How to calm a racing mind

This week gone by has been a bit up and down, good days, bad days and as always, it means that I am more tired and sleeping a lot more on a daily basis to recover.

I’ve accepted it as the way things are and not to feel bad about it. It is what it is and if I need to sleep, I get on and sleep, no biggie. At night though, the brain can race and ruminate, causing me problems in dropping off to sleep easily. This is when I need to intervene and manage myself to help calm the racing thoughts, get myself in a place ready to sleep, without waking Lady Mackay or getting a whack in the ribs for my efforts.

One thing I do to start is get some breathing exercises going. Breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 8. As long as the exhale is greater than the inhale and dropping shoulders, relaxing the body completely on the out breath, the more effect it will have.

Concentrate on your breathing as normal, on each breath in and out, exploring the rise and fall of your chest, the breath on the noise, the sound of each breath. Keep doing this and when the brain comes in with a random thought – and it will, probably about some damn holiday in Cleethorpes in 1986 or the girl that snubbed you in school, just drag your focus back to your breathing.

This slows down the brain, the racing thoughts and gives more space to manage yourself. Being more relaxed, at this point I go to one of my places in the world that I love. Usually, it’s a beach in the highlands for me, using every sense to live the experience again, the sound of the waves, the wind on the face, the view along the beach, the calm and quiet isolation that only a special place for you can bring.

At this point, I normally drift off, just go under the wave of sleep and let it wash over me. As I write this, my mind is going there and telling me I need a sleep…..it works for me! Some nights, it takes longer than others and there is a back up plan – nytol. If all seems lost, a little pill helps me drop off to get much needed sleep.

That said, as I haven’t had to take on for a good few months, I conclude that the techniques have been successful.

The next step is to be able to step away from my racing thoughts and watch them objectively, seeing each one for what it is, a rumination. A friend recently told me that they put all the thoughts in a box, take one out each night and deal with it, one by one, which then reduces the power of that thought. They then put the box away for another night and feel more in control having dealt with a rumination.

This may not work for everyone  and hope that anyone reading will find something here that will help them calm their mind, anytime, not just when trying to sleep. Maybe on the bus, train or at lunch when finding a quiet moment.

All we can do is be kind to ourselves, always.

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