Learn how to take control of your racing thoughts and prevent suffering.
April 5th, 2023
By Kayla Mason, Freelance Writer, www.kaylamason.blog
I cannot count how often I have zoned out while someone is talking to me because I am ruminating over something in my head and cannot seem to snap out of it. We all experience intrusive thoughts throughout our day. The evolutionary purpose of this is to have the ability to think on the go, especially when in danger. Experiencing intrusive thoughts becomes an issue when the individual becomes stuck in the intrusive thought cycle. To understand better, let us imagine how this goes down.
How to Get Ahead of the Game: Stop Intrusive Thoughts in Their Tracks
There are a few ways in which an individual can combat intrusive thoughts. Each individual experiences everything differently so trying out each skill may be required to find what works best for you.
Label Intrusive Thoughts ‘Intrusive Thoughts‘
According to Torre (2018), “affect labeling,” or using words to label our emotions, can be a form of emotional regulation, as it decreases association with that emotion. When an individual experiences a distressing thought, instead of paying attention to it, labeling it as intrusive and not as an honest thought can be helpful.
When an intrusive thought hits, it may seem impossible to want to do anything except ruminate on the thought repeatedly. You would be surprised how much stepping outside into nature can alleviate stress and distract us– in a good way! Weir (2020) states that spending time in nature has several benefits, such as improved mood, mental health, and general well-being.
Explore The Worst Possible Outcome
Instead of trying to distract from the thought, what happens if you let the thought flow? If there is a natural rumination about a specific topic within the thought, imagining it is the only way to ease the fear of the unknown. Let’s say the worst possible outcome occurs. Whatever you are worrying about: it happens. Plan for what you will do, who you will call, what resources you have, how you will self-soothe, etc. This is ultimately shutting that intrusive thought process down.
This is my least favorite skill. However, it is the most effective and has often helped me combat intrusive thoughts due to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Like the above skill, let your mind go when an intrusive thought comes up. Let it go wherever it wants to with that thought. It is essential to remind yourself that these thoughts will come and go. All thoughts come and go. Reminding yourself of this time and time again will only bring you the immense peace you are looking for regarding extensive intrusive thinking.
We can combat intrusive thoughts and give them less power over our daily lives in many ways. Besides practicing skills like the ones above, having support from friends, family, or peers can always assist in comforting you when you are experiencing these intense ways of thinking.
Torre, Jared B, and Matthew D. Lieberman. “Putting Feelings into Words: Affect Labeling as Implicit Emotion Regulation.” UCLA , https://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/Torre(2018)ER.pdf.
Weir, Kirsten. “Nurtured by Nature.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2020, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature.
Kayla is a 32 year old writer who lives in New England with her fiancé Jake. She volunteers for a variety of non-profits and takes on roles as a Virtual Communication Manager, Copywriter, and Academic Tutor. Kayla is currently receiving her Master’s of Art in Communications at Southern New Hampshire University. She belongs to The National Society for Leadership and Success and the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. She is a member of the Freelance Union and the National Writer’s Union.
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