Monkey mind. Circus brain. Unsettled. It’s that feeling I get when there are so many competing tasks and ideas happening in my head that I become paralyzed…unable to think at all.

I had just finished four days of an intense workshop, learning how to teach horseback riding in a therapeutic setting. Each day was packed with information and was physically and mentally challenging. At night, I was home catching up on laundry, getting meals ready for the next day, and trying to connect with my kids (side note: I really don’t know how you working moms do this every day…my hat’s off to you!). The final day consisted of wrangling horses for the workshop; and I fell exhausted into bed at 7pm.

The next morning, Sunday at 5am, my eyes flew open, my mind on fire.

What was I thinking about? I think the question was: what wasn’t I thinking about. Housework. Kids and their various activities and needs. Bills piling up. The neglected horses. The husband I hadn’t seen. Friends who were sad. Not to mention, the 18 billion things I had learned in the workshop.

My mind is not happy in this state. I am a thinker (some might say an over-thinker) and a slow processor. I need to work through one issue at a time, but I was finding it impossible to do so. I couldn’t focus. By 6am, I was ready to cry.

My poor, dear husband came in and tried to give me a hug and take me to breakfast and I almost bit his head off. To say that Monkey Mind turns me into a witchy woman (and not the sexy kind) is putting it mildly.

It dawned on me that there was only one thing to do: clean my kitchen. I turned on my favorite French radio station and set to work. With each crumb swept up and surface shined, with every piece of paper put in its proper place, with every drop of dried soup scrubbed from inside the microwave, I could feel myself centering while Edith Piaf provided the soundtrack.

I know, I know. It sounds crazy; and maybe I’ll admit to a little bit of that. The point was not the cleaning; it was that I had instinctively turned to a ritual that has centered me for years. Sunday mornings puttering around my house listening to French music is my happy place. Once I was through cleaning the kitchen, I was able to switch the radio station to Zac Brown Band and begin to tackle all of my tasks with a clear mind.

So, how do we find this centering ritual? Usually, it is found by holding up a big stop sign in our minds and asking, “What is the one thing that I really feel the need for right now?” No, I’m not talking about the task that is screaming the loudest. I’m talking about the one thing our souls need at the moment. Maybe it’s a walk outside. Yoga. Sitting in our partner’s lap for a cuddle. Wrapping our arms around our favorite furry creature. Cleaning a kitchen.

Let’s face it. Running around faster and faster, trying to multitask in our brains, is generally counterproductive. Some people excel at it; I am not one of those people. I become a hamster on a hamster wheel, going nowhere.  I need to stop thinking for a minute, breathe and move my body to accomplish one specific task. For you, it may be different. The point is, we need to take a little time and find what works; and employ it before the circus gets completely overrun by the monkeys, and we’re far down the road to Crazytown.