How to stop an overactive mind

Racing Thoughts: Tips for Coping


Racing thoughts are fast moving and often repetitive thought patterns that can be overwhelming. They may focus on a single topic, or they may represent multiple different lines of thought. You may have racing thoughts about a financial issue or about an embarrassing moment or a phobia. These thoughts may also escalate.

Racing thoughts can increase your anxiety or feelings of unease and can disrupt your concentration.

When you have racing thoughts, you may feel like:

  • Your mind is going a mile a minute.
  • You aren’t able to slow down your thoughts.
  • Your mind isn’t able to “shut off,” and you can’t fully relax.
  • It’s difficult to focus on anything else.
  • You keep thinking about a problem that has been blown out of proportion.
  • You start catastrophizing, or thinking of worst-case scenarios.

Racing thoughts can result in insomnia. This happens when you struggle to fall asleep because you can’t slow down your thoughts at night. Keep reading to learn about strategies to help you calm your mind, longer-term treatment options, and what may be causing your racing thoughts.

Here are several steps you can take to manage or prevent racing thoughts if you’re having them right now:

1. Focus on breathing

Take several deep, careful breaths and focus on counting while inhaling and exhaling. This can force your mind to focus on something other than the racing thoughts. It can also have a calming effect on your central nervous system, which can reduce anxiety.

Keep reading: 5 easy ways to ease your mind »

2. Try a mantra

You can use a mantra, repeated when necessary, to take your mind off the racing thoughts. Even one like “Everything will be fine” can be very effective.

3. Eliminate stress before bed

If your racing thoughts typically occur at night when you’re trying to sleep, make changes to your routine before bed so that you can relax and sleep peacefully. Try to eliminate stress for at least two hours before sleep. You can meditate or practice gentle yoga, and read a relaxing book or take a bubble bath. Avoid all electronic screens and overly stimulating mental activity in those two hours before bed.

Longer term, therapy can help identify the cause of your racing thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be particularly helpful. It can teach you coping mechanisms and techniques to manage these thoughts.

These techniques may include:

  • doing deep-breathing exercises
  • writing out thoughts on paper or in a diary
  • using mantras to calm your mind down
  • focusing only on the present and things you can control right now

Your doctor may also recommend medications to help manage any underlying conditions, especially if racing thoughts seem to accompany triggers like anxiety attacks or bipolar episodes. These medications may include:

  • antidepressants
  • antianxiety medications
  • antipsychotics
  • mood stabilizers

Racing thoughts are a possible symptom of a number of different conditions. While it’s most common in anxiety, there are other conditions that can cause racing thoughts, too.


Anxiety is a common cause of racing thoughts. While racing thoughts are extremely common during an anxiety attack, they can also occur at any time. They may also precede or follow an anxiety attack.

Keep reading: The best anxiety apps of the year »


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a pattern of inattention or hyperactivity. Some people will describe their inattention as racing thoughts, especially when they are overwhelmed with external stimuli. More common in ADHD is wandering thoughts, where you struggle to focus on a single train of thought.

Learn more: What’s the difference between ADHD and ADD? »

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition in which you experience obsessions or compulsions that are difficult to shake. These obsessions can take the form of racing thoughts, where you can’t stop what feels like an avalanche of thoughts on a particular subject. You may have a compulsion that soothes the thoughts, like washing your hands a certain number of times to stop racing thoughts caused by worrying about germs.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is an emotional disorder in which your emotions skyrocket to extreme emotional highs (manias) and plummet to severe depression. Racing thoughts most often occur during the mania part of a bipolar episode, though they can occur with depression, especially in cases of agitated depression.

Agitated depression

Agitated depression is an outdated term which refers to a severe subtype of depression. It’s characterized by feeling agitated instead of lethargic, the symptom that’s commonly associated with most types of depression. You may also feel restless, angry, and quick to react. Racing thoughts is more likely to affect those with agitated depression than other types of depression.

Medication side effect

Sometimes, medications may treat some symptoms of a condition but exacerbate or even cause others. Medications used to treat depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder can sometimes cause agitated depression, which can then trigger racing thoughts.

If you start a new medication and start experiencing racing thoughts, call your doctor so you can try a new medication or adjust the dosage as soon as possible.

Learn more about depression medications and their side effects »

You should call your doctor or make an appointment with your therapist if you’re having racing thoughts on a regular basis and they’ve become disruptive or are preventing you from sleeping. You should make an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible to be evaluated for a mood or mental health disorder if you experience racing thoughts alongside any of the following:

  • symptoms of depression
  • strong irritability
  • strong compulsions
  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • severe shifts in mood

Read more: 11 ways to stop a panic attack »

Only once you’re diagnosed can treatment start. Just like other types of health conditions, mental health conditions are more easily treated when caught early.

