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Published on November 14, 2018

How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up

How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up

If you could see a diagram of my brain and you could imagine every line was a thought, it would look like you’d given a room full of 4 year olds crayons and told them to draw on the floor of a huge room. I don’t think one thing at a time. As my family say “I think Auntie Winn”.

My Auntie Winn could think about 30 conversations at the same time and expect you to jump from discussing world politics to the qualities of a good rock cake in less time than it took to the boil the kettle. Apparently, I do that to my husband too, I can often hear him saying “I know you think we’ve had this conversation today, however I’ve a feeling you’re giving me an answer to a conversation we had last Thursday in the hot tub!”

So, racing thoughts and me are best friends, or are we?

I realized that while I can be thinking a thousand thoughts at once, I don’t suffer from overwhelm, how is that? How to stop racing thoughts?

In this article, I want to share how I silence my mind, create some space and why it’s so good to do personally and professionally.

Does Everyone Have Racing Thoughts?

Before I share these ideas, I want to share something that really shocked me.

I decided to ask my social media friends if they “suffered” from a racing mind as so many of my clients do. The response was a little alarming:

    100% of respondents said they felt overwhelmed with many saying they felt like their mind was crazy and “Switching off? What’s that!”

    From my over busy friends’ minds, it seems that it doesn’t just impact on your mind, it also impacts on your actions, what you get done in a day and even your ability to get a decent nights sleep!

    It really is time to get that mind to let up and give you some time isn’t it!

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    So how can we fix this?

    Here I’m going to share a few tools to help you put the brakes on, calm your mind and achieve more without letting any of the important thoughts slip through your head.

    How to Stop Racing Thoughts In Your Mind

    1. Listen to your mind – Think like a pro

    I realized that one of the skills I’ve learned since I became ill with Lupus is that, I’ve learned to think in the most powerful way possible.

    Every thought is processed. I’ve been using this practice for so many years and I appreciate that I don’t consciously do this anymore. However, at the start, you will have to structure your thinking. When I say processed, I mean I am aware of the nature of my thoughts. For instance:

      I could go on, however do you get the idea?

      Listen to what your head has to say and then process it. If you don’t take the time to learn to do this, then ask yourself what impact this could have on your brain space, actions and results?

      2. Calm the mind

        When you’ve learned to actually listen to all that chatter in your head, it’s time to calm the mind.

        Listening does not automatically equate to it all magically disappearing. And calming the mind doesn’t require a tropical paradise, a massage and the sounds of nature to achieve a bit of brain space.

        For some clients, they’ve discovered the fastest way to shut their brains up is to crank up the music, so they literally can’t hear anything except their favourite song.

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        For others, 5 minutes in the garden is enough to make them rethink. I wouldn’t say there’s only one thing that takes you to a calm place, I’d have at least 12 physical things you can do to calm your mind down.

        That way, whether you have a hyper mind with excitement, anger, too much going on or feeling completely overwhelmed by life, you have different ideas to work.

        3. The Hi, Welcome, Good morning Game

        For me, sometimes a walk under the big oak trees is enough; other times, I just find myself getting even more flustered as the thoughts fight for my attention. On those occasions I found this really simple exercise quietens my mind and makes me smile:

        It’s so simple and yet works every time for me. All I do is visualize 10 people that I’ve met that week and visualize the first word I said to them. I’ve usually said something like “Great to see you” or “Hello” or “Welcome to my event!”

        I love meeting people and I host many different kinds of events, so people are pleased to see me and we are looking forward to our time together. What a great set of emotions and feelings to recreate in my head.

        How could you use my welcome exercise to remind you of something in your week that makes you feel good? (This also works on ear worms too!)

        4. Focus the mind

        When a coaching client arrives, they tend to start our session by talking so fast that I’m not sure even they can hear half of what they’re saying! After about 20 minutes, they are out of breath like they’ve been for a run, and their shoulders seem a little lighter as they’ve dumped the contents of their head on to me.

        What is happening when a client does this is they are:

        • Becoming more aware of what is going on in their head. Sometimes actually hearing the truth for the first time themselves!
        • Putting everything in front of them metaphorically so they can work out what to work on and what to dump. I call it ditch it or deal with it. And it works wonders on “To do” lists too!
        • Noticing how everything in their head impacts on them — physically and emotionally.
        • Challenging the beliefs they are holding around their perception of reality.

        And that’s just for starters! Read on for the next step.

        5. Create a plan of action

        Once you can see what is going on, you can create a plan of action that moves you forward.

        Focus means “the main or central point of something, especially of attention or interest” and this is what you need to calm an overwhelmed head of racing thoughts.

