What to Do When You Feel Restless

Somedays you just feel restless. Filled with a fidgety energy and no clear idea what to do with it. That uncomfortable, restless feeling is actually a good thing. It’s a sign that you’ve outgrown the spot you’re in and it’s time to move on to bigger and better goals. Your mind is sending your body the message that it’s time to get up and moving. I have tips today for how to recognize restlessness and take advantage of this unique energy surge so you can put it to good use.

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Welcome to the Cara Brookins Show, this is where you’ll find all the tools you need to get unstuck and build a better life. I know what it feels like to need a friend to talk you through the hard stuff. From cleaning off your desk, to building a new desk, or even rebuilding your entire life from scratch, I’ll be here with you for every step. Let’s get moving and build exactly the life you want.

Here’s a small fact you already know about me: I have a lot of hobbies. But did you know one of them is painting? Ok, well that’s not entirely true. I WANT one of them to be painting, but the practice part of that one keeps getting pushed further and further down the road. Sometimes I think maybe time’s run out for that hobby. But today’s show proves I have plenty of time. 

I was reading an article this week about this really amazing lady known as Grandma Moses. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s an artist. (Pretty well known) She did a lot of landscapes in bright primary colors and with this kind of simple, nostalgic, and almost whimsical style. They’re just a lot of fun. Picture if you could paint optimism, I really think that’s what Grandma Moses did. In fact, she said one time that she painted her daydreams. And as we talked about in last week’s episode on boredom, daydreams are vital for creativity so I like her description a lot. And, well, it turned out a lot of people liked hanging out in her day dreams with her by hanging them on their walls. And you guessed it, they paid a lot of money for her paintings. 

Not only have some of them sold for over a million dollars, her artwork has sold on somewhere around 50 million Christmas cards. Not bad, right? Well that’s not even the impressive part of her story. Which I’m going to tell you in just a minute. 

But first, I want to talk about that feeling I mentioned at the opening today. A feeling we all have sometimes. It hits us fast a lot of time and we feel like we should really quick get started on learning to paint or play golf, or strum a guitar. We’re not always sure which one to try first, either. There’s a desperate feeling that time is running out. 

It’s a little irritated wiggle of a feeling that’s hard to describe so we just call it feeling restless. Break that word in half and you get Rest-less. Which just means not resting. Your mind is not resting, and you can’t make it. This is a frustrating feeling because this one doesn’t come with a clear resolution. It’s not like hunger where we know eating will make it go away. It’s not even like being cold or tired where we can grab a blanket or maybe a nap. Really it’s like the opposite of all those things in a way. 

Because restlessness is a feeling of not having something and but at the same time you may have no idea what that something is. It can feel like you’re moving a million miles a minute with no target. I think of it like if you jump in the car to drive somewhere, and whoever is supposed to give you directions keeps falling asleep or just telling you stories and forgetting that they’re supposed to be the navigator. So you’re driving 70 miles an hour down the HWY never knowing if the exit you’re about to pass is the one you’re supposed to take. Restlessness is a feeling of constant anxiety that where you are right now isn’t where you’re supposed to be. Sound familiar?

This is seriously one of the most frustrating emotions because you feel powerless to solve it. I mean, we all know we can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist. And that’s what feeling restless is, it’s an endless loop of wanting really bad to hit some target …. but not having a clear idea what that target is. And here’s the worst part: because solving this restless feeling feels impossible, you feel absolutely desperate to do it. And as desperate people we all do really. Dumb. Stuff. Yeah, you know what I mean, don’t you. 

Here you are on say a Saturday night, feeling restless. So you start just throwing random stuff at the feeling, like it’s a fire you have to put out. Maybe you cook something or run through a drive through, either way there’s zero chance you’re eating anything healthy. But after you eat three bags of microwave popcorn, you’re still restless. That wasn’t it. Lucky for you, we live in fantastic times where diving into a month long Netflix binge while flicking through TikTok, or Pinterest, or twitter or maybe all of them, is the perfect combo to smother that restlessness. By the time you hit the end of season 4, you have forgotten you ever felt restless, or just about anything else. Problem. Solved. Or—is it? 

What if restlessness doesn’t exist just to annoy you. What if it has a purpose? Now just stick with me for a minute, what if, you felt restless for a reason. And what if you were actually meant to do something a lot more productive with that flicker of a feeling than binge watching action movies. What if feeling restless was supposed to inspire you to do something completely new. Something big. Something that would change your life. 

