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Sometimes, thoughts can run wild. One thought can lead to another and then another. It can be hard to stop.
When you can’t control your thoughts, they can avalanche together and leave you in a frenzy. There are plenty of reasons why this can occur, but lucky for you, I’m sharing some tangible tips you can apply to counteract this in your daily life.
Why can’t I control my thoughts?
As mentioned above, there are a number of reasons why you might not be able to control your thoughts. First, you should know that it’s normal and you’re not alone. Uncontrollable thoughts can be caused by anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, various phobias, and numerous life events.
Uncontrollable thoughts can be both negative and positive. These types of thoughts are often referred to as racing thoughts. One thought leads to another; before you can control it, three more thoughts have happened.
Let’s explore some of the more common reasons for uncontrollable thoughts and the things you can do in each instance.
How to control your thoughts when living with obsessive-compulsive disorder:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic, long-term condition that can cause uncontrollable thoughts. When such thoughts begin, it can be extremely difficult to stop them.
That’s typically how people develop compulsions. Compulsions are behaviors that are intended to combat stress so the person can stop a thought or feeling. OCD makes uncontrollable thoughts hard to fight through.
OCD creates an urge for people to repeat something over and over. As a result, it can make it very difficult to function in daily life and can create large barriers.
A few common symptoms include a fear of germs, unwanted thoughts about harm, religion or sex, aggressive/violent thoughts about harming oneself or others, and having things ordered in a particular way.
Here are some ways to tackle the thoughts that come with OCD.
1. Talk about it.
Share your obsessive-compulsive disorder with loved ones and friends. Join a support group in your area where you can openly talk and share in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
There are enormous benefits to having a support system, ranging from being able to cope with stress better, improving your ability to stop uncontrollable thinking, and bettering your mental health overall.
When you can share freely, openly, and authentically, it relieves a lot of pressure inside. Talking about your racing thoughts, your compulsions, or the thoughts you can’t control that seem entirely unreal is a good way to defer them. Sharing your thoughts with loved ones can help you feel less alone and improve your ability to handle unwanted thoughts.
2. Practice relaxation techniques.
When living with OCD, it’s important to keep stress to a minimum. Stress can trigger uncontrollable thoughts. Practice mindfulness and meditation, get creative, take a yoga class, or try any other relaxation techniques that you find appealing.
Mindfulness is a beneficial tool in living with OCD. It teaches you to be in the moment rather than resisting the urge to fight the thoughts. This disorder becomes even more intense when you try to fight the thoughts.
Mindfulness teaches a person to be aware of their triggers, acknowledge and accept them, and resist the urge to relieve the stress by acting out compulsively. Mindfulness fosters a calm way of living, being present in the moment, and accepting emotions and feelings rather than trying to fight them.
Meditation is another tool to keep in your toolbox when you’re struggling with uncontrollable thoughts, especially regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s a great habit to begin and has a lot of benefits to physical and mental health.
3. Find a therapist.
Therapy is an effective tool for maintaining mental health. If you’re searching for a great therapist, ask your friends and family for recommendations, read client reviews, and research the type of therapy you’re most interested in.
One strategy that is particularly helpful with obsessive-compulsive disorder is exposure and response prevention. This strategy involves exposing the person to the trigger and encouraging resistance to their usual urges.
4. Always go to scheduled appointments.
It’s imperative to follow a treatment plan and attend all your scheduled appointments. Even when you’re beginning to feel better and more in control of your thoughts, you must still attend your appointments. Proactive care is beneficial in the treatment of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Practice maintaining good mental health and staying in control of your well-being.
How to control your racing thoughts:
Racing thoughts can happen to anyone at any time in their life. It can be triggered by something exciting, upsetting, or nothing at all. When racing thoughts happen, they can take over the entire mind and make it difficult to focus on anything. They can occur at any time of the day and last for various lengths.
Racing thoughts can feel like your mind is going too fast and that you have no control over what is entering and going on in your mind. It might seem impossible to slow down your thoughts. These thoughts can feel difficult to turn off and lead to worst-case scenario imagining.
Here are some things that can help:
1. Breathing exercises.
Using a breathing exercise is a helpful way to control your racing thoughts. There are a variety of different ones, so explore them until you find one that works for you.
A good one to try is to lengthen your exhale. Before you take a deep breath, push out all your air and let your lungs fill naturally. For example, try to inhale deeply for four seconds and then exhale for six seconds. Repeat four to six times.
Another exercise to try is belly breathing. You can lay or sit on the ground, place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Breath in through your nose, notice your stomach slowly rise, and then exhale through the mouth.
A third breathing exercise is guided meditation. Listening to a soothing voice can help your mind slow down and refocus.
Lastly, equal breathing is an effective exercise to control racing thoughts. This can be completed by inhaling and exhaling for the same amount of time.
2. Use affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements that challenge the inner critic and any self-sabotaging thoughts. They can be used to strengthen self-confidence and self-esteem.
Positive affirmations make a huge difference when you’re dealing with racing thoughts. They can help you take back control and take charge of your thinking.
