Inside: An overactive mind can take a serious toll on your quality of life. Learn how to calm your mind and take control of your thoughts with these six actionable tricks.
Does it feel like your mind is on a 24/7 merry-go-round of thoughts?
Is there a constant marathon of thoughts racing through your head?
You’re not alone.
Whether you’re worried about family, health, work responsibilities, or parenting, stress can build up until it feels like you will inevitably have a breakdown. Although anxiety and chronic stress are common problems in today’s world of fast-paced living and consumption, it doesn’t have to be this way. Through hard work, you have the power to overcome your overactive mind.
It’s natural for some people to overthink things more than others. If you’re the type of person who’s prone to anxiety, it’s not realistic to just one day stop thinking about everything that stresses you out.
Let’s be real – overthinking doesn’t make anything better. All it does is lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating, health issues, chronic stress, etc.
It’s important for our mental health, as well as physical, to learn how to tame our minds from racing thoughts and change our thinking patterns. Although hard, with time and practice, it’s possible to replace our negative thoughts with healthier ones.
It won’t happen overnight, but achieving true peace of mind is worth the effort.
What does having an overactive mind mean?
An overactive mind is a mind that’s thinking about the past, present, and future all at once. If you find that you’re always bouncing between topics in your head and struggling to concentrate on what’s happening in the current moment, you probably have an overactive mind.
Here are some signs that you have a problem with overthinking:
- When something goes wrong, you spend the rest of the day ruminating on it.
- You have a hard time concentrating on one task from beginning to end.
- You can’t turn your mind off to go to sleep at night.
- You feel forgetful or have memory problems.
- You have a rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, nausea, or other physical signs of anxiety.
How do you calm an overactive mind?
In the moment, the best way to soothe an anxious mind or racing thoughts is to focus on breathing and meditation. When you calm down your body with deep breathing, your mind will follow suit. However, if this doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other tips and tricks you can try. Here are six techniques for taming an overactive brain:
6 SIMPLE Ways to Tame an Overactive Mind (And Feel Calm)
1. Write It Down
If you’re repetitively thinking about the same anxious thoughts, writing them down can be incredibly helpful. Start a journaling practice where you carve out time each day, or whenever needed, to jot down the thoughts that are out of control in your head. Write down every worry, conversation, appointment, or event you’re thinking about. New insights will emerge in your writing and it will be easier to identify negative thought patterns that are holding you back from peace and acceptance.
Furthermore, if you tend to overthink future events or to-do lists (like me), then be sure to write out EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO before bed. Oftentimes, the things that keep us awake at night are the things that we have to do the next day. By writing them down, you’ll feel confident that you can accomplish what you need to do the next day without wasting space thinking about it at night.
For journal prompt ideas, check out my posts:
- 7 Reasons Why Journaling for Mental Health Might Make You Happier
- 28 Creative Journaling Prompts for Self Discovery (+ FREE PDF)
- 30 Grief Journal Prompts to Help You Process Difficult Emotions
- 50 Thoughtful Journal Prompts to Help You Unwind and Self-Reflect
- 20 Therapeutic Writing Prompts to Help You Feel Restored (+ FREE PDF)
2. Use a Mantra
A mantra is a simple word or phrase you can repeat over and over to soothe your mind. The repetition of a mantra can be very calming, and the message can be reassuring. For example, when your mind starts to race, you could tell yourself, “I am safe and happy,” over and over.
Try out a few different phrases or words to find the one that you connect with the most. Then, when you feel stressed, take a moment to yourself to repeat your mantra. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and repeat your phrase several times until your racing thoughts have faded away.
3. Take a Peaceful Walk (Preferably in Nature)
Nature is undeniably soothing, so taking a stroll through your local park or forest can be a great way to ease your mind. A 2015 study from Gregory Bratman of Stanford University found that people who regularly took 50-minute walks in a wooded setting experienced less anxiety and less negative self-talk than those who didn’t spend time in nature.
While you walk, you can also engage in a walking meditation. Take your time as you walk, and focus closely on each step. Notice how your feet feel when they hit the ground, and pay attention to the sights and sounds around you. You could even repeat your mantra in rhythm while you walk.
4. Focus on Breathing
You don’t always need an elaborate meditation ritual to calm your busy mind. Sometimes, simply making yourself aware of your breathing will do the trick. Find a quiet place to sit, and close your eyes. Direct your attention to your breathing, and notice how it feels to inhale and exhale. Count to eight as you breathe in, and count to eight as you breathe out.
Another helpful breathing trick is called Piko Piko breathing, an ancient Hawaiian technique that brings oxygen into your cells and releases stress from your body. As you breathe deeply, bring your attention to each part of your body one by one. By slowly and methodically scanning your body, you distract your mind from your anxious thoughts and release physical tension.
5. Use Cognitive Distancing
As amazing and capable as the human brain is, our minds can also be easily tricked into believing things that aren’t true. Oftentimes, the things we worry the most about aren’t actually real. Cognitive distancing is the practice of suggesting alternative positive scenarios to replace your negative thoughts.
When your mind starts to tell you that something is happening that may not be true, think of more likely explanations. For example, if your spouse has been distant and is spending a lot of time on their phone or computer, your brain might first tell you that they are having an affair. Another possibility, though, is that they have a demanding project at work. The worst-case scenario is rarely the truth, so take a moment to come up with other explanations that aren’t so extreme.
6. Try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Emotional freedom technique, or EFT, is a powerful psychology technique that can calm your mind and help you feel more mindful and grounded. The technique involves using your fingertips to tap on certain points of your body in a specific order. As you tap, you repeat a speech that reminds you that you control what thoughts take up your headspace and that only you can label a situation as a threat to your worth or value.
When you perceive a thought to be threatening, your brain experiences a chemical response. Your hypothalamus reacts to the threat and engages the pituitary gland, which signals to the adrenal gland to release the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine into your body. EFT trains you to take control and not be threatened by your thoughts, which helps you avoid this response.
Final Thoughts on 6 Simple Ways to Tame an Overactive Mind (And Feel Calm)
An overactive mind can completely overwhelm your life and make you feel out of control of your thoughts. You are always in control of your mind, though, and you have the power to dismiss your anxious thoughts and focus on the present moment.
Training your brain not to overthink everything isn’t easy, but it is possible. Everyone is different, so the techniques that work best for someone else might not be right for you. Be prepared to try out a variety of methods before you find that tricks that help you feel at ease. You deserve to have peace of mind, but only you can take the necessary steps to get there.
Are there any tricks that have helped you tame an overactive mind? Tell me in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.