5 Ways to Stop Your Racing Thoughts

by Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D.

Source: Viktor Gladkov/Shutterstock

Racing thoughts—fast, repetitive thought patterns about a particular topic—are a common feature of anxiety and other mental-health disorders. But they can happen any time you are in an anxious or stressed state, even if you are not experiencing other symptoms.

Racing thoughts may be replays of past events which generated anxiety or sadness for you. They may also be worries about things that could happen in the future. They are strings of thoughts that are blown out of proportion, have a pattern, consume time, and often have no rational conclusion.

They can look like this:

"I always forget what I have to do. I'm so stupid. If I don't remember everything, I'll get fired. I don't know what I'll do if that happens. I should have taken that job I was offered six months ago. If I lose my job, I won't have any money. I need to work longer hours to keep this job. That just makes me more depressed. I'm so miserable. What am I going to do?"

When thoughts like these flood your mind, they drain your energy, stop you from living in the present moment, and can create a loop in your brain that feels difficult to escape. They can also make it harder to concentrate and accomplish daily tasks, and impair your memory and sleep.

Having racing thoughts is often disturbing and frightening because it creates a sense of being out of control. But having racing thoughts does not mean you're out of control or crazy. It does mean that you are anxious and that your stress level is higher than usual.

Here are some ways you can work to calm your mind and stop racing thoughts:

1. Use cognitive distancing.

Our mind usually worries about things it is convinced are true but, most of the time, are actually not true. You can balance your mind's tendency to predict the worst outcome by coming up with positive alternative scenarios. For instance, your spouse seems distant and is sending out a lot of emails. You decide he must be having an affair. An alternative scenario: He is working extra hard on a project. Analyze what's most likely to happen. Most of the time, the worst-case scenario your brain comes up with is not the most likely one.

2. Use a mantra.

A mantra is just a simple phrase or word that you repeat to calm your mind. Research has shown that repeating a mantra reduces activity in the part of your brain that is responsible for self-judgment and reflection. This is the part of the brain that spends so much time rehashing the past and worrying about the future. You can use any word, sound, or saying you want. You could try something like, "Om," "Life is good," or "Everything is OK." Repeat your phrase over and over, focusing your thoughts only on your mantra. If your mind wanders, return to your mantra. You can practice this almost anytime, even going around the supermarket or on your commute home from work.

3. Focus on the present.

Returning your focus to the present will help you accept and let go of what you cannot control. It will also help you realize that you can't change the past, and that the future hasn't happened yet, so it's a waste of time to keep thinking about them. (This doesn't mean that you are unaware of what happened in the past or what is about to happen in the future.) Try taking a deep breath and asking yourself how you are feeling right now.

4. Write things down.

Putting your concerns on paper allows you to return to them later. You don't have to dismiss them entirely, and you can feel comfortable knowing you will revisit the concern. Also, the act of writing engages your mind and reduces the power of racing thoughts. When thoughts are in your mind, they feel chaotic. Putting them on paper organizes them. Use a notebook or a designated computer document. Once you've taken a few minutes to organize your thoughts on paper or onscreen, your mind should be calmer. If you want, set aside a time limit for thinking about them before taking a break and coming back to them later.

5. Breathe.

This shifts the fight-or-flight response of your sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Try counting to 3 as you breathe in and to 5 as you breathe out. Pay attention only to your breathing as you try to slow it down. Your mind will wander, but just bring it back to your breathing. (See more tips on breathing exercises here.)

It takes time to develop new habits. Whichever of these tools you use, it will take regular practice over a long period of time to see results. Unfortunately, many people expect the effects to be immediate and abandon the practice too soon. Instead, be consistent and patient. And If you find that you are not able to get racing thoughts under control, consider consulting a mental health provider. Anxious thoughts can be part of a mental health disorder that professionals can treat effectively with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

7 tips to keep your thoughts from distracting you during sex

During sex, do you often think about products you forgot to buy, or are you distracted by cobwebs on the ceiling? Such anxiety is a natural result of life with its countless daily worries.

It can be difficult to drive away intrusive thoughts, but these tips will help you be less distracted from the process and focus on what is happening.

Learn Mindfulness Outside the Bedroom

The key is awareness - total presence in the moment. If you spend your entire day in an ocean of worry, multitasking, and overactive thinking, don't expect to be perfectly calm and focused during sex.

