High levels of stress and anxiety can trigger racing thoughts as the brain enters a hyperactive state, constantly generating worries and concerns.
These emotions can trigger a "fight or flight" response in the brain, making switching to a calmer state challenging.
Overcoming racing thoughts is a gradual process, and if you tend to ruminate, looking at some longer-term strategies to help is always best.
But here are four tricks we recommend trying when you need to slow down your thoughts in the moment and enjoy peace of mind.
Book yourself into a workout challenge class
This may not be something you can do spontaneously, but if it's accessible to you, a challenging workout class can release all those "feel good" chemicals.
Even if you tell yourself, "I'll do a 30-minute workout at home", it can be tempting to abandon your workout in the moment. An instructor will keep you accountable, and you're much more likely to commit to the entire workout. Very rarely do you see someone leave a class halfway through, right?
A hot yoga or a hot pilates class can be a great way to get you out of your head and focusing on your body. The heat makes it an extra challenging workout, and there's less chance your mind will wander. It's even better if it's a class you haven't done before, so your mind isn't on autopilot and back in its worrying state.
Likewise, being around others may help give you perspective on a situation and help you give time and space away from whatever triggered you in the first place.
Turn off your phone and place it out of sight
If you've already got too many tabs open in your mind, the last thing you need is more mental stimulation and noise.
This can be beneficial if you're having a disagreement with someone and need some time and space to reflect.
The constant shifting of gears as you switch apps or doom scroll through videos is incredibly taxing on the brain. In fact, multitasking increases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, the last thing you need when you're already overwhelmed.
Turning off your device and placing it out of site is the best approach. But you may want to go the next step and have your partner or flatmate take it from you so you're not tempted to return to it.
You may feel antsy because your fingers aren't scrolling or tapping, but an offline activity like doing a jigsaw puzzle, painting, gardening, or cooking might be the relaxing and mindful thing you need.
You can challenge yourself and try a 24-hour away from the phone, but if that's a little too extreme for you, try it for a few hours and notice how you feel.
Start journalling your thoughts
Research has proven time and time again that writing down your worries can, in fact, reduce stress and anxiety. It's an emotional release.
A brain dump where you write everything that comes to mind can be a great way to unload all your thoughts. It doesn't need to be complete sentences with perfect handwriting. The goal here is to free up some space.
If you are entirely new to journalling and crave a little more structure than the brain dump method, try starting with prompts like I feel… I want…. I think…
Pouring your thoughts on paper may be enough to calm your mind. But you may also seek a solution to your worries and need a 'lightbulb moment' to help you move forward. Taking the time to sit and reflect as you write and explore your triggers can help get your mind back in the driver's seat.
Write a to-do list
Writing a to-do list in the evening might be a good approach to help you get a good night's sleep.
Writing down a to-do list is like closing down some of the tabs open in your brain. It relieves you of the pressure to remember it all. It frees up mental space. And it can also give you back a sense of control.
It gives you a plan to work from. It gives you direction, and with that comes a sense of organisation and purpose.
One study found that writing a to-do list helped people fall asleep nine minutes faster than people who wrote about things they had already accomplished that day.
The longer and more detailed the to-do list, the faster they fell asleep.
Again, this shows how helpful to-do lists can be in helping you switch off and enter a state of rest.
We hope you will try these ideas or be inspired to discover a formula for winding down and switching off. For long-term management of a remunerating mind, consider if meditation or seeking professional help might also be what you need.