And instead of fanning that persistent little flame like you were supposed to, Netflix gave you a shortcut to just hold that little feeling under the water until you drowned it. Umm yes, this is where we all say: whoops. 

Because here’s what that restless feeling of bottled up energy is actually all about. You start to get that wiggle of restlessness when you realize that there’s a disconnect between where you are right now and what you’re capable of. That’s right, on some level you can see this gap between what you’re doing right now and your potential. You can do more. You can do better. And when you realize that, even on a sort of subconscious level, your brain begins getting you ready to fix that problem. To close that gap between what you’re doing now and what you’re capable of doing. It’s really a great system when you think about it. 

Your subconscious brain is on top of this, sending energy out in these sort of waves down your arms and legs and all the way down to your fingers and toes. Your brain is getting you ready to move. To take action. Practically screaming at you through your nerve endings: it’s time!

But the problem is, on a more logical level, conscious-you hasn’t figured out yet exactly what that thing is that you’re going to do. And we’ve gotten into a really bad habit now that life is filled with an endless selection of easy distractions. Instead of taking a little time to figure what that restless feeling is prompting you to do, you just do everything you can to get rid of the restless feeling. 

It’s a terrible reaction that’s the same as killing the messenger. Why would we snuff out the very thing that’s trying to encourage us to do more, to do better?

Because we’ve gotten too used to eliminating everything that makes us slightly uncomfortable. And we don’t like feeling restless. It feels uneasy and we equate that with bad, even though the reality is that we just misunderstand why it’s there. It’s a fidgety feeling designed to make us uncomfortable enough to MOVE from where we are. We’ve outgrown this spot and it’s time to move on. 

To make matters worse, even if you suspect what’s happening you still may just plug our ears and kill that restless feeling. Drown it in season 27 of CSI, or candy crush levels, or whatever. Because the spot you’re in has been comfortable for a long time and you’re not sure you want to do more and do better. Doing more and doing better feels like a risk. You will fight to hold onto your comfortable, familiar spot in life, kinda like a stubborn lap cat refusing to move from the sunny spot near the window. But seriously, that’s no way to live. It all boils down to this. 

When you feel restless, it means that you have something more to do, and the time to start doing it is immediately. As soon as you feel restless, start to explore your options so you can immediately start reaching for the next spot you’re meant to be in life. There’s a bigger, better sunny window for you to hang out in. And since we’re talking cats now (mostly because my cat Fable is stretching in my lap rt this minute) I think a really good way to think of your restless feeling is to think of yourself like a cat who just saw a spider all the way across the room. And you know that little hunker down, bottom wiggle a cat gives before he pounces? That’s your restless feeling. That’s you revving up for the big pounce! 

I promised you the rest of the grandma Moses story. Really this is the best part of her story, and it sounds unbelievable. Let me tell you why she started to paint in the first place. 

. . .

Before we dig into those details, we’re going to take a short break.

Do you have an idea that you just haven’t been able to get off the ground? Or maybe you worked on it for a while and then got stuck? And even though you still love the idea—can’t get it out of your head, you just have no idea how to get unstuck. 

If you could *just* take all the time you spent putting off a project, and put that time into doing the work to reach your target it would change everything. Take the distractions, the extra coffee breaks, TikTok videos, and Netflix binges and instead spend all those hours, weeks, sometimes years making real progress toward your goal. 

If procrastination has been holding you back, my course Build Something can help.  

I’ve put EVERY SINGLE THING you need to build your ridiculously big project into Build Something. All the strategies, tactics, and methods I used (and still use) to successfully turn my big ideas into real-life projects and finish them. #BuildSomething will teach you how to: plan your projects, get started, take action, actually do the work, work through the hard parts, and stay motivated until you reach your goal. 

Go to carabrookins.com/buildsomething/ for all the tools you need for this project. The one after that. And the one after that. And—you get the idea. That’s carabrookins.com/buildsomething/

This is your chance to get unstuck and start the project of your dreams so you can #BuildSomething you’re proud of.

. . .

And now, back to the show. 

