Most people have at least a few moments in life where their thoughts get the better of them. When thoughts become distressing and often terrifying.
Maybe you have anxiety. Maybe you’re just A REALLY ‘worried’ person. Maybe you’ve experienced trauma. Maybe you are experiencing grief. Maybe you’re living with depression. Whoever you are and whatever your story, distressing thoughts are often debilitating and destructive. For some, they can even become deadly. With this in mind, I wanted to provide you with some quick things you can do in the moment to ease the impact these thoughts are having on you.
If you are currently struggling with something that’s going on for you, you may like to print this article and keep the tips handy for when you next need them because when we are exceptionally overwhelmed it can seem almost impossible to know how to help ourselves.
These tips are my own. Based on my own life experiences with trauma. They also come from the work I do with clients. You may think they seem simple and too easy –as if not ‘therapist enough’. Thank you. That’s exactly how I want them to feel.
Ok, here we go…
Stand up and move location
If you are in bed, move to the kitchen. If you are in the office, step outside. If you’re in the backyard, go and sit on the lounge. Obviously these are just examples but you get my point I’m sure. The idea is you want a change of scenery. A change of scenery distracts your mind from the distressing thoughts, almost like it interrupts them. It also provides new stimulation for your brain in a space that wasn’t connected to the onset of the thoughts. Let’s call it a circuit breaker. One of the best things you can do is step outside and slowly breathe in the fresh air and reconnect with nature. Look at the sky, day or night. Feel the breeze on your skin.
Be aware but not overwhelmed
Distressing thoughts are temporary and so are the associated feelings. They come, they interrupt and then they leave. Feel safe in the knowledge that this pain and feeling of distress will not last forever. Yes, it might be intense. Yes the pain might be real. But you will survive these thoughts as you have all previous thoughts. Focus on the word AWARE. Be aware, but not alarmed. In doing this you are acknowledging the distressing thoughts but not giving them power by focusing on them so intently. By denying the thoughts and feelings you actually only make them fight harder to get your attention. So sit next to them, not in them.
Do something else
What were you doing when this started? Stop it. Whatever it was. Stop and do something else whilst you continue to show awareness of these thoughts. Maybe you can activate a different part of the brain by doing some sewing, turning on some music, looking at some photos, flicking through a magazine. Whatever it is, just do something else.
Start planning something fun
Obviously this will depend on who you are and what you like! For me I like researching holidays and travel destinations. It’s my joy in life. My escape and my passion. I love travelling and if you follow me you’d know this because I talk about it quite often. Maybe for you it might be booking tickets to a concert or making a reservation at your favourite restaurant. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill – book a course or other learning experience. Maybe it’s arranging coffee with a friend next week. Again, whatever it is, just do it! Even if your thoughts are convincing you that there IS no future for you, there is. So go do it! In time you’ll appreciate the ACTION you took in that distressing moment. Trust me.
Connect with another human being, not your thoughts
Watch TV. Phone a friend. Send someone an email. Go hug someone. Turn on the radio. Share an inspiring post on social media with your best friend. CONNECTION is what saves you in these dark, scary moments. CONNECTION is what eases the load for your heavy heart. CONNECTION reminds you that those big overwhelming thoughts will NEVER defeat you because you are NEVER truly alone, even if you’re by yourself.
So there you have it… 5 simple ways to ease the intensity and duration of distressing thoughts.
Remember, it’s normal to have days where these thoughts come and go. What we need to focus on is NOT acting on them. No matter what they are telling you. These thoughts WILL subside and you WILL be ok if you do the work.
Of course, if you need support, I am here for you on your mental health journey. You can reach out to me here. If you need crisis support after hours you can call the following numbers any time of any day;
Lifeline on 13 11 14 (or you can text 0477 13 11 14 between 6pm-10pm 7 days a week)
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
All counselling support provided by these organisations is completely FREE.
in the mean time, if you have enjoyed this article please share it with someone you love. You may also enjoy reading these articles of mine;
Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!