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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 March 30, 2020

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

          Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

          You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

          This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

          According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

          Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

          There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

          How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

          When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

          Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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          1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

          One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

          The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

          Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

          2. Be Honest

          A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

          If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

          On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

          Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

          3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

          Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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          If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

          4. Succeed at Something

          When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

          Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

          5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

          Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

          Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

          If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

          If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

          Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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          6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

          Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

          You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

          On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

          You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

          7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

          Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

          Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

          Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

          When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

          Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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          In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

          Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

          It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

          Final Thoughts

          When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

          The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

          Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

          Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

          Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

          More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

          Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
          [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
          [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
          [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
          [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
          [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
          [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
          [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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