Yesterday, I shared some suggestions from Sarahjoy Marsh’s book Hunger, Hope & Healing for decelerating racing thoughts and calming our minds and bodies. Because racing thoughts can steal our enjoyment. They can follow us into bed and onto the couch. They can boost our anxiety and sink our mood.
Today, I’m sharing other suggestions, because there are so many great tools out there. Most of the below tips are meditations or based on mindfulness, as these are powerful in creating calm and helping us refocus.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
- Listen to this “leaves on the stream” meditation. I love what the speaker says about the meditation’s purpose: “to notice a shift of looking from your thoughts to looking at your thoughts.” Because we don’t need to control or change our thoughts. We can simply observe them as they come and go naturally.
- Think of your racing thoughts as a movie you’re watching.
- Start narrating your every step. That is, to yourself, say exactly what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re trying to relax on the couch, you might say: “Right now, I’m sitting on the couch. I’m looking at the TV. I’m having a hard time concentrating on what I’m watching. My right arm is moving to the left to wrap a blanket over my entire body…” and so on.
- Listen to this 18-minute meditation, which features bells, waves washing ashore and instructions to breathe in deeply and exhale fully.
- Start doodling your racing thoughts. As the thoughts are swirling around your mind, draw them. Avoid writing down these thoughts or any words in general. Instead sketch shapes, patterns or any other images that arise as you’re observing your thoughts.
- Read something really, really boring. Maybe this is a manual for your fridge or names in the phone book (remember those? :)).
- Listen to classical music. Or listen to your favorite songs, and sing along.
- Try this breathing meditation for slowing down and cultivating stillness.
- Pick one thing to look at. Just one thing. Set your timer for 5 minutes and stare at it. Study it. This might be anything from a magazine to a print on your wall.
- Make yourself something to eat that requires multiple steps, which really can be anything. Pause, and take the time to smell what you’re making. Focus your attention on your hands as they’re chopping or filling a pot with water. Pretend you’re making a food video, and every little step counts. Make it as conscious and deliberate as possible.
- Watch a funny film or YouTube videos of your favorite comedian.
- Picture yourself in the middle of a beautiful field. Your racing thoughts are thought bubbles, which surround you and more keep popping up. Picture yourself putting these thought bubbles in a huge box, and locking it up. Or picture the thought bubbles as balloons, which you pop with a needle one by one. As you do, they transform into beautiful splatters of paint. Create any visualization that works for you. You can even write the visualization down or record yourself saying it. Return to your visualization whenever your racing thoughts reappear.
- Practice one of these three meditations for helping you calm your mind so you can fall asleep.
Racing thoughts are bothersome. They’re overwhelming. They’re frustrating. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle, and the tapes your head is replaying.
However, know that you can stop the tapes or at least slow them down. You don’t have to join your thoughts on the highway as they race each other. You can find an exit and a quiet place to rest.
In some cases, the techniques you try on your own may not work. That’s OK. It might mean you need to see a therapist (especially if you’re struggling regularly). This way you can receive one-on-one support that specifically addresses your concerns. (You might start your search here.)