Anahata

Ways to calm our minds

19 posts in this topic

I had a conversation with a friend the other day. She was talking about her mind racing with thoughts that weren’t helpful to her and some that were quite terrible. Which happens to all of us from time to time. At the time I was drawing a blank to try and think of what I do to help myself with this. I do not intend to try and help her with this since she didn’t ask for help and I am not sure I would give good advice either. I think she was just looking someone to talk to.
 
Ever since then I have been trying to think of what I do for myself to try and calm my mind. I know I do something. But I am really struggling with organizing different methods into something that makes sense. I was wondering if others can offer their ideas of what is sometimes helpful for this.  

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My mind always races! It sucks! lol. But I do find if I start focusing on my breath, it helps. I usually close my eyes and imagine following the breath in through my nose, down my throat and into my lungs, then breathe out, following the breathe out. If I do it even for a minute, it calms me down and refocuses my thoughts.

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I think she was just looking someone to talk to.

Good for you for being there. Just listening probably helped a lot - having someone external there can ground her back in reality, if she were catastrophizing by saying terrible things that were unrealistic.  Do you know if she's been able to sleep, or do the thoughts keep her up at night? It's a horrible cycle if it's causing her insomnia since sleep deprivation just feeds it. Please encourage her to seek medical help if it gets worse or talk to a therapist or a crisis hotline.

If it's causing insomnia, then for me, it's not just a matter of calming one's mind, but tiring oneself out to let go of those thoughts so I can sleep.  Exercise to exhaustion (safely), such as sprinting, or doing hatha yoga (e.g. holding a twisting lunge for 20 breaths), makes me focus on the physical exertion.  Or, do indulgent self-care to escape, such as playing a game or watching a favorite TV show or movie. Like others said, breathing exercises are good for calming and get enough oxygen into the system.

For other cases, here is a "Coping Thoughts" method I learned from a program on emotion regulation and mindfulness skills:

"Coping thoughts are designed to soothe your emotions when you're in a distressing situation. They are statements that remind you of your strength, your past successes, and some commonly held truths."

Here's a list of some coping thoughts that many people have found to be helpful (source: McKay et al., 1997)

  • Mistakes happen; nobody's perfect.
  • This situation won't last forever.
  • I've already been through many other painful experiences, and I've survived.
  • This too shall pass.
  • My feelings are like a wave that comes and goes.
  • My feelings make me uncomfortable right now, but I can accept them.
  • I can be anxious and still deal with the situation.  (acknowledge duality, not everything is black and white)
  • I'm strong enough to handle what's happening to me right now.
  • This is an opportunity for me to learn how to cope with my fears.
  • I can ride this out and not let it get to me.
  • I can take all the time I need right now to let go and relax.
  • I've survived other situations like this before, and I'll survive this one too.
  • My anxiety / fear / sadness won't kill me; it just doesn't feel good right now.
  • These are just my feelings, and eventually they'll go away.
  • It's ok to feel sad / anxious / afraid sometimes.
  • My thoughts don't control my life; I do.
  • I can think different thoughts if I want to.
  • I'm not in danger right now.
  • So what?
  • This situation sucks, but it's only temporary.
  • I'm strong and I can deal with this.

Of course these aren't for everyone - I only liked six of these, but, in practice, you only really need one that you like.

 

YogaByCandace, Robbie and msinkblot like this

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Good for you for being there. Just listening probably helped a lot - having someone external there can ground her back in reality, if she were catastrophizing by saying terrible things that were unrealistic.  Do you know if she's been able to sleep, or do the thoughts keep her up at night? It's a horrible cycle if it's causing her insomnia since sleep deprivation just feeds it. Please encourage her to seek medical help if it gets worse or talk to a therapist or a crisis hotline.

 

Thank you, but she doesn't need professional help. Thinking of killing her boyfriend is not unrealistic because I know of some of the things he does. That is a joke. She will be fine. She has a personality when she talks everything comes out.

My question was asking for myself. I know in yoga there is breathing and mediation that is helpful for this and many other things. I was asking for a little guidance in this area. It is not a big deal but I would like to learn more.

Thank you for all the replies they were helpful. 

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You're right - that thought isn't unrealistic! Having rage can unleash a flood of emotions, so it makes sense now.

In my opinion, if someone is processing some strong emotions, I don't think calming the mind is necessary unless it is impairing basic functionality (e.g. sleep, sound judgment).

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Racing thoughts like in every day life or during yoga? I have both.

What helps me in everyday life is taking out a piece of paper and literally writing every single thing that my mind is thinking about. I'm usually anxious when my mind is racing and just writing all the thoughts out helps me. I keep a bullet journal (Filofax/unjournaling/whatever you call it) with me so I have paper and pen accessible at all times.

For yoga (and ironically helps in everyday life), I build a picture in my mind - in vivid detail - of something that makes me utterly happy (or calming) which is normally my dog, Zena. I "paint" a picture of her in my mind. I find it's the only way I don't "sleep" during that "meditation" bit at the end of Candace's videos. 5 minutes of imagining Zena or Scooby (the horse I ride) or something like that.

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10 hours ago, KateZena said:

Racing thoughts like in every day life or during yoga? I have both.

What helps me in everyday life is taking out a piece of paper and literally writing every single thing that my mind is thinking about. I'm usually anxious when my mind is racing and just writing all the thoughts out helps me. I keep a bullet journal (Filofax/unjournaling/whatever you call it) with me so I have paper and pen accessible at all times.

