Think fast! We’ve all heard that phrase. But sometimes thinking fast is not a comfortable experience—especially if it’s triggered by a manic episode. Racing thoughts may make you feel trapped, create a sense of confusion, and induce an unhealthy amount of anxiety. Such onslaughts can cause serious mental health conditions if not immediately dealt with. But don’t worry, there are a number of strategies to tame stray thoughts and bring your attention back to what matters. But to make things easier, we’ve narrowed down the easiest ways to help you master this essential survival skill.
- What are Racing Thoughts?
- Reasons You Need to Know How to Stop Racing Thoughts
- Step-by-Step Instructions to Calm Your Mind
- Key Considerations For Successfully Calming Your Racing Thoughts
- Taking it to the Next Level: How to Build Mental Strength
- Wrapping Up and My Experience With Racing Thoughts
What are Racing Thoughts?
The term “racing thoughts” refers to uninvited, invasive, irrational, and unrestrainable rapid thinking. These random thoughts may be composed of painful memories, negative overthinking, and multiple related or unrelated subject matters. If you ever feel like your mind is moving too quickly for you to keep up, then you are experiencing racing thoughts.
Racing thoughts are often accompanied by
- anger, and
Symptoms can include repeatedly thinking about something, an inability to focus or shut off your mind, and catastrophizing.
It’s unclear what can trigger racing thoughts, but several mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, stress, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or another underlying mental health problem are common instigators. Overthinking or anxious thoughts that seem to be speeding at a million miles a minute as you are trying to fall asleep are just one example of racing thoughts.
Reasons You Need to Know How to Stop Racing Thoughts
Racing thoughts are a common symptom of various mental health issues. You cannot heal without learning how to stop them. What makes racing thoughts unbearable is that they often come without any warning and are difficult to restrain, like other mental health issues impacting the central nervous system. And it can be hard to figure out the causes of racing thoughts.
If you’re unprepared and experience racing thoughts, you’ll suffer from the worst-case scenario:
- anxiety symptoms,
- hopelessness, and
- other symptoms
But once you learn how to stop racing thoughts, you’ll be able to protect yourself from going into a manic phase.
When left unchecked, racing thoughts can:
- Freeze you in place
- Ruin your concentration
- Disrupt daily activities (like cooking, sleeping, and working)
- Lead to anxiety attacks and, subsequently, anxiety disorders
- Cause a serious injury by distracting you from the present moment
- Shatter your sense of self by bringing forth destructive racing thoughts at random times
The following guide will teach you how to stop your racing thoughts, prevent the repetitive thought patterns from reoccurring, and keep them in check. For example, you’ll notice that by working on your breathing first, you’ll bring your attention to something natural and then pick yourself up from there.
It’s important to note here that mental well-being should be taken seriously and issues like a racing mind should be dealt with promptly to avoid chronic mental health challenges. If you suffer from racing thoughts or any other anxiety symptoms, you might also want to consider cognitive behavioral therapy with a professional.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Calm Your Mind
Taming racing thoughts is no easy task. If you attack them directly, they will only get louder. So to gain some control over yourself, you have to begin with something easy.
- Tell yourself you’re okay
Start with mindfulness. A deep breath goes a long way. Once you’ve done that a few times, move on to affirmations. Give yourself a hug and remind yourself that everything will be alright. Lastly, get moving!
Deep breathing is an integral part of mindfulness. It is a simple, undemanding, and relaxing task that you can try anywhere and at any time. The best way to practice deep breathing is through the 4-7-8 technique.
This technique is connected to ancient yoga and has been around for centuries. It increases oxygenation, improves sleep, and is recommended for those with pulmonary or cardiovascular disease. You can do it as often as you want, but twice a day is recommended. The results speak for themselves.
- To get started, find a comfortable position to sit in
- Close your eyes and inhale through your nose to the count of 4
- Hold your breath to the count of 7
- Exhale through your mouth forcefully and audibly while mentally counting to 8
Tell Yourself You’re Okay
Repeating affirmations is a fantastic way to bring your consciousness back into your hands. Replace negative racing thoughts with positive ones and repeat mantras like,
- “It will be okay.”
- “I can get through this.”
- “I am safe.”
One of my favorites to repeat until I feel more settled is, “I’m okay, they’re okay, everything is okay.” You can also list your favorite affirmations in a journal if you prefer writing. These affirmations will show you how to stop racing thoughts and replace them with positivity.
There’s no mood booster like physical activity. 89% of the peer-reviewed studies conducted between 1990 to 2022 show a positive relationship between exercise and mental health conditions. Since mental illnesses are often what cause racing thoughts, exercise can surely be one of the most effective coping mechanisms to deal with them.
So when you’re struggling, intense exercise will serve as a distraction and a grounding technique, especially if you have a mental health condition like anxiety. Jog, do some cardio, or dance to your favorite song. You can also hit the gym and lift some weights. Yoga is also a good choice since it is proven to help improve mental health for improved daily functioning.
Key Considerations For Successfully Calming Your Racing Thoughts
If your racing thoughts are persistent and getting out of hand, you should see a medical professional. A racing mind that is uncontrollable may require medication and therapy. Your doctor will also teach you how to cope with racing thoughts in specific situations and what strategies to keep trying.
Not being able to sleep for several days, inability to complete everyday activities, a low mood that lasts longer than 2 weeks, and symptoms of other mental illnesses like trembling and an irregular heartbeat are some signs that indicate you need to see a doctor. This guide will keep you safe till your appointment.
Left untreated, experiencing racing thoughts every day can lead to other issues like severe depression, extreme emotional highs, low self-esteem, or higher levels of anxiety.
Taking it to the Next Level: How to Build Mental Strength
There are so many ways to control and calm your mind and stop whatever causes racing thoughts. But you don’t have to check every single one of them. Focus on the following six healthy habits to take control of your emotional health:
- mindful meditation,
- regular exercise,
- eating a healthy diet,
- getting enough sleep, and
- participating in creative activities
That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? The key is to take it slow. Tackle one thing at a time. Ask your partner or a friend to join you. We’ve already incorporated two of these habits in our guide so you can start there.
What causes racing thoughts can be hard to pinpoint but these habits will get to the core of everything. Once you figure out what works best for you and build resilience, you’ll be able to control racing thoughts the moment they begin.
Wrapping Up and My Experience With Racing Thoughts
Nobody likes an uninvited guest or a train of thought that makes you question your future in the middle of the night. But with a few simple tools, you can stop racing thoughts from destroying your sleep. Yoga is my personal favorite. It combines deep breathing, a positive mindset, and physical activity. My concentration has improved tenfolds, and I can easily tackle stray thoughts. Now it’s your turn!