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How To Stop Racing Thoughts

Posted Jul 05 2009 10:05pm

Stop oder Start?
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Matthias Töpfer

What should you do when your thoughts won’t stop racing?  How should one react when our minds are filled with speeding negative thoughts that make us anxious and fearful?  There are a couple of things you can do, but perhaps the most effective thing is to tell your mind to just stop it.

Known as the “Stop Technique,” it is simply you yelling the word stop to yourself.  Of course because this might make you look like you’re crazy in public you could also do this silently.  Also, you may have to say stop! to yourself many times.  It’s a very short mantra meant to affect change quickly.

There are variations of this technique but telling yourself to “stop it” is the root of them all.  When I heard about this I was skeptical but it does work somewhat.  I imagine that for it to work very effectively you’d have to practice it a bit, but it seems promising.

This technique is a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy used by psychologist to affect the negative thinking of their patients.  So it’s not some crack pot thing I’m introducing here.  The stop technique is not of course the only thing you can do to stop racing thoughts.

Racing thoughts can also be dropped kicked by simply and vigorously engaging your mind.  When your mind is fully engaged it’s just harder for those thoughts to come to the surface and dominate your mood.  Here is a short list of other things you can do to stop racing thoughts in their tracks.

1. Talk to someone or better yet to several people. Getting into conversation is perhaps the best distraction in the world. It takes a lot of brain power to carry on a good conversation and this could pull your attention to a single thing and away from the barrage of thoughts that have been tormenting you.

2. Read a book. This simple technique is useful because it tends to occupy your inner voice. So if your reading and following the story it’s much more difficult to slip back into other thoughts at the same time.

3. Writing. Whether it’s a journal, blog, or creative writing the act of writing will engage your mind and reduce the power of racing thoughts.

4. Physical activity. Things like running, swimming, basketball, weight lifting, etc engage your body which will eventually engage your mind.  As your body becomes fatigued your mind will become more consumed by that than anything else.

Having racing thoughts can be disturbing and frightening because it creates a sense of being out of control. But having racing thoughts does not mean you’re out of control or crazy.  It does mean that you are anxious and that your stress levels are elevated.  Anxiety and racing thoughts just go hand and hand but it is manageable.

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