Is your mind like the message box of a live Facebook feed? Rapidly rattling off comments and emojis as you have thousands of viewers watching. Except this is inside your head, thought after thought just one right after the other like an auctioneer rattling off numbers. “I need to do the laundry”, “Do I have enough detergent?”, “Well I also need to pick up some bleach”, “Oh yeah the bathroom needs to be cleaned”, “should I get a new bath mat”, “I liked her bath mat, it was nice”, “She also had pretty hair”, “I wish my hair was that pretty”, “Maybe I should do a hair mask tonight”, “I also need to shave my legs”, “Oh yeah, the dog needs to go to the groomer”. These thoughts are pretty benign, what if you were rapid fire filling your head with self doubt? “Am I good enough?” or “Can I really succeed?”. Think of the damage you can do to your self image or self esteem. So, what can you do to STOP overthinking? For the rather harmless thoughts that are rapid fire to do lists that venture off into recollection of the past or angst about the future I like to do the following steps:
- STOP! Yes, just stop. It is called “Thought Stopping”. You can do this in many ways, snap a rubber band on your wrist, say stop allowed or in your head or my favorite say “stop” and then sing, “in the name of love, before you break my heart” (Thank you Supremes). This stopping allows you to essentially hit the reset button in your mind. Once you hit reset you can then go on to focusing on one thought at a time which is my #2 on this list.
- Focusing on one thought at a time, something that grabs you. Let’s use the rabbit hole of the example above. Maybe after thought stopping you realize the dog going to the groomer is something that needs more of your attention, so you can then take action steps to complete this task and it is now out of your hands and out of your mind as well.
- Lists. When all else fails I suggest writing them all down. As rapidly as they enter your mind, get them on paper (I prefer pen to paper). This really helps you to see things in black and white. This will provide you the opportunity to not feel so overwhelmed by your thoughts as most of the time we repeat ourselves in our minds. If it is being written down you can see that even though it came to your mind a second time that you have it listed already. Once your rapid thoughts are listed you can essentially identify which ones need action and which can be let go. The thoughts that are in need of action steps you can now prioritize in time sensitive or urgency order.
For those of you who are reading and fall into the self-esteem eating thoughts you will add a step. Once you get grounded whether you use thought stopping, breathing or any other mindful grounding exercise you will then need to reframe your thoughts. There are a few ways to do this.
- Write it down and look at it. “I’m not good at ____” then write something less self deprecating “I am still working on _____” or “I am doing my best at learning _____”. I like this because it really puts it in perspective. NO! You are not a bad drummer, you are still learning, you are working on practicing to get even better! Give yourself some grace here.
- Think about how you speak to your friends, would you talk to them the way you talk to yourself? Would you talk to your family like that? Usually the answer is “no”. We wouldn’t think about telling our children or grandma how worthless they are. So why do we talk to ourselves like that?
- Affirmations. These feel super strange at first and we don’t really believe ourselves. So this one takes the most time to get comfortable with. I suggest you start by reading some to yourself, then read them aloud. Finally, when you get feeling confident there, you can then write your own affirmations you want to feel/believe or are already beginning to feel. Keep in mind the most impactful affirmations start with “I am…”
Racing thoughts can be a bit of a nuisance or really damaging. It is important if you continue to have intrusive racing thoughts to see a therapist and ask for help. There are definitely ways to cope when you get bombarded by your own mind.