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        While you may not have a coach to work with, create some ways to empty everything out of your head and focus on what you need/want to do. These could include:

        • Arrange to meet with a friend or colleague and agree that “without judgement” they will listen and not interrupt. Agree that you will donate an hour to enable them to do the same.
        • One Facebook friend told me that their “cure to a racing mind” was to “disappear to bed with a pen and notebook to write it all down.” While in theory that is a good idea, I asked them if this worked for them, and they said sometimes. Could that be because they’ve waited until bedtime to process everything and get it out, instead of dealing with it when it was really a problem? Journaling can store up a lot of negative emotion if we keep reading it, so pay attention to how your notes make you feel. Is it really beneficial to you or do you need to change the way you write?
        • Make the time to focus. Do you need to put it in the diary or will you natural make the time to do this?
        • Create a list of all the things you could do for all the things you have whirling around in your head. Make it a long list. Dismiss nothing.
        • Play the ditch it or deal with it game. So often what we think we should be stressing about is actually someone else’s definition of important, therefore ask yourself “does this really matter to me?

        6. Less on your to do list

        Years ago, people would answer “How are you?” with “I’m fine, thanks” or “I’ve had a bad cold but I’m getting better now, thanks!” However today’s reply is far more likely to be “Busy, how are you?”

        Busy is not an emotion or feeling!

          Many of us have a busy mind because we are so busy. More and more I’m being asked to help professionals and organization to create coach-able strategies to manage their time. Here’s a few of those ideas to help you with your racing mind:

          Stop over thinking things.

          We often over think how long a task that we hate doing is going to take and so put it off and thus it gets to stick around in your head!

          Set a timer and know how long a task takes. Many clients have been able to clear a whole task from their head because their perception of its impact on their day and productivity has been changed.

          Allow more time.

          Contrary to the first top tip, we also underestimate how long other things take to do.

          If you know a job will take an hour, allow 1.5 hours. This means if it doesn’t take that long, you’ve just made some brain space for yourself too, so it’s a win win situation.

          Choose your words wisely.

          Have you ever noticed how many sayings we have around words related to time? I really want some Me time. I never have the time. I know you’ve got a lot on, but make the time. I don’t want to spend my time telling you what to do, etc, etc.

          Ask yourself if your choice of words free up your mind or make it even busier?

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          Don’t get side-tracked.

          We all have alarms and reminders that ping up at us. Even our household appliance now bleeps at us saying “Hey, I’m ready, give me your attention!” Turn them off.

          If you know you have a lot on, choose what you can hear carefully. Just like the person turning the music up so they can’t hear their own thoughts. Our ability to process what is going on in our heads can be impacted on by the email ping or the notification sounds.

          I have seen presentations where we’ve been told the best course of action is Eisenhower’s matrix for time management, which asks you to place every task (or thought) into a grid. The blocks are labelled: Urgent, less urgent, important and less important.

          While I’ve seen clients create their own version of this to great success. I also seen new clients who have told me that it takes them hours to complete the grid and so they get no work done and end up with even more flying around inside their heads!

          That’s enough to drive anyone insane! What works for one person does not mean it will work for you. You could try relabelling Eisenhower matrix as my clients to make it personal to you, to encourage you to use it.

          Alternatively, there is an app for everything. What about finding an app that enables you to empty your head. I love Wunderlist for enabling me to create some space in my head. In this way, you can put to one side thoughts while you concentrate on what is important right now.

          7. Ditch that guilt

          And lastly, if you have a brain that is running away with you, ditch the guilt because I wouldn’t mind betting you’ll free up a lot of space with that 1 action!

          Guilt is one of those emotions that causes us to process things again and again and again. Look for the guilt in your thoughts, analyze why it exists and get rid of it.

          Final Thoughts

          It’s totally normal if you find your thoughts racing in your mind all the time. What you need to do is to really listen to your thoughts and take some concrete actions about those thoughts.

          Forcing yourself to silence those thoughts is not the most efficient way in the long-run. Time to face these thoughts and find what works best for you to deal with these racing thoughts.

          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

          More by this author

          Mandie Holgate

          Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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          Last Updated on August 19, 2019

          How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

          How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

          We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

          When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

          In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

          Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

          If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

          According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

          No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

          When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

          Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

          1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

          When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

          Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

          When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

          Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

          In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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          It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

          You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

          Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

          What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

          You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

          That’s where we all should be.

          So, answer me this:

          How are you, really?

          And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

          Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

          Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

          Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

          Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

          It’s taking control.

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          2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

          You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

          You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

          In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

          Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

          You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

          Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

          But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

          It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

          In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

          It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

          Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

          Change will happen.

          Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

          You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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          And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

          You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

          That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

          You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

          When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

          There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

          3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

          Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

          In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

          If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

          Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

          Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

          How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

          Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

          “Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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          Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

          Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

          It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

          Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

          “If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

          What would you do if you felt you were enough?

          By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

          So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

          Final Thoughts

          By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

          Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

          When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

          You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

          More About Living Your True Self

          Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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