Coping Skills for Racing Thoughts

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Racing thoughts can be a tough obstacle to overcome whether they occur during the day or at night when you are trying to get some sleep. This lesson talks about how to cope with and eliminate racing thoughts.

Racing Thoughts and Anxiety

Have you ever been unable to sleep because your mind won't shut off? You lay there and a million thoughts go through your mind and it becomes impossible to sleep. This is an example of racing thoughts. Usually they go something like this. ''My tire is low. My tire keeps going low. It's probably bad. I bet I can't fix it. I will have to get it replaced. I don't have the money to have it replaced. I will never have the money. I can never get ahead. Money is always tight, because my job won't pay me enough. Why can't I get a better job? Am I smart enough?''

This type of inner monologue can go on indefinitely and anxiety builds until it is a full blown anxiety attack. And although racing thoughts tend to take a negative track, this is not always the case. It could be a string of thoughts on things that need to be done, work tasks, or even family events. No matter the subject(s), it's stressful.

Although anyone can have racing thoughts, they are usually most common in people who have anxiety issues or mental illness struggles. However, no matter the reason it's important to know how to handle them as they come up.

Coping Techniques

Be sure to know some coping skills

As your mind starts to speed up and run off there are many different skills you can use to calm it down, or interrupt it completely.

  • Talk to yourself out loud, reason everything out that is going through your head. You are not going to want to repeat it again and again, and saying it out loud can interrupt the racing thoughts.
  • Read a small portion of a book out loud to yourself or someone else. This helps you focus on the words in the book and not in your mind.
  • Try to focus on your breathing by counting your breaths ''1..2..3..4'' and again when breathing back out.
  • Write down your concerns on paper, that way they are concrete and you can reference them. Sometimes the racing thoughts happen because we are trying to fix or remember a problem, and writing down the issue should eliminate this stressor.
  • Do something fun like painting, singing, or watching TV. Anything that gets your mind on something different.
  • Find a topic randomly to talk about with someone. Watch the news and debate politics or who is best in Hollywood right now. Talking about something which you are passionate about should shut down the racing thoughts.
  • Use your imagination for something else. Create a story in your head, or think of a garment you would create and imagine all of the fine details. By the time you have finished your mind will be calmer and focused.
  • Exercise is also a great way to calm your mind, because your brain has to focus on the movement and rhythm of your body. Things like yoga may also help focus your mind.

Skills to Stop Racing Thoughts Before They Start

Too much thinking

Although racing thoughts are not the usual anxiety attack and cannot always be stopped before they start, depending on what is causing these events there may be things you can do.

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