One of the most unusual things about Grandma Moses and her wild success, was that she never studied art. Remember, her paintings have sold for over a million dollars. Over 50 million Christmas cards. Celebrities have her art in their homes. But now I’m telling you she didn’t study art and she didn’t even work at it for very long. She actually spent a lot of time raising kids, taking care of her house, and doing needlepoint. She thought of the needlepoint as a way she painted with thread. She did quilting too. But then, something terrible happened to her. 

She developed really bad arthritis and couldn’t do any kind of needle work anymore. This wasn’t a case of early onset arthritis or anything. She was seventy-eight years old. Seventy-eight, and restless. She was restless. She tried to just sit still, enjoy what she had achieved in life. Feel content. But it didn’t work. She felt really restless and she couldn’t shake that restless feeling. Picture it now, this 78 year old woman was revving up for a pounce just like a cat.

Thankfully Netflix wasn’t a thing yet, this was around 1939. And without the option to pull out an iPad to play candy crush or solitaire or whatever, her sister suggested she ought to try a little art. That’s when she picked up a paint brush and paints, and instead of tamping down that fire, she began to feed the fire. 

She painted happy farm scenes, holidays, and snow days. Simple realism in bright colors. And she just kept painting and selling and painting and selling. She won awards, went on TV and wrote an autobiography, Norman Rockwell even painted her into one of his paintings. And there she was, little old Grandma Moses painting and selling and painting. Until something terrible happened. Again.

It was the arthritis again. Her right hand was just too painful to paint anymore. She of course felt restless. But not for long. Because she knew now how to deal with restlessness—you fan that flame. Feed the fire. She picked up the paintbrush with her left hand. And practiced until she could just pick right up where she’d left off. Painting and selling.

Grandma Moses died in 1961 with around 1500 paintings completed. She was 101.

So, are you ready to pick up a paintbrush? 

No, I’m kidding. Well, kind of. 

Let’s think this through a second. When I built a house, or started a speaking career, when Grandma Moses started painting, first with her right hand, then with her left, we were at a turning point, the cusp of change. It’s not always exactly like that, it can be that everything in your life is just chugging along as usual but one day it’s not enough anymore. One day, you feel restless. You’ve reached a turning point. And here’s why I think it is really interesting. 

You have to be a little dissatisfied with your life in order to change it. You have to not like something about it in order to reach for something bigger. You have to WANT something. But it all starts with that dissatisfaction. You realize on some level that there’s a disconnect or a gap between where you are right now and what your’e capable of. Your potential.

That moment when you feel that, every single time you feel it in life, it has the potential to launch you toward a much better version of your life. Use those restless moments. Turn off Netflix and pick up a paintbrush. Start asking yourself lots of questions about what you want your future to look like. What are some things you were interested in as a child that you always thought you’d try someday? Start somewhere. That’s all it takes.

I want to go on this journey with you—because you know how much I love a new project. Hop on Instagram and tag me as you explore your options. I’m easy to find—just my name, Cara Brookins. I can’t wait to see what your restlessness uncover. 

Now go grab that bin of really expensive hobby stuff you bought last time you felt restless. Thankfully everything you need to become a photographer, or go rock climbing, is right there on amazon. The how-to videos are on YouTube, and the experts in the field are right there are Twitter and Instagram and they check their DMs. Give one of these things a shot. Quit putting out the fire. 

We can’t tap into our own amazing brainpower if we’re always tapping our phones. 

Imagine what you might create by this time next month or next year if you channel all that restless energy into a hobby or a business that add up to something real. And your family, your kids, your parents, your coworkers will learn from you about how to channel their restless energy and fan those flames to something bigger and better. That’s how we change our corner of the world and create a movement—by getting up and moving. 

Your mind and body work together to help you get to a better place. Listen to what your mind and body are telling you. That energy isn’t just appearing for new reason at all. It’s a little gift from your subconscious mind that is actually way more on top of things in this case than your conscious mind, because it is weighing where you are over where it knows you could be and giving you a shove. 

Lean into the momentum of this restless pull and keep going forward. 

What an amazing change we’ll see as more and more people recognize and harness this energy so they can channel it toward a project or a move that will take them closer to their biggest goals. Now that you understand everything behind that restless fidgety feeling, go put it to good use and build something big with your life.

I’ll see you right here next week where we’ll set up a one day plan to wrap up all the small stuff that’s cluttering your space and your mind so you can get your life together and make room for your big goal. 

Thanks for hanging out with me today, head over to carabrookins.com for more (free) tools, and we should really connect on social media too. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.