How to stop your mind racing

Have you ever not been able to sleep because of your mind racing?

Usually this is because something is bothering you, contributing to anxiety/discomfort, or expecting discomfort in the future. (Alternatively it could be because you have a really hot date the next day ^ but that’s a different story…)

I recently had a serious stream of thoughts I was unable to stop, even with my usual natural methods to clear my mind. I ended up going for a run at 2am just because I was that highly stressed.

Eventually, my mind and body gave in – sheer tiredness overwhelmed both.

Carefully thinking about it the following morning – I realise that due to a situation at work with a colleague left me unable to concentrate and my mind started to race.

The situation was unfair on many levels. Something along the lines of say if you submitted a piece of work, and another person submitted exactly the same, the other person’s got praise whilst yours went to the trash can and told it is rubbish, even though both pieces of work are exactly the same.

“Why me? What happened? Is there some hidden agenda? But it’s the same piece of work!”

Your mind goes haywire…. maybe you’re going to be fired and lose your job, worse that it is in the middle of this covid-19 economy. Then you’re going to be using those hard earned savings, how are you going to pay your mortgage, how are you going to pay for XYZ….

Then suddenly you think, maybe it’s something I joked about yesterday, should I rectify it? Did I upset my boss?

It’s easy to see how easy your mind can continue down a slippery slope.

This can happen with anything, not just work related – maybe you had an argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend – “should I apologise”, “I can’t believe they did that”, “should I speak with them about it”…

Or your friend makes a comment which you didn’t like, “oh you’ve put on weight!” – it bugs you (in this instance is this a toxic friendship…). Most of us do not like criticism, myself included.

“We are disturbed not by events, but by our opinion about events” – Greek Philosopher

So what can you do to halt that racing mind?

Yes there are quick fixes rather than working on your mind properly. Sex, alcohol, exercise, video games, drugs – “stress release” activities–these will temporarily make you feel better and as it makes you focus in on your present moment, once these activities stop however, your mind will most likely start up again.

See the source image

Even as a somewhat experienced meditator, it is challenging to stop yourself from going down the slippery slope. You need to realise and stop yourself at the beginning before your mind explodes, compartmentalise it and then let go of your thoughts as per the development of mindfulness (free guide I’ve written here).

Ideally you realise – everything is impermanent, can you remember the last time your mind was racing at this pace? Okay maybe it was last night, maybe it was some years ago, either way – it will pass. (and poof, negative thoughts dropped, you are back to the present, however at this point of time, you might not be able to do this.)  

Right now whatever is on your mind might feel like the most important thing in the world, but, it’s okay.

Actions to stop your mind racing:

If you are meditating as per my free guide, realise how lucky you are to be able to sit in your peaceful space. You have the time, the willpower and capacity to be able to meditate.

If you are not meditating, that is also fine, write it down. “I am lucky to have the time, the willpower and capacity to be able to write like this”.

Literally. Write it down. Not mentally (unless you are in your meditative state)

Focus on your breathing. Inhale for 5, exhale for 5. Every time your mind goes to whatever you are thinking about – go back to your breath, and start counting.

Do this until you feel a sense of calm – your thoughts have slowed, your breathing is deeper and longer.

Be thankful for your health. Be thankful for all that you have. Be thankful that it is impermanent- as good things come to end, so will this “bad” thing.

Can you think of 1 bad thing that has been permanent? Or 1 good thing?  Write it down/think about it and see if you can answer this question…

Once you are satisfied that there is nothing permanent nothing lasts forever, focus in on what is bothering you.

Realise that this is impermanent. Whatever is bothering you may last a day, it may last a week, just realise it is impermanent.

“Yes but…!” I hear your mind scream…

Again…

It will pass… let me know in the comments if you can think of anything that hasn’t passed in your lifetime – I challenge you!

If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly feel angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and disturbed by anyone who happens to verbally attack you-   Epictetus


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