Brain Mush? What to Do When You’re Feeling Distracted or Unmotivated

When your brain is like a hot pan of scrambled eggs, being creative is almost impossible. Even simple tasks are hard. You start wondering what's wrong with you. Why can't I get out of this rut?

If you’re having a hard time finding focus or feeling pulled in a bunch of different directions—welcome to the virtual party. You’re not alone.

Times are hard, friends. Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to get myself through creative ruts and overall feelings of brain mush.

What is brain mush?

Don’t you mean brain fog? Probably. But my brain feels like mush. Maybe fog AND mush. I mean, look at their definitions:

Mush: (n) Something soft and spongy or shapeless

(v) to reduce to a crumbly mass

Fog: (n) A state of confusion or bewilderment

If that ain’t the truth. Shapeless, crumbly mass in a state of confusion or bewilderment—sounds about right.

Brain fog isn’t a medical condition, but it does affect your ability to think and focus; it includes an “inability to concentrate, increased absent-mindedness, and difficulty recalling or retaining information."

(Oh, hello every other week since March 2020).

Brain fog also manifests itself through insomnia, mood changes, and fatigue. It leads to a vicious cyle of anxiety:

  • I’m not doing enough

  • Why am I on Twitter again?

  • I should be doing more.

  • What did I open this document for?

The question is: how do you get out of this funk?

Tips to find motivation and focus

1. Don’t.

Yup, that’s right. Don’t. If you’re barely scraping through your days right now, that’s okay. Don’t try to get focused. Don’t go looking for motivation. Enough is more than enough right now.

Forget your goal to share on social media every day or reach out to 5 new connections. No one is waiting for you to bring your business forward. No one is watching your quiet Instagram feed or rolling their eyes when you don’t have something to share on Twitter.

Whatever you do, don’t try to get out of your brain mush. Trying will only make it last longer. Don’t pressure yourself to perform at your optimal level right now either. Things are heavy enough as it is. So just don’t.

2. Rest in the funk.

When’s the last time you took a deep breath? Or took an afternoon off?

  • Unclench your jaw.

  • Take a breather.

  • Repeat.

If resting means lying on your couch for 30 minutes, staring at the wall, or going for a short walk, do what you need to do to breathe a little deeper.

3. Go to your happy place.

When I’m somewhere between brain mush and full-fledged anxiety, platforms like Instagram and Twitter aren’t my place. Give yourself permission to save socializing for when you're feeling up to it.

Find spaces online that lift you up. I’m sure doctors aren’t recommending you scroll your troubles away, but sometimes you just need some numb, mindless scrolling. For me, I feel the most control over what I’m seeing when I’m on Reddit or Pinterest. If you’re new to Reddit, here are some of my favorites:

Cuddle up with a good book. Try to avoid business books when you're feeling some kind of way (if you can). Instead, use fiction books as an escape. Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:

I’m partway through A Torch Against the Night (sequel to An Ember in the Ashes). Highly recommend!

4. Make time to PLAY.

Don’t worry about the novel you hate yourself for not finishing yet. Find something creative to do for FUN.

Experiential designer Maday Martinez recently shared: “Flow takes us fully in the moment making it IMPOSSIBLE to experience stress about the future or worry about the past.”

PLAY helps us move out of our funk and enjoy the present. Not sure where to start? Listen to this podcast by The Pineapple Project. (Shout out to my dear friend Julianna at Promosaurs Marketing for the recommendation).

5. Turn off your notifications.

How can you be creative if you’re checking your phone every five minutes? When will you find rest if there’s a device yelling at you 14 times an hour?

Okay fine, “yelling” is dramatic, but that phone buzz pulls you away from your focus even more than you realize.

Give yourself some peace. Push notifications are ruining our productivity, says Steve Glaveski, founder of Collective Campus: “The average executive touches their phone 2,617 times a day, checks emails 74 times a day, and receives 46 smartphone notifications a day.”

That’s a lot of distractions. And it takes a toll.

Rachel Bearbower, nonprofit coach at Small Shop Strategies agrees: “When you have notifications popping up every couple of minutes, there’s a lot of time wasted each day, just settling back into the work you were doing.” (Listen to her debut podcast here).

6. Still feeling stuck? Bring it back to your community.

Before you go spiraling (Whose idea was it to start a business? Why am I even doing this?), bring it back to the people you serve. Sure, maybe you started your Instagram account because you love collecting likes (and looking like you’re getting your ish together). But dig deep enough and you’ll remember who you’re showing up for.

You’re not doing this for you. Valery Colli, founder of The Podcast Planners shared a great graphic about how to create content topics. The secret? Bring everything back to your audience. The next time you’re stuck and not sure what to create, bring it back to the people who matter most: the people in your community.

Let your brain be mushy

Picture your brain mush as a cozy blanket reminding you to slow down. I mean it: slow down. Set your timer for ten minutes and sit back in your chair. Count your breaths. Sometimes that’s the best you can do. Trust it’ll pass and get better soon.


How are you doing? Are you feeling the “brain mush” this week? Come say hi on Twitter or Instagram. We’ll get through this!