Mind Racing? 5 Fool-Proof Tips to Turn it Off

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A mental health counselor shares 5 techniques to stop racing thoughts and rapid thinking.

Rapid Thoughts and Mind Racing

I am a counselor who works the night shift at a mental health hotline. Late at night, I get lots of calls from people who have difficulty falling asleep. The reason? Their minds are running a million miles a minute. They can’t seem to turn off their thoughts and stop their mind racing.

They worry about things from their past. Or think about stupid decisions they’ve made. Their to-do list is long, and they’re thinking about tasks not yet completed. They dream (and worry!) about the future.

I once saw a cartoon that said, “If you ever want to know what a woman’s mind is like, imagine a browser with 3,2341 tabs open.” Ha! So true! (Although it can be this way for men, too.)

Are you an over-analyzer? A thinker?

Here are 5 tricks I teach my clients. (And I also use them myself!)

1. Set a timer.

mind racing

Sometimes, we just need to think. And it’s okay to think! The problem comes when we think for hours and hours, analyzing and over-analyzing our situation. The solution? Give yourself permission to think. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Tell yourself, “Okay, for the next five minutes, I’m going to think as much as I want. But when the timer gets off, I’m going to ___ (get some sleep, do the laundry, read a book, etc.).

You can use an egg timer, the timer on the microwave, or the timer on your phone. This works great because the sound of the timer going off is an auditory trigger, reminding you that it’s time to stop.

2. Write it down.

mind racing

When we experience mind racing, our thoughts can get quite cluttered. Getting our thoughts on paper helps free up space in our brains. Consider purchasing a journal just for writing down your thoughts or worries. Or you can just grab a scrap piece of paper and begin writing.

You can write words, sketch photos, write a poem, or a short story. You have complete creative freedom here to write whatever you wish. If you have a long list of worries, using bullet points might be a good idea.

If the mind racing thoughts consuming you are more, “I really need to do ___,” in nature, write yourself a to-do list. Having an actual list will decrease your worry that you’ll forget something important.

3. Phone a friend.

mind racing

Sometimes we just need to get stuff off our chests. Talking out loud can help with this.

I know what you might be thinking. “But I don’t want to burden my friend! She has problems of her own! This is the most common excuse I hear.

So let me ask you this…

If someone you love were struggling with something, would you want her to call? Or suffer alone? Of course you’d be there for her! That’s what friends are for!

If you don’t have a friend or family member you can talk to, you can always pray aloud.

4. Shift gears.

mind racing
After you’ve given yourself time to think and express your worries, now it’s time to shift your attention elsewhere.
The most effective way to do this, is to replace your racing thoughts with other things. Here are a few ideas:
  • Do a word puzzle or something else that requires concentrated thinking.
  • Focus your energy on how you can help someone else.
  • Imagine a beautiful, peaceful place in your mind’s eye. Take in all the details.
  • Plan something fun, such as a getaway, a party, or a fun DIY project.

5. Use your imagination.

mind racing

 
Confession. This one’s my favorite. Here’s how it goes.
Imagine in your mind’s eye a treasure chest. Really think about how it looks. What color is it? What size is it? Does it have any markings or decoration on it?

Once you have it pictured, imagine yourself placing your thoughts, worries, and fears inside the box. Gently close the lid. Say to yourself, “I have the power and control over these thoughts. I’m choosing for them to stay inside the box. If I want, I can take them out and think of them again. But for now, I’m choosing for them to stay in.” Now imagine that you have a key and you lock your thoughts away.

Will you give some of these techniques a try? What’s your favorite technique for mind racing?