The brain is the limit

As I mentioned in my very first post, I was fairly busy during the past few weeks as I had to prepare an important report for uni. Now I have submitted though and am slowly getting back to real life… But that is taking a while. I’m sure everybody is familiar with that strange feeling you get after you’ve achieved something: you’re exhausted. You know you should be happy and relieved and celebrating, but instead the main feeling is exhaustion. You’re low on adrenaline, your body shuts down, and you’re quite likely to get ill, simply because your body somehow knows it can afford it now. I’ve always been quite fascinated by how people physically react to stress. When I observe myself I realise that in the past I was rarely ill during exam periods, but usually instantly came down with something afterwards. The body just knows that it has to function in busy times, but also that it’s then okay to show a bit of weakness later on.

This time however, I was even more fascinated by the fact that my brain changed: it literally turned itself into a one-track mind while I was working on my report. I was fully able to write, go back and forth within the document without losing track of what I was doing, changing things here and there and still maintaining a somewhat clear structure. (At least that’s what I think now – in a year or so I’ll probably laugh about what I’ve written… But never mind.) The thing is, while I was somewhat in control of my mental abilities when it came to the report, I could not focus on anything else. I forgot what people told me, lost track of time, or kept repeating myself. Okay, such smaller slip-ups are almost normal in circumstances like these; but towards the end of my work I realised that I couldn’t focus on other things any more even if I tried. The weekend before I submitted, I had a two-day break from writing as my document was being proofread by someone else, so I decided to join some friends on a weekend away in the English countryside. It was sunny, fun, relaxing – and still, my brain was stuck thinking about my report. Not even in a guilty, “you should be working right now” sort of way – but subconsciously it took up all my energy and simply wouldn’t let me think about anything else. This became particularly obvious when some of the boys went to play Croquet and tried to explain it to me. I’d heard of this game before, but thought it was mainly about taking a big wooden hammer and knocking a ball through a metal hoop. But oh no! It’s so much more than that! You can somehow also hit other people’s balls and then you are allowed to position your own ball next to the one you’ve hit so you can kick it out of the way, and then you get another go with which you most likely try to get through a hoop, but only from one side, and once you’re through there you get yet another hit, which of course you can use again to hit another ball, but you may only hit a certain person’s ball a specific number of times (I still haven’t figured out how that rule works), and all of that can also be done in teams, so you and your partner both try and get the other team’s balls out of the way while at the same time helping each other out, but you constantly need to be careful that nobody hits your ball against this pole positioned in the middle of the field because then you’ll have to go back to hoop one……… I don’t know. It’s probably not even that difficult, but my brain was unable to follow. “Ball through hoop”, that was as much as I got, unable to force myself to take anything else in. Capacity overload. My mind was busy with other things.

And while that distraction-defying attitude was good during the preparation of my report, I am quite glad that my brain is now letting me focus on other things again too. I might even give the rules of Croquet another go! The good thing is that I now have time to do all that, because – surprise surprise! – I didn’t even get ill this time. So kudos to my immune system – and brain, next time we’ll try multitasking!

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