6 Things To Think About When You’re Stressed & Your Mind Is Racing A Mile A Minute
Have you ever felt so incredibly stressed out that your mind refuses to stop racing, no matter what you try to do? Whether you're in a rough patch with your SO and you keep mentally going over that late-night convo you had, or you just got offered a lot more responsibility at work, any number of things can cause your head to start chattering with no end in sight. But there are things to think about when you're stressed that can help you get rid of those racing, anxiety-inducing thoughts. Take a deep breath, girl. It's going to be OK.
Listen, I totally get it. There are so many things to be stressed out about in today's world, so you, my friend, are certainly not alone in your ruminating. As The American Institute of Stress reports, a survey done by the American Psychological Association in 2017 found that the most common sources of stress right now include the future of our nation, money, and work. What's more, the survey found, 73 percent of Americans say they "regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress." Yikes.
To say the absolute least, the effects of stress and anxiety can wreak some serious havoc on your mind, body, and spirit, so finding ways to cope with those lingering symptoms of stress, both in the long-term and in the present moment, is, absolutely necessary. To start off small, here are a few, calming things to think about when you're feeling beyond stressed out.
1. Visualize How You Want Things To Go
Everyone daydreams from time to time, so why not fantasize about a positive outcome for a stressful situation in your life? Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist on the teaching faculty at Columbia University, tells Elite Daily that one immediate response you can have to those mile-a-minute thoughts is to envision the situation (or situations) leading to your racing mind, as playing out exactly the way you'd want it to go.
For instance, maybe you wake up one morning with a cascade of stressful thoughts about a presentation you have to give at work later that day. Instead of just letting your brain run wild with that toxic stream of consciousness, try picturing yourself conquering the crap out of that presentation and impressing every single person in the room. "This visualization technique is soothing, and shifts us from anxious thinking to possibility mindset," Dr. Hafeez says.
Never forget that your thoughts are a powerful thing, and that you do have control over them, even when it seems like you don't.
2. Focus On A Single Sound
According to Dr. Hafeez, when you're consumed by stressful thoughts, focusing on one single sound, "perhaps the air conditioner, or the sound of the refrigerator, or any ambient noise," she tells Elite Daily, can be an effective, easy strategy to find your way back to the present moment.
If this doesn't seem to work that well for you, Dr. Hafeez also suggests putting on some soothing tunes and focusing on one specific detail of the music, such as the drums or the guitar. This will not only help you refocus, she says, but it might also shift your overall mood.
3. Think About Balance — Literally
Yes, like physically balancing — or, really, anything physical that requires your full attention can work here, according to Melinda Haynes, MA, a California-based licensed marriage and family therapist. When your mind starts racing and you want to completely switch your focus as soon as possible, Haynes says, actually do something that literally switches your focus.
"Toss a ball from hand to hand, stand on one leg and balance a book on your head, juggle, or twirl a baton," Haynes tells Elite Daily. Anything that requires your balance or coordination, she says, can cause a welcome shift in brain activity, thus reducing or even eliminating those anxious thoughts.
4. Name Your Thoughts
No, I don't mean literally naming your thoughts as if they're real people, like "Tim," or "Julia." According to registered dietitian and psychotherapist Alison Pelz, LCSW, RD, CDE, this strategy is about recognizing what your thoughts are, and how they are affecting you. "One skill that I teach my clients is naming [the thoughts] that they are having," she tells Elite Daily. "Once they acknowledge that these are thoughts, not necessarily facts or truths, then they label the thought as 'helpful' or 'unhelpful.'"
For example, Pelz says, say your stressful thoughts right now are about flunking a huge grad school exam. Instead of falling down a rabbit hole full of worries about failing the test, she tells Elite Daily, try saying to yourself, "I am having the thought that I am going to flunk the test." After that, she says, "go on to name the thought as 'helpful' or 'unhelpful.' In this case, the thought is 'unhelpful.'"
5. Focus Only On Your Breathing
"One thing you can try to focus on when your mind is racing is simply your breath," Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Elite Daily. "Sit down in a quiet location, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath going in and out, to the body sensations it generates, to its sound, etc."
According to Bilek, this is a simple form of mindfulness meditation that can easily help to calm a racing mind. "It doesn't matter if you can't seem to keep focused on it for a long stretch," he says. "Just keep refocusing yourself on your breath whenever you notice that your thoughts have wandered."
6. Think About Your Next Move (But Keep It Simple)
"Life and its many movements are a series of stages and circumstances," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Elite Daily. "Try and think not of the faraway future or perilous past, but of your next move." Seriously, you can start super small here — like, what are you going to have as a snack later? Who you are gong to text when you leave work for the day?
According to Backe, mindfulness seems like a complicated thing, but really, it's just about conducting yourself with the idea that what you practice in thoughts, words, and actions is what will grow stronger. So if you practice positivity and presence, that will become a habit, but the same goes for things like anxiety and negativity, too.
"Even as your mind races with good or bad possibilities," Backe tells Elite Daily, "provide yourself with kind attention in the present."