The best way to learn concentration is to practice it outside the bedroom. Being in the present is a skill that takes practice, and it is worth starting it in everyday life.

Meditation can help with this. There are many applications that meditate. Even 10 minutes of meditation a day will help keep you engaged during intimacy.

Set yourself up for success

Some of the biggest distractions are noise, devices, and to-do lists. You can make your bedroom an electronics-free zone.

If you love making to-do lists, quickly jot down your list items before turning your attention to your partner.

Think about any distractions that might grab your attention during sex. Worried if you know there are dirty dishes in the sink? Or perhaps the peeling paint on the wall always catches the eye? Take all necessary measures to eliminate these factors.

The idea is to create more free mental space for yourself. There is no need to do a perfect cleaning every day. Just try to reduce your personal distractions.

Be prepared to be distracted.

If you're like most people, you've probably experienced a thought during sex. The frustration with this is so strong that you become more and more distracted.

The truth is that it is impossible to be focused 100% of the time. You cannot stop your brain from thinking. At any moment of the day, you will inevitably have unwanted and random thoughts, including during sex.

If you expect your mind to be free of all thought except how much fun you are having with your partner, you will be bitterly disappointed.

Try to admit that distraction is the price we pay for having a brain. Think about how you can minimize distractions instead of eliminating them altogether.

Don't fight your thoughts

Trying to stop yourself from thinking never works, and usually just adds to the distraction. Let the thoughts just be.

Some equate mindfulness with watching traffic. Imagine that your thoughts are cars driving down the road.

You can't stop the flow of cars, but you can keep yourself from jumping into one of the cars and driving away. Try to let the thoughts run through your head during sex, but don't actively engage in them.

Work with the breath

Focusing on the breath is one of the basic principles of mindfulness. This is a great way to let go of your thoughts and bring yourself back to the present moment.

When you feel carried away by a thought, take a deep breath and imagine that you are gently opening a car door and pulling your brain out of another car.

In general, learning to work with the breath is also better in private. Close your eyes and try to focus on inhaling and exhaling. Observe the length of the breath, its frequency. This will help you be more attentive.

Describe to yourself what is going on

Another easy way to develop mindfulness that can help during sex. Mentally tell yourself a story about what happens from moment to moment.

It might sound like this: “He puts his hand on my hips. ” The trick is that you let your brain do something, but it focuses on the sex itself.

Your story may be about your body's reactions to what is happening, which will help you better tune in. For example, “I can feel my breathing starting to quicken. Now I feel my stomach fluttering. Now I feel tingling on my skin.”

Decide what you want to think about

Sometimes you just need to make a decision. You can allow yourself to delve into your thoughts, or you can try to really be there for your partner.

For example, say to yourself, “I can spend all my mental energy worrying about when and how I'm going to work, or I can enjoy the fact that I'm finally with my partner.

Try to be kind to yourself: "It's natural to think about this problem, but I'll have plenty of time for that."

Or be a little cheeky: “Will I really think about my mother during sex?”. These affirmations will help you come back to the present moment and focus on what really matters.

Throw away your mind? - Clear Academy :: Clear practice of life - LJ

oleg matveev olegmatveev

Sometimes you can hear that verbal thoughts only cause harm, "throw away your mind", etc. But I wouldn't generalize like that. Harm does not come from verbal thoughts - verbal thoughts serve as agents of "time-binding". Harm comes from non-reproduction and failure to bring the information received to a conceptual understanding.

The truth is not what you have heard or read, but what you have experienced. Having received a verbal given, one must first "test" it, namely "test", and not compare it with one's own verbal thoughts and rejoice at the similarity ("Oh, I find in Ron a lot of logical = that is, coinciding with my verbal thoughts") . .. and only then send it to the basket "it's true." But not everyone understands this.

I would still keep my mind to myself...

And here, it was formulated: words, verbal thoughts - this is a map that helps to walk through non-verbal terrain . As soon as we manage to reach the goal, to the result, this card is useful ... and it is not worth throwing it away. Walking without a map at all is maybe cool, if that's the goal. But if the goal is to reach somewhere specifically, then there is no way without a map.

Another thing is that the map is not the territory, and in case of inconsistency "#true" is on the "territory" and not on the map. It's just the same thing in other words: The truth is what you experienced on your own experience, and not what you were "told" - whether in writing, at least in any other form ...

OM, 2006

old forum

Tags: #experience, #truth, general semantics, clear thinking

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