That's very good advice - thank you for sharing it. I'm going to try to follow it and see what happens. Sometimes (most of the time) my thoughts get in the way of my day. Anything I can do to stop being an obstacle toward myself, from getting in my own way, sounds like a good idea to me.

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@Hildegard Find a journal that speaks to you, but isn't so pretty that you won't write in it. I had that problem with my last journal. It was so pretty (and the way it closed was rather clumsy) that I just NEVER wrote in it. The one I've have for a couple of days is a turquoise leather one from Barnes & Noble. It really spoke to me. Etsy has some beautiful journals. The pages aren't lined or anything but it's something that's very calming. Buzzfeed has a very good summary of what "bullet journaling" is if you're interested (but you can just write your worries in bullet point style if that's way too crazy for you!)

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On 6/9/2016 at 5:54 PM, KateZena said:

@Hildegard Find a journal that speaks to you, but isn't so pretty that you won't write in it.

Ha! I'm so glad you identified that - I didn't realize that was the issue I had before. I still have one I got as a gift on my bookshelf at my parents' house from more than 10 years ago. Too beautiful to write in.  I received a nice but plain looking journal for free from an alumni event, and, that's what I am using now!

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@yogafire It was something I identified when I looked at my other journals and then the one I was using. Most of mine are plain (or maybe have a dog on the front) with plain pages on the inside. No closure. The one I was using had this weird magnetic closure, super beautiful cover and the pages were dyed and beautiful. I really only wrote maybe a 1/4 of the way through. I would go to write in and then all the words would disappear. I find one that is plain with plain pages that I can MAKE pretty by drawing all over myself is so much easier!

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Speaking of using a journal... I really like guided journals and I think since it's prompting me about what to write I feel more inclined to just go with it instead of staring at a blank page and having to unload all on my own. There are usually pages for this kind of free writing, though it might be more helpful to have the little "assignments" to work with (that isn't a very good word but I don't know what else to call it). The one I have was a gift from my sister and I have no idea where she got it from. I searched on Barnes & Noble and I guess something like this is what I'm talking about, too bad you can't see inside of it: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/writing-for-emotional-balance-beth-jacobs/1110975571?ean=9781572243828

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It's funny that you mention one of those @MaddieTwo. I had gotten one kind of like that (only it's more a slam type one and was for 5 years) and I got SO much anxiety from it because it felt like schoolwork to me. It's interesting how everyone uses a journal. Some people need prompts. Some people don't. Some people will only write in a journal. Some turn theirs into a kind of scrapbook.

My journals definitely resemble scrapbooks in that I have theatre stubs of movies I've seen that day (or month, I try to stick it in there as quickly as I can), weird tidbits I find and paste in there, the inevitable ER band or two (always bulks up my journal a bit), flowers I find that are beautiful that I dried, magazine bits, colorful art pages, sketch pages, collages....I just stick everything in there. It wasn't that hard to put in my calendar and "to-do" lists (aka create a true "bullet journal"); I basically do it all ready. That's my brain for you! Very visual, but orderly.

 

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The best advise i got was in terms of simple meditation.....which very often revolves around self imagery to focus the mind.

We all have thoughts racing all the time, and the illusion is that we can consciously control them......we can't. However we can influence them indirectly. Positive thinking carried out consciously can have mixed results, and can simply be self deception.

Personally the method i prefer it to try and remove all thought and reduce the mind to its empty state as much as possible, remove stresses and strains, and worries. then see what is left.....

to achieve that i imagine my core mind as a dark shape, with all worries as strings attached......then i imagine cutting all the string till they float away. Allowing myself to concentrate only on what is left, and enter the dark space to experience what remains, and what runs through my mind.......

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On 7/10/2016 at 8:45 AM, becca515 said:

The best advise i got was in terms of simple meditation.....which very often revolves around self imagery to focus the mind.

We all have thoughts racing all the time, and the illusion is that we can consciously control them......we can't. However we can influence them indirectly. Positive thinking carried out consciously can have mixed results, and can simply be self deception.

Personally the method i prefer it to try and remove all thought and reduce the mind to its empty state as much as possible, remove stresses and strains, and worries. then see what is left.....

to achieve that i imagine my core mind as a dark shape, with all worries as strings attached......then i imagine cutting all the string till they float away. Allowing myself to concentrate only on what is left, and enter the dark space to experience what remains, and what runs through my mind.......

Thank you for this. This is what I do. Maybe not exactly, but the very same idea. It just seems so natural to me that I couldn't seem to think of it or put it in words before but this is very good help.

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This post was very helpful for me too. I have a friend who also often catastrophes all the time when we talk, and it can be frustrating when she brings up the same anxieties again and again. I love the idea of journaling / writing down stuff. I have a friend with BDD who says she uses a similar technique: she writes down the worst anxieties she has in almost fiction way, and plays them out. And miraculously, it gets rid of them as if by writing the worst possible scenarios that could happen, she realizes they are not so bad...

I also have the same technique that @becca515 mentioned that I find useful. Although for me, I try to reach inside my energy body and feel the cord, and cut it. Sometimes I use a physical object. Before I cut it though, I make an evocation ie. "What I do is for the highest good". It works like magic for me if something gets too intense, as long as the cord doesn't grow back, haha! I find visualization + ritual can be such a powerful tool when simple meditation does not help. Which is the case for me. 

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