Blog #10 in the Soothing Series: Brain Tricks to Stop Negative Thinking and Worrying
Is your brain overheating from too much thinking and worrying? Mine is! I can’t recall a week in which I had to change my thinking about so many things. With the COVID-19 constraints of social isolation and shortages of food and supplies, everything we do needs to be reconsidered and often done differently. A passionate dedication to keep my family safe means I’m constantly trying to anticipate the next challenge or shortage, and how we can adapt or adjust. The need to shift our behaviors makes me vigilant and ready to redirect my loved ones to keep them and our community safe.
My problem is turning the vigilance and problem-solving off, as my mind would prefer to run rampant with ‘What ifs?’ and ‘What then?’ Staying grounded, staying centered, sleeping well, and being present with loved ones requires the ability to put aside problem solving and worries, at least for a time. Here’s a few brain tricks that work for me.
- Cool down your brain, rather like you might cool down your muscles after intense exercise. Do something less intense for awhile, like a jig saw puzzle or knitting.
- Use imagery to soothe your mind. You might imagine surrounding yourself with a soothing color, visualizing the night sky, imagining the smell of the ocean, or looking at nature (flowers, a print, looking out a window).
- Exercise! Especially helpful are activities you really need to focus on, like dance steps or table tennis.
- Take three breaths, in and out of your nose, while keeping your brain busy counting. Breathe in, one, two, three….breathe out, one, two three…and so on. If you want to listen to an example of this, click here for my Free Stress Relief Tools and scroll down to “Count While Breathing Guided Meditation.” I also have a blog about this trick titled, “Free Guided Meditation: Count Your Way to Relaxation.”
- Affirm what you are doing in the moment, when brain chatter tries to interfere. Say out loud or to yourself, “Right now I am taking a shower.” You might have to repeat that a few times! If that doesn’t work, in your mind or out loud, say “STOP!”
- Imagine sending away any worries or problems that don’t really exist in a fun way. For example, imagine the worry to be a tennis ball that you hit out of the court. I rather like the idea of drop-kicking a football many miles away.
- Imagine putting your problems and worries in an imaginary box. Leave them there forever, or at least until it’s time for you to solve them.
Let’s support each other toward the goal of staying centered and getting some sleep! Please share how you quiet your mind when the chatter gets intrusive.
Sometimes, attaining a state of relaxation seems impossible. Even if you know the benefits – quality sleep, resistance to infection, less muscle pain, better problem solving – you cannot get to a relaxed state from your stressed state. Fortunately, even if relaxing seems unattainable, soothing yourself can reduce your stress level by a degree or perhaps two.
Sometimes simple soothing strategies are not going to meet your needs. At those times, get expert help. Call your doctor, your therapist, your pastor, or get yourself to an emergency room. Be safe.
Soothe yourself when you have had a difficult day, have too much on your plate, or perhaps are experiencing a period of intense change. You deserve it.
Photo credits: Gale