hand with this.

Lack of sleep hampers the ability to concentrate and makes you forget. Normally, information is processed during various sleep cycles and stored in short-term memory. During short or bad sleep, information cannot be stored correctly. [source]

Depression makes clear thinking and receptiveness difficult.

Self-doubt, wrong beliefs and negative thoughts like “I’ll never get it right” or “I’m not up to the task” can trigger a blockade of thinking.

Perfectionism can also hinder the flow of thought. High demands are nothing negative, but they can also lead to thought blockades.

If you have recently been suffering from concentration disorders and suspect a serious cause, seek medical advice.

You want to know how to reduce a stress signal and solve your thought blockade? 😊

Let’s go straight to the 13 effective methods with which you can solve your mental block!

13 tried and tested techniques to solve your stress signal and mental blockade


Take action in the fresh air

Become physically active against your mental blockade and free your mind through movement.

Because physical activity promotes the blood circulation of your brain, whereby your grey cells are supplied with more oxygen. This has a positive effect on your performance.

In addition, your dopamine level is maintained longer through regular pauses in movement. Dopamine is not only a happiness hormone but is also responsible for maintaining your concentration.


It is best to take a short walk in the fresh air. Leaving your place of work and moving to a new environment will loosen your think blockade.


Create a mindmap

Sort your thoughts and get creative by creating a mind map. By visualizing your thoughts you can solve your thought blockade and get more clarity in your head.

Note your “problem” in the middle of a sheet and list everything you can think of. Let your thoughts run free. In the end, you can sort your collected ideas and hopefully come up with new thoughts that will solve your thought blockade.


Explain the problem to another person or to yourself

We have about 60,000 thoughts a day. But often we do not think a thought to the end. This causes the thoughts to spin in circles so that we do not arrive at a constructive solution.

What helps: Speak your thoughts out loud. Either you explain your task to another person or to yourself. Why? This forces you to carry out your thoughts and make them understandable.

Through the conversation with another person, you may get new input and can solve your blockade of thinking. If you want to explain the problem to yourself, you can make a video recording and watch it. The concretization of the problem will help you to look at your task from an eagle’s perspective and to create new ideas.


Use the magic of stimulus analysis

What is behind the stimulus analysis?

Quite simply: You are simply thinking of a term that has nothing to do with your actual task. That can be anything. Let’s take a car as an example. Now recall its characteristics (e.g. “fast“, “practical“, “expensive“) and transfer them to your actual task.

What may sound funny at first can be very effective. Because by the stimulus analysis you leave the thinking in pre-programmed paths and receive you a new point of view on your problem.


Imagine a smell 🌷

We think most of the day in words. To give your brain a break, imagine a scent. For example, the scent of a chocolate cake. Close your eyes and remember the smell.

What does that do? You switch off verbal thinking for a moment because your brain now activates other areas of the brain to imagine the smell.

Try it now!


Get to your tasks in time ⌛

'The delay is a thief of time.'Click To Tweet

Sometimes stress arises because we do not start our tasks on time. You probably know that too. The pressure of time makes us feel so stressed that we simply can’t think clearly anymore and a blockade of thinking arises.

Did you know that 60% of people misjudge how much time a task takes? As a result, many people do not even manage half of what they have set out to do. A problem is also the missing or wrong set of priorities, which often leads to stress.

What helps? Good self-management. Set realistic goals and plan your tasks sensibly.


Think in another language

In foreign languages, we use different expressions and words. Do you want to solve your thinking blockade? Then describe your problem in another language. Because if you can’t think of certain words, you have to rewrite the problem. In this way, you develop new associations and thought processes.


Try "Freewriting" and put perfectionism aside for now

'If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.'Click To Tweet

Therefore, it helps to let your thoughts run wild. Write down for about five minutes everything you can think of for your task. Do you digress? No problem! The only rule in freewriting is not to drop your pen.

The goal of freewriting is to set your creativity in motion and let ideas flow. Because most work tasks are bound to certain formalities. This can have a negative effect on the flow of thought. In freewriting, on the other hand, formulations, grammar, spelling, and topics are completely irrelevant. By writing freely, you can solve specific mental blocks and make room for something new in your head.

John Steinbeck, one of the most successful US-American authors of the 20th century, also uses the technique of freewriting and recommends:

“Write down everything freely and as quickly as possible. Just put everything on paper. Don’t correct or rewrite anything until the entire work is on paper.”


Close your eyes and breathe deeply once through

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore examined nearly 19,000 meditation studies which prove that mindfulness meditation can help against stress. [source]

So take a moment of rest and try to meditate. This way you can reduce stress and solve your mental block.

Below you will find a guided meditation that can help you to relax. (5 min)


Ensure sufficient sleep

Surely you know these days when you can hardly concentrate because of exhaustion.

But did you also know that long-term sleep deprivation can lead to a loss of brain cells?

This was proven by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. They conducted an experiment on mice to investigate the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain. [source]

They divided the mice into three groups: The first group had enough sleep, the second group had too little sleep for a short time, and the third group kept them awake for several weeks.

They then examined the brain cells in the “Locus Caeruleus” brain area. This is responsible for cognitive performance.

The astonishing result: A quarter of the brain cells in the Locus Caeruleus died in the mice with a persistent lack of sleep. In contrast, when there was only a brief lack of sleep, the neurons were able to compensate for the lack of sleep by the increased release of sirtuin proteins. These keep the energy metabolism of the cell in balance so that no brain cells are lost.


Drink plenty of water

The brain consists of about 75% water. Therefore it is logical that a lack of water in your body leads to a loss of concentration.

But how much water should you drink every day?

In the “Rosbacher Trinkstudie” of the Institut für Sporternährung e.V. Bad Nauheim 182 test persons participated. With a water intake of 1.9 to 2.2 liters per day, they felt mentally the most powerful. After two weeks of increased fluid intake, information in the brain was even processed 6% faster than before. [german source]

Your mental performance is therefore strongly dependent on how much you drink daily. The best way to tell whether you have drunk enough is by the color of your urine. Ideally, it should have a clear, almost transparent color. The darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are.


First of all deal with less important tasks

In the case of a blockade of thinking, it is often not enough to continue to deal with the problem in a convulsive manner.

Therefore, first tackle less important tasks, which you have to do anyway. This will keep you productive and allow you to think more clearly about your main task later.


Use the "EFT Technique" (Emotional Freedom Technique)

The Emotional Freedom Technique (“EFT”) can help relieve stress and psychological stress by stimulating acupressure points. [source] It is not uncontroversial, but I would like to introduce it to you as an alternative method to release you from mental blockages and stress. It works very well for me. I have often been able to reduce acute stress. But try out the technique for yourself.

Proceed as follows:

  1. Define your problem (for example: “I have a thinking blockade and the time pressure burdens me additionally”).
  2. Be aware of your feelings.
  3. Now you evaluate the problem load on a scale from 0 to 10 (0 = no load, 10 = heavy load).
  4. Now start tapping the acupressure points. The detailed instructions for the EFT technique can be found in the following video:

Conclusion: The most frequent trigger of a mental blockade is stress. But with simple methods, you can solve your thought blockade

I hope you enjoyed the article.

Finally, I’d like to know about you: Which method helped best against your mental blockade? I’m looking forward to your comment! 👇🏼

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