Does it sometimes feel like your thoughts are trapped on a looping roller coaster that you can’t slow down? Do you ruminate over past mistakes or upcoming conversations?
Racing thoughts are no fun. They’re intrusive. They’re exhausting. They pull you out of the present moment and push you into a whirlwind of what ifs. Worst of all, they make you feel like you’re not in control of your own mind.
Racing thoughts are a common symptom of stress, anxiety, and several mental health disorders. Fast and repetitive, they circle around certain topics again and again. But the repetitive nature of racing thoughts means that you can learn to recognize their pattern – and to slow down your mind when it starts to run wild.
9 Strategies to Slow Down Your Racing Thoughts
- Identify Your Triggers. To stop your racing thoughts, you must first recognize when and why they happen. Whenever you catch yourself on the mental roller coaster, take a step back and ask yourself: What am I ruminating about? Was there something that triggered this cascade of thoughts? Make notes in a journal, and look for patterns to emerge. Use these patterns to guide you to areas of your life where you need to reduce your stress levels.
- Find Your Five Senses. To pull yourself out of a frenzy of thoughts, stop and go through each of your five senses. What do you hear right now? What do you smell? Taste? Feel? See? Take a deep breath and bring your focus back to the present. Repeat as many times as necessary
- Repeat a Mantra. Telling yourself not to think about something can be extremely difficult. Instead, aim to replace your racing thoughts with a personal mantra. Whether your mantra is positive, funny, or completely absurd – it can be a powerful weapon to drown out unwanted thoughts.
- Sing a Song. It’s really hard for your mind to swirl around past mistakes when you’re trying to hit the high notes of “My Heart Will Go On.” Add a few dance moves and you’re guaranteed to get rid of those racing thoughts.
- Immediately Do Something Else. Whatever you are doing when you realize your thoughts are racing, stop immediately and do something completely different. Walk outside. Jump on one foot. Draw a picture of a clown. Disrupt what your body is doing and you will also disrupt your mental tailspin.
- Schedule Worry Time. Give yourself a set amount of time each day to sit and worry about whatever it is that sparks your racing thoughts. When they push their way into your brain at inopportune moments (like bedtime), you can push back. It’s easier to do knowing that you’ve given yourself an appointed time for worrying at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
- Meditate. Even if you can only manage five minutes a day. Practicing meditation literally retrains your brain to let go of intrusive thoughts.
- Love Yourself. Never beat yourself up for having racing thoughts or feeling stressed and anxious. It’s part of being human. Prioritize self-care and do something that makes you feel nourished and loved on a daily basis.
- Consult a Mental Health Professional. Repetitive racing thoughts can really decrease your quality of life – but they don’t have to. If you are struggling, consult a mental health professional to determine which individual treatment plan will work for you.
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