We all have those moments (or weeks or days!) when we get in our head too much. Our constant stream of thought is running the show.
We get stuck in the past: I can’t believe she did that to me!
We future trip: I’m going to look like such a loser at this big meeting!
We overthink a decision to death: Should I this, should I that, but what about…?
It can be agony. A client once told me, “I’d prefer physical pain to the pain of being in his my head constantly.” Yep, it can be that awful.
When you need to get outta your noisy head and into a calm zone, here’s what to do:
1. Don’t judge your thoughts.
Meditators know that we are not our thoughts. For example, if someone is annoying you so much you wanna punch him in the face (but you don’t)—you are not an abuser. I’ve wanted to punch many a sibling, colleague, and husband (I’ve had 2 of them). But I haven’t. It just means that I had a fleeting angry thought. That’s OK! We all have them. It’s what we do or don’t act on that counts.
2. Have a mantra (and stick with it, no matter what).
Mantras are tremendously helpful, as they can instantly center us. My current one is a little long, but whenever I repeat it, I notice a sharp shift in my emotional state. I say to myself (or out loud): “I’m the creator of my life. Whatever I think about creates my reality.” It makes me less apt to think about the crazy stuff (including thoughts like “my life is a complete failure!”) and encourages me to focus on the present moment.
3. Notice outer noise.
Now that you’re in the present moment, you wanna stay there. A great way to do this is listen to the sounds around you. Right now it’s the fan in my bedroom. Just pausing and listening to the whir of the fan is calming. It puts me back in my body (and out of my head)! It also slows your breathing. Dare I say, it’s a mini meditation? Just like that! No candles and/or Zen den required.
4. Focus on someone else.
When we’re in our head, we’re most likely obsessing over ourselves. It’s often totally self-indulgent, and it’s certainly not healthy. Aung San Suu Kyi said, “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” When we shift our focus from ourselves to something or someone else, we naturally become more powerful—both lighter and stronger. Who can you call? What can you do right now to help someone else? It’s a total win, win. You’ll feel happier, more connected, and uplifted almost immediately.
5. Remember all you ever have to handle is the present moment.
Help yourself by constantly remembering this. The past: That sh*t’s over. The future: It’s being created in the present moment by your thinking. You will never have to handle a single thing that is NOT in the present moment. Now is all you’ve got, and it’s all you ever have. Cue huge exhale!
Release the thoughts that make you feel bad (you get to choose them)! Repeat your mantra. Notice the sound of the car engine or the water from your shower head. Think about what you can do for another person today. Kindness is the ultimate calming and empowering force. Remember there is no future—not one that’s guaranteed, anyway. You can get into your body and bliss out on the safe, high-def happening now.
Your mind can be your ally. It can be your buddy, your playmate, your coach. And it wants to be. It’s waiting patiently for the promotion. So give it the job it deserves.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!