How to order your racing thoughts and feel more in control

We’ve all experienced it – a 100 thoughts at once, racing around your head.

Whether it’s your brain at 1am telling you that you should completely overhaul your life, worrying about the day’s activities, all the things you have to do tomorrow, or your growing to-do list.

It’s totally normal to be overwhelmed by what feels like a million thoughts racing around your mind.

While, in some cases, erratic thoughts can be a sign of a mental health condition, for most people, it could just be a sign of carrying a heavy load or spreading yourself too thin.

Counsellor at charity Relate, Peter Saddington, says everyone experiences this at some point or another.

He tells ‘Everybody has moments like that. And it’s normally associated with additional stress or anxiety. So, day-to-day stuff we can manage. But sometimes we get a bit overwhelmed.

‘Your mind can be preoccupied by things that you’re not necessarily processing or dealing with. So they start piling up and you suddenly realise you’ve got lots of things you’re worrying about.’

So what do you do when you feel like you’re darting from one thing to another, and exhausted by the constant thinking?

Don’t ignore

Instead of going for an easy option to dull the thinking, it’s better to deal with it, says Peter.

He says: ‘It’s not one-size fits all but there are a range of things to think about.

‘One which works for most people is sharing what you’re worrying about to somebody else. Because sometimes when it’s going around in your head, it has far more significance or becomes complicated.

‘Whereas when you say it out loud to somebody else, sometimes you realise in the telling that perhaps you’re worrying more than you need to, or the other person gives you a different way of thinking about it.

‘So the first thing is sharing your worries and saying it out loud.’

Write them down

But what if your racing thoughts come to you at bed time?

It’s not like you can wake up a partner or loved one to give them a running stream of what you’re thinking.

In this case, writing it down might be good.

Peter adds: ‘One of the most effective tricks is to write down what the worry is. A lot of people find that by leaving the worry up on the piece of paper, they can sleep for the night.

‘Sometimes when we’re worrying, part of the worry is that we’ll forget it, and something bad will happen. Therefore, we worry about it and it stays in our mind so that we don’t forget – so write it down and figure it out in the morning.’

Peter, who also works as a sex therapist, points out an important pattern – women tend to be more preoccupied with lots of different thoughts, particularly when they’re trying to relax, or even have sex.

The trick is to contain the thoughts, he adds: ‘Writing it down and knowing that you can go and add to the list is quite a good way of containing it and training yourself to become more mindful.

‘You should also ask yourself in these instances “is it something I can change or do right now?”

‘Reassure yourself that you’ve got a system to be able to retain the information and use it when you want to, rather than having to carry it around in your head all the time.’

Try regular journaling

While some might opt for a to-do list, others might make use of the Notes app where they can doodle random thoughts.

But Peter recommends regular journaling which can not only be therapeutic, but also reminds you that you were able to get through past problems.

‘Journalising is so effective because it’s your words, it’s you,’ he continues.

‘It’s unique to you. And if you do it on the day, you’re able to remember what was going on.

‘Memory is fallible but as you look back in your journals, you suddenly realise you’ve either made progress or are going around the same loop. Then you can consider how you dealt with it in the past, or find that it didn’t come to much, meaning you can get through this too and don’t need to worry as much.

‘The journal has got all the information there. That’s why it’s so useful.’

Maybe it’s time to bring out one of the hundreds of journals you bought but never got round to writing in?

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