How To Relax Your Racing Mind & Find Your Inner Calm
You might as well call us circus performers because we’re all juggling a million things at once every. single. day. Even if you don’t realize it in the moment, trying to keep everything from falling out of the air can be exhausting and stressful. A racing mind – which is where your thoughts are scattered or repetitive to the point that you struggle to focus – is a sign that it’s time to regroup and ground yourself.
“The mind is always at work and gathering lots of information and has a hard time taking a break. The nerves are excited,” says Yogmata Keiko Aikawa, a world-renowned meditation master. “To cool down the nerves, we need to relax them. One way to do that is to use circuits that don’t use nerves.”
Basically: We need to switch gears so our brain and body can rest. Doing so not only feels good in the moment, but can helps us in our day-to-day lives.
Yogmata says that if we don’t take time to pause and reset, it can:
- Increase stress
- Reduce our ability to concentrate
- Distracts us from our feelings
- Lead to mistakes since we’re not fully present
- Dulls our intuition
- Decreases creativity
- Makes us irritable
- Impacts our clarity and decision-making
Not ideal, obvi! So, what’s the best way to cool those hot nerves, calm a racing mind, and find more grounding? You’ve got lots of options. Pick one or two and commit to each for a month, then report back here and let us know how you’re feeling!
1. Try a Quick Breathing Exercise
We subconsciously breathe all day long, but making the task a conscious effort is one of the easiest and quickest ways to calm a racing mind. “Through controlling the prana – [AKA] breath and respiration – you create the energy of fire and burn away the distractions,” notes Yogmata.
Try “square breathing,” which involves breathing in deeply for four counts, holding for four counts, releasing for four counts, and holding again for four counts before repeating. Do this for about five minutes and see how much calmer you feel!
2. Busy Your Hands
Can’t bear the idea of sitting still for too long? You don’t necessarily have to, says Samantha Hoff, a meditation and yoga expert. She recommends busying your hands and perhaps even getting a little dirty! Think: gardening or tactile crafts such as pottery, painting.
“When your hands are busy completing a task, it can help focus your energy and your mind on the now,” Hoff explains. “And when your hands are dirty, it makes it harder to quickly switch activities and also harder to mindlessly scroll through your phone, which can help you focus.”
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3. Commit to Technology “Off Hours”
Here’s a fact that just might blow your mind: We tend to rely on our phones to escape from racing thoughts. While some screen time is okay, Hoff says this coping mechanism is an “avoidance technique” that can potentially exacerbate the problem. Especially if we start mindlessly scrolling for hours. Also, our minds aren’t really being put at ease while scrolling – they’re working overtime to absorb all the information we’re taking in.
“Putting our phone away and actually being present in the moment – while uncomfortable – can help to calm the mind,” she says. “Put your phone away in a drawer or in a box designated as ‘phone jail’. When your phone is out of sight, it’s much easier to stop the mindless scrolling.”
4. Take Up Yoga Practice
Yoga combines focused and intentional breathing with body movement. The result is both a mental and physical exercise that allows our brain to put aside those racing thoughts and instead focus on the task at hand. You don’t have to be “athletic” or an experienced yogi to enjoy the practice, either. Anyone can try yoga. Here’s an excellent 20-minute video for beginners.
5. Spend Some Time in the Fresh Outdoors
When your mind starts racing, that’s a sign to take 10. If possible, head outside for some fresh air. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, either. You can walk around the block, stand in the sunshine, or sit on a patio chair with your eyes closed.
“Sometimes a change in location and fresh air can also help spur a change in your mindset.” Hoff says. “While you are outside, notice the feeling of the air on your skin and the ground beneath your feet.”
If you do have more time, allow your mind and body to slow down while you observe what’s around you. “You can watch nature or listen to the sound of a rushing river,” says Yogmata.
Calming a racing mind takes practice. We have to train our brains to slow down, consistently re-focus our thoughts, and prioritize activities that we might not already incorporate into our daily lives. Be patient with yourself and stay the course.