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Published on February 28, 2020

How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

Do you ever feel stressed and overwhelmed by things going on in your life? Most of us do from time to time. Stress is a normal part of life. It is actually a survival mechanism to protect us from dangerous situations. The problem arises when we don’t know how to relieve it, and the stress persists.

Here we are going to look at why we have chronic stress, and then I’ll show you how to relax your mind with some simple practices. You’ll see for yourself that a peaceful mind is well within your reach, no matter how stressed out you may be.

Benefits of Relaxing Your Mind

The main benefit of relaxing your mind is that it relieves stress. By calming your mind, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by your emotions, which can make you feel like you’re losing control.

By calming your mind, you also avoid many of the health consequences of stress, such as high blood pressure, depression, and fatigue. A peaceful mind will improve your mood by reducing anger and frustration, and also improve your confidence in handling life’s problems.[1]

Overall, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Why We Have Trouble Relaxing Our Mind

I often hear people say, “I can’t stop my mind from racing.” They are usually busy people whose lives are filled with commitments and activities. They have demanding jobs and families to take care of. Sometimes, they are young people with goals and ambitions.

There’s nothing wrong with these scenarios. They are normal courses in our lives. The challenge is to find a balance between our commitments to others and our personal needs, and one of those needs is relaxation.

A busy life tends to overstimulate our mind. Basically, anything that touches any of our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) will trigger a chain of thoughts. So, all our activities are continuously stimulating our mind. And if we’re really busy, then we can experience sensory overload, which leads to a racing mind and stress.

Reframing Our Views About Relaxation

Another reason we have trouble relaxing our mind is our unconscious views about relaxation. Ask anybody about his views about relaxation, and he’ll probably tell you it is a good thing, and people should take the time to relax regularly. Then, ask him if he actually does that. Chances are he doesn’t.

It’s much like people’s views about exercising. They know it’s good for them, but they have a hard time practicing it. The reason is that our subconscious mind tells us something different. Our subconscious mind tells us things like:

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“I don’t have time to relax.”

“I have more important things to do.”

“I need to be productive.”

“I don’t know how to relax my mind.”

“I’m the type of person who can’t sit still.”

These subconscious beliefs are very strong, and they dictate our actions. So, if we want to change these beliefs, then we need to reprogram our subconscious mind. That may sound difficult, but it’s not. You can easily do it with a technique called writing meditation.

With writing meditation, you simply copy a set of affirmations by hand in a notebook for about five minutes a day. You can do it at any time and any place. You don’t even need a quiet place.

After a few days, you’ll notice a change in your behavior. It will become easier to dedicate time to relaxing your mind. Here is the relaxation writing meditation:

I realize that I deserve to have peace of mind. I know that with a peaceful mind I will be happier, more productive, and make better choices in my life. May I live in a way that doesn’t overstimulate my mind. May I reduce unnecessary background noise around me.

May I take some time everyday to relax and settle down. May I have the strength to follow other relaxation practices to further calm my mind. I commit to relaxing my mind, so that I may realize true happiness and personal fulfillment.

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In order to get the most benefit from this exercise, I suggest doing it once a day for about 3 to 4 weeks, or however long it takes for you to make relaxation a priority in your life.

How to Relax Your Mind

How to relax your mind is pretty simple. The suggestions below will accomplish two things:

  • They will prevent your mind from getting too agitated in the first place.
  • They will allow your mind to settle down naturally.

You are free to choose any of them. Your choice will depend on how agitated your mind is. If it’s highly agitated, then you’ll want to start with some simple suggestions, such as closing your eyes for a few seconds. Then as you begin to relax over time, you may want to try something for deeper relaxation, such as meditation.

Here are some simple practices for how to relax your mind.

1. Listen to Soothing Music

Soft music can go a long way toward relaxing your mind. The slow pace of the music will force your mind to slow down. There is a variety of different relaxation music on YouTube. Find something like a dreamscape with the sounds of nature.

2. Take a Walk

Going for a walk can help us clear our mind from all the clutter. It gets us away from the things that are agitating our mind, and helps us put things into perspective.

3. Make a Gratitude List

We often tend to focus on the things that we don’t have in our lives. This can be depressing, and keep us striving for those things we believe are missing.

Take about five minutes to write down the things you are grateful for. This will help reprogram your subconscious mind, and put you more at ease.

Get some inspirations here: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

4. Find Some Alone Time

It’s important to have some time for yourself. Take some time regularly to get away from everybody, and do something you enjoy, such as reading a good book, or watching your favorite program.

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5. Cuddle with a Loving Pet

Studies have shown that some pets can have a great calming effect. They help take our mind to a place of simplicity and unconditional love.

6. Turn Your Cell Phone Off

Our cell phones are a great source of mental agitation. Is it really necessary to be connected to other people all the time? Turn your cell phone off for a while, if not hours. Most people in our lives can survive without us being on call.

Next are some really simple things you can do at any time, without taking much time from your busy schedule.[2] They are meant to interrupt the acceleration of your mind. They also bring you back to the present moment, which is the essence of mindfulness.

7. Close Your Eyes

Just close your eyes for a few seconds. You can even follow your breath if you want. This will help reduce some of the sensory stimulation.

8. Laugh

I personally enjoy funny social media posts, or reliving funny sitcom scenes. Laughing gives us a short break from serious issues.

9. Smell the Flowers

Flowers are nature’s work of art. They come in all shapes and sizes and scents. Stop once in a while to admire their beauty and fragrance. Don’t neglect the tiny ones. They too have great beauty.

10. Get Some Sunlight

Sunshine can have a tremendous calming effect. Go outside for a few minutes during your break. Sit on a bench, close your eyes, and just enjoy the warmth of the sun.

11. Look out the Window

If you’re not able to go outside, gazing out the window for a couple of minutes can be almost as good. Look at the trees, birds, and any other critters you can spot. And don’t just look at the immediate area, but also look into the distance.

If you are serious about how to relax your mind, the following practices will help you achieve a deeper state of relaxation.

12. Reduce Noise and Activity

If you live a busy life, there is probably a lot of noise and activity around you. Try reducing some of the background noise, such as TV and radio when you’re not fully engaged with them.

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13. Relax Physically

Physical relaxation will help calm your mind. There are various ways to relax physically, such as stretching, practicing tai chi or yoga, or taking a warm bath. You can even listen to a guided meditation with a body scan.[3]

14. Talk to a Friend

We often have things going on in our mind because we’re not able to fully make sense of them. Sometimes, just talking to someone else will help us sort them out.[4]

15. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

This is a powerful and diverse practice that can significantly calm your mind. In addition to doing sitting meditation, you can also do mindful breathing, mindful walking, and guided imagery.

Take a look at the different types of meditation and see which one is suitable for you: 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

16. Exercise

Physical exercise can help you get your mind off your problems, and calm your thoughts and emotions.[5] It also gives you a greater sense of well-being by increasing your brain’s production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel good.[6]

Final Thoughts

As you can see, relaxing your mind is fairly simple. It is mainly a matter of reducing the things that agitate your mind, and taking some time to allow it to settle down naturally.

Just imagine what your life will be like with a peaceful mind. Things will become much clearer, you’ll make better choices, and you’ll feel more in control of your emotions and your life. All this is well within your reach. All you have to do is follow some of the simple practices outlined above.

More Tips to Help You Relax Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Tamara Bellis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

5 Ways Mindful Breathing Calms Your Nerves How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts from Eating You Alive 20 Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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