In case it wasn’t obvious enough, I am not a doctor. Everything in this post is based off of my personal experience with racing thoughts. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or something else, you should seek the advice of a seasoned professional.

How I deal with my racing thoughts

If you haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with racing thoughts, consider yourself lucky. If you have had the pleasure of dealing with racing thoughts, welcome to the club. Racing thoughts are fast, repetitive thought patterns about a particular topic that are common symptom of anxiety, OCD, bipolar and other mental health illnesses. I typically experience racing thoughts at night when I desperately want to sleep, but I’ve also been graced with their presence during the day, at work and everywhere in between.

Racing thoughts can come out of almost nowhere for me. I’ll be fine, chugging along and then all of a sudden … bam. Once they start, they are overwhelming and it can be hard to image a moment without them. And while I know I can never “cure” myself of them, I’ve mastered a few tricks on how to deal with and manage them when they do occur.

1. Get Up and Get Moving

There are all sorts of studies that show the mental health benefits of exercise. Exercise helps to relieve stress and tension and the endorphins released help to improve your mood. If I’m in a position to be able to get up and get moving, I’ll try to go for a run or at least a walk around the block. Not only is it good for my mental wellbeing, but it also has obvious physical benefits.

2. Talk about something else

My racing thoughts are often based on some sort of event that actually happened, but take a twist and go down an absurd rabbit hole. Since they’re mostly unfounded, I like to take my mind off of them by discussing something else. I’ll try to grab a friend to chat or ask my boyfriend to start talking about anything totally random. Talking about other things distracts me until I can calm down.

3. Write down your thoughts

There is nothing quite like old school pen and paper to help quiet your thoughts sometimes. When my thoughts start racing, I just start writing them down. Whatever comes to my mind gets written down. Eventually I make it to the core of my anxiety and am able to pick away the excess that’s clogging my mind.

4. Practice mindfulness

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t always been the biggest believer in/practicer of mindfulness. Honestly, I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing here, but practice makes progress … right? Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It can be hard to know how to start, but the app Headspace (and some IRL therapy) has helped me dip my toes in the waters.

5. Repeat a mantra and breathe

A mantra can be anything you pick – a word, a phrase. Hell, it could even be a sound. If I feel myself starting to get anxious and my thoughts starting to race, I repeat my mantra silently to myself (sometimes out loud) while doing deep breathing exercises and most likely fidgeting with a piece of jewelry. Eventually, I can feel myself calm and my thoughts ease.

Photo by capt_tain Tom

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