Whenever I make a stupid mistake or common sense fails me, I like to joke about my advanced degree. Forgot to turn the water off an flooded the bathroom? It’s okay, I have an advanced degree. Drove the wrong way down a one-way street? No problem, I have an advanced degree. Used the word “percolate” in the wrongest way possible? Advanced degree. Used wrongest as a word. Advanced degree.
You get the idea.
Really it’s just a defense mechanism. If I feel stupid, I can always fall back on the fact that I have a Masters Degree, and stupid people can’t get a Masters can they? Sadly I’m sure there are plenty of stupid people in this world with a Masters Degree and probably even more than a few (million) stupid people who managed to get a PhD, an MD, a JD, and whatever else D there is out there, but I couldn’t possibly be one of them. Right?
If you’re unemployed though, whether it’s by choice or not, you know that it can start to feel like your brain is melting a little after a while. All that surfing the net, all that TV watching, video game playing, napping in the hammock or whatever your pleasure is, can start to lose it’s shiny luster when there isn’t anyone to talk to and there isn’t anything to keep your brain sharp. Truth be told, I’ve tried to have an intellectual conversation about the state of the American food supply with the checkout girl at my local grocery store, and it just didn’t happen.
So to stop my brain from melting, and try to stay sharp in whatever way I can, I’ve taken on a few different tactics.
1. Read. Not just celebrity gossip, but actual books. Fiction and non-fiction. I also suscribe to the The New Yorker, and I read every article. Even if they are BORING. Because it’s new information entering my brain. Reading is good and it makes you think.
2. Lean something new. This can also include finding a new hobby. For me this includes both gardening and cooking. I’m learning how to keep things alive! And then kill them by making them into yummy bread. This is a challenge for me because it doesn’t come naturally, but taking the time to learn something new definitely has its benefits.
3. Volunteer. This spring I mentored fifth graders at an elementary school down the street. Talking to kids makes your brain work in a totally different way than it does when you’re talking to an adult. I simultaneously dreaded and loved hanging out with those kids, but it certainly kept me on my toes.
4. Take care of yourself. I know it can be tempting to sleep all day and sit around in your underwear eating Doritos, but that just isn’t conducive to keeping those synapses firing. I try to maintain regular sleeping patterns, eat healthy food, and get enough exercise. A healthy body equals a healthy mind.
5. Don’t stress out. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to find things to stress about. Well don’t. Take a yoga class. Get a massage. Or just take some deep breaths. Anything you can do to reduce stress will help keep your mind calm, happy, and sharp.
For me, keeping a mental edge is an essential element to my confidence, so I do everything I can to stay sharp. If not, I guess I can always fall back on that advanced degree.