Picture this: you’re riding a wild horse, galloping fast and wild. Your heart is racing, and your adrenaline is pumping. You are acutely aware of the danger, the possibility of falling off or losing control.
Now, imagine that same feeling, but it’s not a horse you’re riding – it’s your own mind. Hyperventilating and overwhelming thoughts can feel just as scary and out of control as riding a wild untamed horse. It’s one that many of us can relate to.
In this article, we’ll explore what it feels like to experience these overwhelming thoughts and give you the tools to regain control.
The average person has anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Thoughts can be conscious or unconscious, deliberate or automatic, but they are closely related to emotions. It’s indeed a private factory that runs all the time, even when we are not consciously aware of it, such as when we are sleeping.
Physical Impact of Mental Thoughts
Thoughts can trigger a panic attack through the cognitive distortion known as catastrophizing (exaggerating the consequences of a situation), dizziness or shortness of breath, palpitations, muscle tension, fatigue, stomach issues, sleep problems, etc
Racing thoughts can be a symptom of many different psychological disorders like anxiety disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, etc.
The famous artist Vincent van Gogh is believed to have had bipolar disorder, which often involves hyperactive thoughts during a manic episode. But not everyone has a diagnosable disorder.
The tool to fool the brain
Interrupting or disrupting our thoughts involves intentionally breaking our current thought patterns and redirecting our attention to something else. It is possible to “trick” our mind and engage in something else to redirect our focus away from overwhelming thoughts. This is often referred to as a distraction technique.
1) The Power Of Stream Talking
Stream-of-consciousness talking is similar to writing, except that instead of writing down your thoughts, you verbalize them out loud. This can be a helpful technique for clearing your mind and releasing any overwhelming thoughts or emotions. By expressing yourself freely and without judgment, you can gain insight, clarity, and relief. So talk aloud your thoughts, exhausting your brain and bringing out all the mental clutter.
2) Analyzing The Material From The Brain Factory
Once Verbalization is done, review your thoughts and emotions objectively, as if you were analyzing data from a third-party source and from a neutral perspective. It can help you gain clarity on your thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts are influenced by the messages we tell ourselves, but our memories and past experiences are not always accurate or reliable. So, if your thoughts are interfering with your ability to function or causing significant distress, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional.
3) Find A Trusted Listener
This could be a friend, family member, or therapist. Be honest: Share your thoughts openly and honestly, even if they feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Listen to feedback: try to listen with an open mind for a new perspective.
Take breaks: if you are feeling overwhelmed or if the conversation is becoming too intense. Set boundaries: it’s okay to set boundaries and communicate them to your listener.
4) Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity can help distract your mind and release endorphins, which can improve your mood. E.g. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Yoga, Walking or Running, Dancing, Swimming, Martial arts, Vipassana Meditation, etc
5) Chromotherapy, Art Therapy & Laughter Therapy
Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, can affect a person’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In Jodhpur, India, all the houses are painted blue.
The blue color helps to keep the houses cool during the hot summers. Engaging in creative activities like drawing, painting, or music, watching a comedy movie, or attending a laughter class is helpful.
6) Body Language
Try standing up straight with your shoulders back, and head held high, taking up more space, or even just smiling more often.
7) Physical Relaxation
A movie, spa, coffee date with friends or self, a head massage, music, deep breathing or nature bathing, or forest bathing ( a practice that involves immersing yourself in nature, typically in a forest or other natural environment).
8) Focus On Your Senses
Focus on what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel around you. This can help to ground you in the present. Can help to shift your focus away from your thoughts and onto your body. Mind consciousness to body consciousness.
Writing down your thoughts in a journal can help you process them and gain clarity on what is causing them. It can also help you identify any patterns in your thinking.
This technique involves visualizing a peaceful scene or an object in your mind’s eye to distract yourself from unwanted thoughts. For example, imagine a calm beach or serene mountains.
11) Mindfulness Meditation
This involves bringing your attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts without judgment.
12) Change Your Environment
Changing your physical environment can also have a powerful effect. You can try going for a walk outside, sitting in a different room or location, or even just changing the lighting or temperature in your current environment to help shift your mood.
Thinking about thinking, or metacognition, can be a powerful tool to reflect on your thinking patterns and be aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can help individuals develop greater self-awareness.
14) The Power Of Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that we repeat to ourselves to reinforce positive beliefs. Simply saying, “I CAN DO IT”
15) Loving-Kindness Meditation
Also known as metta meditation, is a practice that involves directing feelings of love and compassion towards yourself and others. Gratitude practice is focusing on the things you’re thankful for in your life.
It works by accessing the subconscious mind, which is believed to be more receptive to suggestion than the conscious mind. This therapy can help you identify and change thought patterns.
“A man’s mind is his greatest asset”
The placebo effect occurs when a person experiences positive outcomes from treatment due to their belief in it, while the Pygmalion effect shows that high expectations can lead to improved performance. These phenomena underscore the tremendous power of the mind.
Your thoughts are your own, but their consequences are shared.” One thought can lead to a war, while another can lead to world peace. “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth in uglier ways” (Sigmund Freud) Just as a gardener uses all the tools in his shed to remove the weeds that choke his plants, so use every single tool discussed here and weed the thoughts that choke your brain.
Be The Samurai
If things aren’t going well, hold your head up high and keep going. When the weight of the day becomes too much to bear, it’s okay to call it an early night, with the knowledge that tomorrow you will think better, feel better, and do your best. Don’t play the victim. Take control of your life and conquer lifeless thoughts that drain your energy. Strengthen your character, and be stronger tomorrow than you were today.
Like a skilled horse trainer who builds a relationship of trust and respect with their horse, you can also cultivate a sense of self-compassion and self-awareness and learn to work with your thoughts rather than against them. You have the power to tame the wild horse and taking control of your Hyper-ventilating thoughts.
- Sunila Wali is a counseling psychologist with a passion for promoting mental health. She holds a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is currently based in Mumbai, India.
- Mail the author at sticku (at) jhu.edu
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