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7 Ways to Stop Racing Thoughts

Are you experiencing ‘racing thoughts’? If you identify with fast, repetitive thought patterns about a particular topic, you might be experiencing this symptom, which sometimes associates with a level of anxiety and/or other mental health disorders.

Racing thoughts may be replays of past events which generated anxiety or sadness for you. They may also be worries about things that could happen in the future. A part of you may be able to see that these strings of thoughts are irrational and stemming from a place of fear.

When thoughts like these flood your mind, they drain your energy, stop you from living in the present moment, and can create a very overwhelming feeling. They can also make it harder to concentrate and focus on daily tasks, as well as decrease your ability to sleep well.

It is understandable that, if you experience racing thoughts, you would relate to a feeling of being out of control. This feeling is quite common, and yet it is overwhelming, it is important to not let it define you. What it means is that you are anxious and that your stress level is higher than usual.

 

Here are some ways you can work to calm your mind and stop these intrusive, racing thoughts:

 

1. Try alternative thinking.

Our mind usually worries about things it is convinced are true but, most of the time, are actually not true. Instead of trying to predict the worst outcome, try focusing on the possibility of a positive/ alternative outcome. For instance, if your partner seems distant and is texting a lot, you may jump to conclusions and assume they are mad at you. An alternative scenario could be that they are stressed about work, worried about a loved one, and so on. Take a step back, and analyze what’s most likely to happen. More often than not, the worst case scenario is not as likely as you think.

 

2. Exercise

Regular physical activity improves mental well-being and may be helpful during an episode of racing thoughts. Just 15 minutes of walking, jogging, or similar activities may help to settle the mind.

 

3. Mood-boosting Foods

Eating the right foods could improve overall mental well-being and help reduce racing thoughts and mood disorders.

Low-glycemic foods (low in sugar, high in protein) have been proven to help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve mental health. Good examples include lean meats, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.

High-glycemic foods, on the other hand, cause a rapid rise (and subsequent crash) in blood sugar. This can negatively impact your mood, such as creating a spike in racing thoughts. High-glycemic foods include high-sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods.

Foods that are high in antioxidants can help fight oxidative stress (cell damage) in the body. Health professionals recommend including these in your diet as a way to help control symptoms of these mental health conditions. High-antioxidant foods include berries, beans, nuts, citrus fruits, apples, and generally most fruits and vegetables.

 

4. Use a mantra.

A mantra sounds like a fancy yogi term; however, it is simply a phrase or word that you repeat to calm your mind. Repeating a mantra can take your mind off racing and/ or negative thoughts. You can use any word, sound, or saying you want. You could try something like, “Life is good,” or “Everything is OK.” Repeat your phrase over and over, and if your mind wanders, return to your mantra. You can practice this as a healthy distraction almost anytime, anywhere.

 

5. Focus on the present.

Returning your focus to the present will help you accept and let go of what you cannot control. It will also help you realize that you can’t change the past, and that the future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s a waste of time to keep thinking about them. (This doesn’t mean that you are unaware of what happened in the past or what is about to happen in the future.) Try taking a deep breath and asking yourself how you are feeling right now.

 

6. Write things down.

Putting your concerns on paper allows you to remove them from your mind and to return to them later. Taking pressure off a stress or worry in the present moment can alleviate a lot of anxiety. Also, the act of writing engages your mind and reduces the power of racing thoughts. If you take a moment to organize these thoughts on paper, your mind will likely be calmer.

 

7. Breathe.

When you experience racing thoughts, your body’s physical response is to activate the sympathetic nervous system. In order to shift to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system, it is helpful to try breathing exercises. Try counting to 3 as you breathe in and to 5 as you breathe out. Pay attention only to your breathing as you try to slow it down. Your mind will wander, and that is okay… just bring it back to your breathing each time.

One or more of the above tips will be helpful to incorporate into your daily regimen over a long period of time to see results. It is common to expect the effects to be immediate and abandon the practice too soon. Try to be consistent and patient.

