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.
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.
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.
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.