It can be difficult when the same pointless thoughts keep coursing through your mind. Perhaps you’re worrying about what someone at work said to you and trying to decide exactly what they meant by it. Maybe you’re worried about a task you’ve been given and you’re wondering whether you’re up to it. Or maybe you’re unsettled about a problem that one of your close family is facing.
Whatever it is that you can’t stop thinking about, there’s nothing you can directly do at the moment to put things right and you know that. And yet you can’t stop those intrusive thoughts – even if it’s the weekend and the situation you’re worrying about involves work where you won’t put in an appearance until Monday morning. But there are steps you can take to calm your mind and end the repetitive disturbing thoughts.
Try these techniques:
1. Practise mindfulness: become aware of your immediate surroundings. Tune in to the rhythm of your breathing; then work through your five senses and notice what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. As you do so, enjoy and appreciate some of these sensual responses to your environment.
2. On a daily basis develop your ability to live in the moment instead of worrying about the future by trying to increase your enjoyment of the senses, perhaps by playing music or going outside to appreciate flowers or cloud formations. Begin to plan sensual experiences into your day, for instance by putting time aside for a relaxing bath with scented candles.
3. Write down whatever is worrying you. You could include some possible solutions. Often the act of writing it down helps to clear it from your mind. This is especially effective at night if worrying thoughts are keeping you awake. For this reason it’s worth keeping a notebook and pen on the bedside table.
4. Talk to a friend about whatever is bothering you. Sharing your concerns and discussing them with someone close to you helps to give you a sense of perspective: suddenly it doesn’t seem such an insurmountable difficulty any more.
5. Worry causes tension, notably in your muscles – and muscle tension can make worrying worse. So lie still and relax your muscles one group at a time. Start by clenching the muscles in your feet and then relaxing them, then do the same with your calf muscles. Gradually move up through the body, taking one muscle group at a time. Eventually you will have relaxed the whole body. A warm shower or bath will also help to relax tense muscles.
6. Write a list of things, people and places which make you feel happy and at ease. You could collect pictures of these and arrange them on a pinboard or make a collage for your computer desktop so you see them often and the pleasant associations calm you subconsciously. Then, when something worries you, deliberately switch your concentration onto someone or something which has positive connotations. With practice this becomes easier so you spend less and less mental energy on the troubling thoughts which have been wearing you down.