 

If you find that you are not able to get racing thoughts under control, consider consulting a mental health provider to move forward with counselling for anxiety. Anxious thoughts can be part of a mental health disorder that professionals can treat effectively with psychotherapy.

If you have any questions or would like help with working to increase your mental wellness, call our Director, Carly at 647-961-9669, or email info@balancedmindandwellness.com

The Greatest Gift(s) You Can Give Your Relationship this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day holds a lot of weight for many couples. The expectations and pressure that come with this holiday dedicated to love leads couples to focus on the “perfect” way to shower their partners with romance. While gifting roses and chocolate covered strawberries are lovely romantic gestures, discovering deeper sources of intimacy and connection in your partnership this Valentine’s Day might be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your relationship. This post offers 4 suggestions to connect with your partner in deeper ways.

 

  1. Reflect on the Positive Aspects of the Relationship

It’s important to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate all the positive aspects of your relationship. Showing gratitude for all the small and big ways that you and your partner contribute to your relationship prevents you from taking each other for granted.

Consider:In what ways do I enhance our relationship? Be specific. In what ways does my partner enhance our relationship? Be specific. What parts of our relationship do my partner and I typically excel at? What was a recent relational issue that we handled well? What is it about each of us individually and as a couple that makes these successes possible?

What answers did you have in common? Which of your partner’s answers surprised you? Can you thank yourselves and each other for the ways that you contribute to your relationship?

 

  1. Explore Each Other’s Love Languages

Everyone has a preferred way to show and receive love; that is, we all speak different love languages. Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, writes, “We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our [partner] does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language.” The goal is to understand each other’s love languages and learn to express love in your partner’s language.

Chapman highlights that there are 5 Basic Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

This Valentine’s Day, consider taking the Love Language Quiz with your partner. If you’d like to explore the concept of love languages a little deeper, consider reading The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lastsby Gary Chapman with your partner.

 

  1. Ignite the Spark: Open up Communication about Your Sexual Desires

Sexual intimacy can be one of the most vulnerable experiences between partners. Partners may hold back on expressing their sexual desires and needs for a variety of reasons. Consider reflecting on your sexual needs and desires and exploring this with your partner. Remember that sexual intimacy is a mutual experience, and each partners’ preferences and vulnerabilities must be validated.

4 Ways to Talk about Sexual Desires:

“It really turns me on when you/we/I…”

“It would feel really good if you/we/I… Can I show you?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about … Is this something we can try together?”

“If I’m not feeling particularly sexual, how can I communicate this to you in a way that doesn’t make you feel unwanted/unloved?”

Valentine’s Day can bring on pressures and expectations around what sexual intimacy should look like. Put the “shoulds” aside, and think about what would feel satisfying to you and your partner. This invites you to think about mutual pleasure and satisfaction, rather than trying to fit into an external sexual script. To discover more about intimacy in long-term relationships, consider reading Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

 

  1. Get to Know Your Partner’s Inner World

We are individuals before we are partners. Sometimes our individuality (e.g. values, preferences, interests, etc.) is neglected in the context of our relationships. How can you invite your partner into your inner world and allow them to know you in new ways?

3 Suggestions to Invite Your Partner in Your Inner World:

  1. YouTube Swap. Each of you get to pick a few YouTube videos (10 minutes or less) on different topics or forms of entertainment that interest you (e.g. comedy sketch, Ted Talk, sports clip, etc.). Watch each video together, switching between yours and theirs. Feel free to discuss why you chose the videos you did, or enjoy the videos without talking.
  2. Plan your own dream date. Take your partner on a date that feels satisfying and exciting to you.
  3. Download the Gottman Card Decks App. This app suggests meaningful questions for partners to ask each other on a variety of topics, in order to get to know each other in deeper ways.

 

You and your partner may find it difficult to connect with each other in these ways. Addressing the challenges you and your partner are facing together is another great gift you can give your relationship this Valentine’s Day. It might be helpful to seek out a couple’s therapist to support you through this journey.

To learn more about how we can support you with relationship concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.