For example, when the racing thoughts start, shift the focus to a more positive place: “I am strong. I can handle this moment. This will pass. I am loved and important.”
Sometimes affirmations are more beneficial when repeated a few times or if you say them in front of a mirror.
Here are some more affirmations that you can use: 6 Affirmations To Repeat When You’re Overthinking
3. Create a healthy sleep routine.
Sleep is integral to maintaining good mental health. It helps to ensure you can make good choices, be in control of your emotions, and control your thoughts. Therefore, creating a healthy sleep routine is essential.
A few things that can help are a dark room, avoiding screens before bedtime, leaving your phone in another room, and doing nighttime meditation. Getting a good night’s rest is the first step to having a fantastic day.
4. Practice meditation.
Meditation is a great tool to counteract racing thoughts. If you’re new to the practice or just need some guidance (or if you’re anything like me and you like hearing the voice), then consider trying a guided meditation.
How to control your anxious thoughts:
Anxiety can bring a bucket-load of unwanted thoughts. Sometimes anxiety causes unwanted thoughts, and other times the unwanted thoughts trigger anxiety.
Anxiety can derail a person’s day and make the daily aspects of life difficult. There are many forms of anxiety, and they can present themselves differently in each sufferer. A few types of this disorder are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and separation anxiety.
Some common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Feeling nervous
- Increased heart rate
- Sweating and trembling
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing thoughts
To combat the thoughts caused by anxiety, here are some techniques you can use.
1. Incorporate mindfulness into your life.
Mindfulness is an effective practice when you’re struggling to control anxious thoughts. Mindfulness is the act of being present. It’s not a unique thing but rather more of a state of being.
Mindfulness is about acknowledging how you’re feeling, where you are, and being present. When you notice your thoughts running away from you, bring your focus back to the moment.
2. Get regular physical activity.
Exercising releases “happy hormones” including endorphins and dopamine and that is very beneficial in maintaining good mental health. It’s also a terrific confidence booster and increases self-esteem. These factors combine to leave you feeling more in control and better able to handle thoughts, emotions, and feelings.
3. Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine.
Alcohol, caffeine, and anxiety don’t mix well. Both can trigger or worsen anxiety and racing thoughts, making them more difficult to control. Notice how these affect you and how you feel about your thoughts and emotions when you consume them.
4. Maintain a healthy diet.
Proper nutrition is crucial. Notice how different foods affect you and how your mind feels after eating them. If you often feel like you can’t control your thoughts, consider limiting sugars and avoiding sugary drinks, processed meats, and ready-made meals. Instead, consume more fresh produce and lean proteins.
5. Learn and identify your triggers.
Take the time to learn what triggers your racing thoughts. This can help you avoid the trigger so you can cope with it. In addition, understanding what makes your thoughts go wild can assist you in identifying unresolved issues you might have.
How to handle racing thoughts due to burnout:
Life is busy, chaotic, and often all over the place. Raising children, affording life, and managing all the daily duties can cause a person to become overwhelmed.
When you’re overwhelmed, getting a hold of your thoughts can be difficult. Thoughts run through your mind, maybe about a promotion at work, a charity dinner you’re hosting, or what you are buying everyone for Christmas this year. It doesn’t take much to become overwhelmed and burnt out.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out, taking care of your mental health can be challenging. It isn’t easy to control your thoughts when you feel like everything is out of your control. Here are some things you can do to help:
1. Understand why you’re feeling burnt out.
Are you feeling burnt out because of an intense schedule you’re trying to maintain? Is it because of stressful relationships? Is home life a struggle? Once you understand the cause of your burnout, you can take positive steps to regain control.
2. Talk to people you trust.
Having a strong and stable support system and being able to confide in people you trust can significantly impact how effectively you can handle your thoughts.
When your thoughts are racing, connect with people who you can trust. Reach out and say to someone, “I need help completing work tasks. My relationship isn’t doing well. Can we talk? I need to lessen my course load, because this is too much.”
3. Set personal boundaries.
Personal boundaries can help a lot with burnout. Set job-related limits, such as leaving work at the office, or if you work from home, complete tasks during specific hours and then put them away. Set boundaries with whatever is causing the burnout.
It is a good idea to seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to get a handle on your thoughts.
How to stop racing thoughts in general:
Racing thoughts can cause you to unravel, become emotional, and struggle to make decisions. Whether you know the cause of your racing thoughts or not, below are some tips that can help suppress them in the moment.
1. Bring awareness to your thoughts.
When your thoughts begin to race, I challenge you to bring awareness to them. Consider what you’re thinking about and where the thoughts come from. Consider what your thoughts are, and then take a moment to sit with them. Bring a focus onto the now and what you’re feeling. Allow yourself compassion and grace to feel what you feel, and then let it go.
2. Drink a glass of cold water.
Have a glass of icy cold water when you’re feeling an abundance of racing thoughts. The temperature difference can act as a shock and pull your focus back.
3. Stimulate your senses.
Your mind is going fast, everything is a blur, and it’s hard to stop. If you’re feeling like this, reach for something that will soothe your senses. For example, wrap yourself in a soft blanket to quiet the racing thoughts, put your head in the freezer for 30 seconds, or light your favorite scented candle. Explore your senses until you find what calms you.
