Don’t you hate the way your brain so quickly goes to “what if” thinking? What if this happens, or what if that happens? Or, I’d better shift to Plan B just in case “what if” happens, or I’d better not do such and such because “what if” might happen. Ugh.
Did you know that every time your brain goes to “what if” thinking, you’re increasing your anxiety and stress? That’s because every “what if” is usually your brain thinking up some disaster scenario.
Stop for a minute and ask yourself when one of your “what if’s” actually did happen! Probably never! Things usually don’t turn out in all the negative ways we imagine, do they? Or if they don’t turn out perfectly, we always have a way of finding another path. And oftentimes, things work out even better than we imagined.
But that’s easy to say, isn’t it? I know what it’s like when my brain goes into “what if” thinking – it can be hard to remember that things will turn out just fine.
Because I want a peaceful, not anxious mind, I have to force my mind to quiet down sometimes, so that I can focus on whatever task I’m working on. And sometimes I have to quiet it down just so I can fall asleep at night. Here are some of the ways I self-talk to quiet my mind:
- Prioritize thoughts, just like tasks. Some thinking can wait, such as wondering about whether I have enough leftovers for a full meal, versus problem-solving about a Mailchimp issue that I have to fix in time to send out a client’s email campaign. In a ’Notes’ app on my phone, I keep a little list of thoughts that need thinking about, and address them later when I have time or they become more of a priority. Writing them down helps me remember, while also allowing me to dismiss them from my mind in the moment.
- Stop wasting mental energy on silly things. I have to be honest with myself sometimes, and just stop thinking about things that don’t matter and that waste my mental energy. Should I really waste time wondering if my colleagues think I’m weird because of a joke I told that no one laughed at? Does analyzing my husband’s driving (in my head, because vocal backseat driving hasn’t turned out well for me in the past) do anyone any good? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “no”. So when I catch myself heading into thought patterns that are silly and a waste of mental energy, I make a push in a different direction.
- Remember that sometimes everything that can be done has been done. None of us have total control of every aspect of our lives. At a certain point, you can’t do anything more to get the outcome you want. For example, I ordered flowers to be sent to my mom for her birthday. After I paid for them, I was struck with the thought that they may not be left at her door if no one was home, (she was at work that day), but there was nothing I could do without spoiling the surprise. So I let the thought go (the flowers were left on her doorstep). Worrying and wondering about things I have no control over won’t help; it will just cause more stress. To help let go, I sometimes practice breathing exercises, such as breathing in slowly through my mouth and out through my nose.
After I’ve done one of these things (or a combination, if needed), I start thinking new thoughts that align with immediate mental priorities, like finishing a task at work or slowing my mind down enough to fall asleep.
How do you quiet your mind? Tell us!
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