- 23 Oct - 29 Oct, 2021
WAYS TO STOP RACING THOUGHTS
- 26 Jun - 02 Jul, 2021
- health & nutrition
Imagine: You're winding down after a long day. You've completed your skincare routine, put on a pair of cozy pajamas, and snuggled up in bed. But instead of sailing off to sleep, you're wide awake thinking about a dozen things. Did you forget to lock the door? Did you send out that important work email? How will you complete that project in time for the big meeting? When do you need to renew your passport? Your calf is cramping – should you look up the symptoms online?
If this sounds annoyingly familiar, chances are you're experiencing the all-too-common phenomenon of racing thoughts. When you have racing thoughts, it feels like your mind is going 100 miles per minute – and there's no way to pump the brakes. While racing thoughts can be a byproduct of clinical mental conditions like ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, or depression, it's often a symptom of anxiety.
But just because you experience racing thoughts doesn't mean it always has to be this way. To help, we compiled expert-approved strategies for breaking out of the cycle of detrimental racing thoughts.
Schedule designated worry time
In a perfect world, your mind would be free of racing thoughts. But in reality, slowing your mind down takes patience – it’s a skill, but the good news is, it’s a skill you can learn. Thought-stopping techniques require preparation, awareness, and an external reminder. Peace of mind won’t happen overnight, but you can wean yourself off the habit little by little.
One technique to use is scheduling time to think anxiously. It creates space to explore your worries while also giving them a time limit. It tricks your brain's tendency to jump to conclusions and go into response mode.
Instead of letting those racing thoughts run rampant throughout the day, limit them to a 20-minute time slot. To establish firm boundaries, carve out time on your calendar and set a timer. Use that allocated time to focus and work through whatever is bothering you. Once the time is up, move on to an activity that brings you joy, such as cooking or working out.
Enlist your senses
Anyone who’s experienced racing thoughts knows they can creep up at a moment’s notice, and it can be hard to squash them when you’re, say, on the subway or a turbulent flight.
Racing thoughts are sometimes caused by thinking of the future and what could potentially happen. To calm them, try to ground yourself in the present moment and think about the things happening right now.
Experts recommend combating racing thoughts with the 5-4-3-2-1 method, which encourages you to tune into your senses: Five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This will calm your mind and give you a task to focus on. By focusing on your senses, you can slowly but surely take your mind off of whatever’s bothering you.
More times than not, racing thoughts are rooted in negativity and often occur when we’re feeling stressed.
When we’re under stress, we’re experiencing something to have negative thoughts about. Then when we experience those negative thoughts, we often lack the mental energy necessary to address them before they become negative racing thoughts.
To keep those negative, racing thoughts at bay, experts recommend practicing gratitude. Practice replacing pessimistic worries with something you're thankful for or something that makes you happy. Thinking about one thing you’re grateful for helps to prevent the energy of a negative thought from turning into racing negative thoughts and spiraling out of control.
The National Science Foundation study also found 95 per cent of negative thoughts are repetitive from the day prior. Another way to banish recurring thoughts is to repeat a mantra. A mantra can distract from the racing thoughts, and the more you repeat something to yourself, the more you can implement it into your life and make it real.
Reciting a mantra that reminds you that you’re in control or safe from negative situations can help put your mind at ease.
Don't hesitate to seek professional help
When you’ve tried all of these exercises without any progress, consider seeking out a professional who can offer more strategies for chronic, anxious ruminating and provide you the space to work things through.
Sometimes people can try to use these coping mechanisms and they don’t work. Seeking professional help or considering medication has great results.
And it’s important to note that you should always call your doctor if you’re experiencing racing thoughts alongside mood shifts, panic attacks, strong compulsions or irritability, or depression.
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