4. Turn to images.
When you feel the racing thoughts, they might catch you off guard. They can avalanche quickly and be hard to stop. When you feel the thoughts, pull your gaze over to your photos. Notice happy moments, smiles, and things that bring you joy. This is a great way to shift the focus onto something in your control and bring back joyful memories.
When the racing thoughts crash down onto you, turn to your journal to help. When you feel them set in, grab a pen and notebook and explore writing them out. Doodle, write, draw, color, do whatever provides relief from the racing thoughts. Journaling is also a great way to recognize behavior patterns, habits, and triggers.
6. Use a mantra.
A mantra is a word or bundle of words that a person repeats to help calm their thoughts. For example, every time you notice the thoughts set in, you could try repeating “I am in control. I can make it through this hard moment.”
7. Schedule “worry time.”
If you schedule your worry time, over time, it can lessen your racing thoughts. Put a block in your calendar each day where you let your mind run wild. Once the block of time is complete, then you push those thoughts away and power through the day.
Unfortunately, sometimes racing thoughts develop into a habit. It becomes the first instinct to have your thoughts run away from you. You can wean yourself off of this by scheduling the time. Then, when the thoughts begin to arise during other times, you tell them, “No, it’s not my worry time right now.”
8. Call a friend.
When your thoughts race, grab your phone and call someone and talk to them. This will help you connect with reality, realize that your thoughts are racing, and understand what they’re racing about. This will make you feel less alone.
How to stop overthinking everything:
Overthinking might be a cause of your racing thoughts, or it might be something you do separately. Overthinking occurs when you think about something repeatedly, so much so that reality and your perception of it become confused.
Overthinking shouldn’t be mistaken for worrying. A small level of worrying is normal, in fact, even healthy. It can help to keep you safe and able to make good decisions. A certain level of worry is necessary. However, overthinking can lead to a lot of stress. Overthinking is when you think about something over and over and over. You overanalyze things, and it gets all jumbled in your mind.
Here are some tips to help curb your overthinking.
1. Speak to yourself like you would to a friend.
Compassion goes a long way if you’re an overthinker. When you catch yourself overanalyzing everything, wondering why you said that particular thing, or why you did everything wrong, stop and catch yourself. Is that how you would speak to your best friend in the same position? Give yourself the same grace and compassion that you would to somebody else. Speak to yourself kindly. “I am going to be okay. I can handle the hard things.”
2. Distract yourself.
When you notice yourself overthinking about something, choose to distract yourself. For example, change up the environment, put some music on, or go outside. Do something that distracts your brain from overthinking. For example, look for a new hobby, exercise, or have an afternoon dance party.
3. See the bigger picture.
When you catch yourself overthinking, take a moment and ask yourself if this will matter one year from now? How about five years from now? Take a minute to refocus and see the bigger picture.
4. Acknowledge how far you’ve come.
How often are we adults told that we’ve done so well? Or that we should be proud of ourselves?
Take a moment when you’re overthinking and shift the focus onto how far you’ve come. Think about where you were and where you are now. Celebrate your strength for pushing through, and remind yourself that you’ll push through again.
5. Stay in the moment.
When your overthinking starts, remind yourself to stay in the moment. Place your focus on your senses, your breath, and anything else that keeps you present and aware. Practice mindfulness and meditation to strengthen this skill.
How to stay present.
As we’ve highlighted already, staying present and in the moment is an effective tool in battling racing and intrusive thoughts along with feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.
Staying present involves bringing your focus and awareness to that very moment and letting the other feelings and thoughts flow away. This takes plenty of practice, so don’t get discouraged. Instead, just focus on the now and how you’re feeling.
Here are some additional tips to help you stay in the present moment.
1. Practice self-compassion.
The society we live in right now tends to teach us and foster an environment in which we tear ourselves apart. We are typically our biggest critics, which can grow heavy and challenging to deal with.
Instead, make an effort to practice self-compassion. Speak to yourself with kindness. Work on changing the inner narrative. This will put you back in the driver’s seat of controlling your thoughts.
2. Begin a gratitude practice.
Gratitude is immensely impactful in mental health, and though it won’t stop racing thoughts in the moment, it can make a big impact over time and correct the urge to have your mind run free.
Begin by listing three things each day that you’re grateful for. Then, in a moment of doubt, refer to your lists. This is helpful to take back control of your thoughts. For gratitude to be beneficial, make sure you make a point of practicing it as much as possible. Write it down, think it, say it out loud, anything goes. Feel it.
One of the best strategies for stopping racing thoughts and controlling your mind is understanding what triggers the thoughts. Notice what is happening around you when the racing thoughts set in and try to understand its effects on you. Once you understand why you can’t seem to control your thoughts, you can start implementing some of the tips above.
Remember, how you’re feeling is normal and valid. It’s not a fault of yours or a detriment. But, with careful practice, gentle care, and some helpful tips, you can regain control of your mind and stop it from racing.
Still not sure how to gain better control over the thoughts you are having? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to manage your thought processes with advice that is tailored to your specific challenges or issues.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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