Everyone experiences racing thoughts, or an endless loop of the same thought over and over from time to time. This is completely normal and human. So with today’s Controlling Thoughts in Your Mind post, I wanted to touch a bit deeper on whether we can actually control said thoughts. What do we mean when we say “control” and are there some strategies to perhaps do this more effectively? This is a particularly interesting topic for me, personally, because as someone with anxiety I do experience racing and continuous thoughts. Whereas it has gotten a lot better over the years, I think we all experience this from time to time… so let us dive in.
What do I Mean With Racing Thoughts?
So, let me start off by explaining: What do I mean when we are talking about controlling racing thoughts in your mind. There is a distinction that needs to be made straight away. You cannot control the thoughts that pop into your head (or at least science has not yet learned how to and why they pop up). So, if you are thinking: “I need to pee” but you are also thinking: “Crap, I need to still call the plumber, and clean the kitchen and I wonder whether my friend is mad at me for that one comment I made three weeks ago”. Those are not thoughts that we can control.
What we can control, though, is how we engage with these thoughts. So, in said above example, am I thinking I wonder whether my friend is mad at me, and she has also not texted me back within 45 minutes, and come to think of it the last time I saw her, her smile was not fully reaching her eyes, that is a negative thought pattern that can quickly make you feel stuck and in a rollercoaster of emotions that are – very likely completely untrue. So, this post focuses on how to not engage in this thought pattern and break this cycle of continuous racing thoughts.
Just a quick note: As someone who experiences mental health challenges, I never want to take away from the fact that the below may not benefit you. If you feel your mind is struggling more than what you could manage yourself, please see a professional health care provider 💕.
How Do I Know If I am Experiencing Racing Thoughts?
So, some of us – like me – are used to racing thoughts, because my mental health (unfortunately) means that I have experienced this for a really long time already. For others, though, it may not be that obvious or straightforward. You may also be new to experiencing said racing thoughts. So, how do you know if you are experiencing racing thoughts?
You tend to experience racing thoughts when you are not able concentrate on the thing/task that you set yourself out to do. So, for example, you want to sit down and finish that report your boss has asked for and that needs to be completed and you are unable to focus on that task because your mind is pre-occupied with something else. You may experience phases of not being able to sleep, because your mind is active and racing. Or you find yourself yelling at your partner, because you feel so overwhelmed and the smallest step into the wrong direction is setting you on fire. All of these are signs for chatter in our minds.
Controlling Racing Thoughts in Your Mind
Here is the absolute good news of this post: You are not alone. We all experience an “upset” mind from time to time. Some of us perhaps more so than others but with this one, we are all sitting in the same boat. There are several tips and tricks that you can do in order to control these racing thoughts and I want to dive into those next. This list is by no means exhaustive, and you may realize that some of these resonate better with you than others. If so (and as always), take what serves you and leave the rest 💕.
Take a Step Back
When you are experiencing racing thoughts, take a step back and look at it more from a broader angle. Try to coach yourself through a situation just like you would do, for example, with a friend. We are usually really good at giving advice to others. Why not apply this to ourselves? It may even help to talk about this situation with yourself in the third person. That way, you are creating some further boundaries and distance and realize that the racing thoughts are simply just that – but not something that needs to have control over us. Language can totally allow us to shift our perspective. You can absolutely apply this to yourself just like you would do to others.
Do a Mental Time Travel
Ask yourself: Will this situation that I am worrying about still be important to me in a week from now, a month from now, or even a year from now? I will likely be having different things I am worrying about and this small thing will be no longer of importance to me. This trick very much helps to put things into perspective and may allow you to recognize the insignificance of the racing thoughts you are currently experiencing.
Sincerely, I have banged on about this topic so many times, it is unreal. Nature is medicine. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your thoughts and mind, go for a walk. Nature instantly soothes our parasympathetic nervous system – it is programmed into us!! For years and years and years we experienced nature as a place of calm and relaxation. We also saw a lot more of it, because urbanization was not a thing. If you do not have a lot of greenery around or are limited in your ability to walk at the moment, looking at pictures of nature may have a similar effect (so do plants by the way).
As I said in last week’s post about How to Combat Stress, breathing can make a world of a difference. Get grounded and put yourself on the floor. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Breathe in long and slow and breathe out. You can also practice breathwork through, e.g. Youtube. It is the single, quickest way to calm your nervous system and absolutely super effective.
Talk to Someone
If you have someone you trust and listen to that person’s opinion, this can be a fantastic and amazing way to reduce racing thoughts. Be mindful though that you need to be open to said person’s opinion. If you are only calling to vent this person will likely only so often pick up your call.
I bet you did not find this one on the list – did you 😉?! If our mind is racing, we oftentimes want to counteract the havoc happening in our brain by making the space around us clean. You can totally clean whilst you are having racing thoughts. However, more productively it makes sense to keep your spaces clean because it immediately calms your mind. This is also the reason why sleep a lot better when you have a tidy space in your bedroom.
Bring more Happiness to Your Days
Last but not least, I wanted to mention what I already said last week about stress (the two topics can correlate, even though they do not have to). The more time you spent being happy and in a happy place, the less time/room there is for racing thoughts because you are fully immersed in the present. Make a point of making your everyday life more enjoyable. I truly believe that is the key to a simpler, more enjoyable life.
The Takeaway from This Post
I hope this post has helped you a bit from numerous perspectives. (1) Please remember you are not alone and we all experience havoc in our minds from time to time. (2) I have listed some effective strategies that can help you to combat your racing thoughts. Try what may work for you and develop a game plan for “tough times” (so to speak). A plan should allow you to use these tools when you need them more effectively. As said, if you feel you are constantly overwhelmed, please consult with a healthcare professional. Thank you for reading this – sending you lots of love 💚!