We've all had those days were thoughts are running through our mind, and we can't seem to get them to slow down. It's easy to get caught up in those moments and get overwhelmed, but instead, we can try to figure out effective and healthy ways to calm down a racing mind. Taking control of what's going on in your head can seem difficult when you're so consumed with distraction, but with a little patience and effort, you can calm yourself down and begin to think clearly.
Racing thoughts can occur to anyone, whether you suffer from anxiety or a not. A busy mind can be a result of anything from stress, to feeling overwhelmed, to not sleeping enough, to even drinking too much coffee, according to Calm Clinic. Everyone also experiences these types of thoughts differently, with some people feeling out of control and others obsessing over each and every idea that comes into your brain. The key is to find a way to manage these thoughts that works best for you personally.
"When you're mind is racing you need some quick techniques," says social worker and life coach Ava Barron-Shasho, LCSW-C, ACC over email, "Whichever one you choose, practice it so you can easily remember to do it when you're stressed."
If you ever need to relax yourself when your brain just won't shut up, try these six tips to calm a racing mind.
1. Deep Breathing
"Racing thoughts are like an engine, and you have to take away the fuel," says Liza Gellerstedt, LCSW over email. "The fastest and most effective way to do this is with deep breathing. Put your hands on your belly and breathe in until your belly is full of air, pause for a moment and then exhale for longer than you inhale. Many people use a count to help guide them, but do what works for you."
"This is a great way to calm the mind," says Jessica Marchena, LMHC over email. "It doesn't mean that you won't have thoughts, but you will be able to slow them down with practice." Multiple studies have found mindfulness meditation to be effective at reducing anxiety and stress symptoms, and it can be as simple as practicing yoga, sitting quietly for 10 minutes, or even just paying attention to your thoughts.
"Research is abundant and clear: exercise works like 'medicine' for a variety of mental health struggles, including racing thoughts," says Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. over email. "Getting out for a walk — even a leisurely walk — when your mind is spinning, releases endorphins, which generate pleasurable feelings and can contribute to feeling less stressed, worried, and more relaxed during exercise and later."
4. Challenge Your Thoughts
"Learn 'thought management' skills through cognitive-behavioral therapy," says Hibbert. "It teaches principles of thought-stopping, which is very helpful in those times when your mind is spinning about things over which you either have no control, can’t do anything about, or are just 'stuck' on with no helpful purpose in thinking about it."
5. Practice Muscle Relaxation
"[Progressive muscle relaxation] is a head to toe exercise where you hold and squeeze each muscle group three times to release the tension," says Marchena. This helps to refocus your attention and become aware of your body, which can help sooth physical sensations of stress, according to the Mayo Clinic.
6. Play A Game
Try distracting yourself with a mind game such as a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. "These activities focus [your] attention by forcing [you] to concentrate on a single specific 'brain' task which, when completed, produces enormous satisfaction," says career coach Roy Cohen over email. "They are the equivalent of a brain buzz. The aftereffect is a feeling of increased peace, calm, and joy."
Everyone deals with stress and anxiety differently, so try these techniques to figure out which one works best for you. If you still feel like your mind is constantly racing, talk to a therapist to figure out the best long-term solution.
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