It’s 2:00 AM and my body is begging my mind to go back to sleep. My mind and body have a pretty toxic relationship because they’re never on the same page. My body is kind of like that girlfriend who worships her boyfriend even though he cheats on her and my mind is the boyfriend who continues to play games with his caring girlfriend.
My mind is a puzzle that I’m constantly trying to solve, but I have yet to put the pieces together. Every thought leads to another one until I have completely lost control over all of my thoughts. It’s 2:00 AM and I can’t help but obsess over the story that I never finished. It’s 2:00 AM and I can’t help but obsess over the fight I had earlier with my mom. It’s 2:00 AM and I can’t help but get pissed off at myself for not going to the gym. it’s 2:00 AM and here I am lying in bed not even realizing I have yet again, lost control over my mind and thoughts.
Every Wednesday I walk into my therapist’s office; I give her a hug and sit down in the leather chair that has become a second home to my body and my mind. She hands me a piece of paper labeled ‘How to control your cognitive thoughts.’ “What the hell is a cognitive thought?” I ask her. “It’s when our mind convinces us that our thoughts are true even though they aren’t.” Sounds fun, right? When I’m not obsessing over things I did or didn’t do, I am obsessing over thoughts that are literally not true. Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t been checked in to the funny farm yet. Just kidding, kind of.
Hey, if you can’t laugh, you’ll cry.
Our minds are kind of like that person that we want to like us, but they just don’t. We find ourselves spending so much time trying to please them and worship them, only for them to tell us that we’re annoying and ugly. We take what they say very seriously, just like we take what our minds say very seriously.
“Your mind is constantly in fight-or-flight mode” said my therapist. When your mind tells you negative or untrue thoughts it’s trying to protect you and keep you safe. “Umm.. Okay.” I thought. In simpler terms, our minds like to warn us about stuff because our minds think they are keeping us safe by doing so.
When I get into a fight with my boyfriend and I go home and think “we’re not meant to be” or “he’s going to leave me” those thoughts become consistent. When you have a panic attack and you think “my anxiety will never get better” or “my anxiety has become a part of me”; or when you’re constantly worrying that someone you love will die out of habit, trauma or post-traumatic stress. Apparently, it’s your mind just protecting you for the worst. You need to tell your mind, “these things aren’t going to happen and it’s not true but thank you for trying to keep me safe.”
When these cognitive thoughts or thoughts stemmed from trauma occur, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Are these thoughts true?
- Are they serving me any good purpose?
- Is there any evidence that these thoughts are true or not true?
- Are these thoughts formed out of habit?
Your mind is powerful; but you are too.
The only way you can start to understand how your mind works is by managing it. Once you learn how to manage your mind you’ll learn how to manage your life.
5 ways to manage your mind (Remember I’m not a professional, this is just what helps me.)
I have been journaling every single day for the last year and oh my goodness, it has been enlightening! I love to write, so I may be a little bias, but I really do believe that writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper will make all the difference. When I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking of a relationship, something I need to say to someone, or why I have been feeling anxious; I will wake up the next morning and turn my negative thoughts into a story or a letter. The confusing thoughts that are stored in our mind become easier to understand once they are explained and felt in our writing.
Writing has given me so much clarity on my relationships, anxiety, thoughts and anything that is hard to understand.
The other day I had a really bad fight with someone I love and for three days I kept playing the fight in my head. Instead of obsessing over what I should and shouldn’t have said, I wrote her a letter. I never showed her my letter but it helped me understand that my feelings were valid; it also helped me understand what I need to work on in our relationship and what she needs to work on as well.
Ironically, the year my anxiety became really bad was the first year in my entire life (other than when I was an infant) that I wasn’t playing sports every day. But, this isn’t ironic at all. Exercising is how we release unprocessed emotions and feelings. Exercise gives us the ability to give our mind a break.
Running has become my coping mechanism, my voice of reason and my confidant. When we have stored and unprocessed emotions they need to find a way to be released. I don’t go on a leisurely jog when I go for a run; I push myself to run as if I’m in a race and with every breath, a negative emotion is being released; I literally feel it in my chest as I run.
Put down your phone
According to The Jay Shetty Podcast, there is more negativity in twenty-four hours in this generation than there was in our entire lives twenty-five years ago. That is crazy!
Every morning I will not check my phone (besides sending my boyfriend a good morning text) until I journal and meditate. I see a huge difference in my thoughts and anxiety on the days I wait to check my phone vs the days I wake up and check my phone like a newspaper.
Our minds need a break from constantly processing information; especially when it’s typically negative information.
Find a happy place outside. A place that helps you feel safe and comfortable with your own thoughts. Being outside naturally makes me feel calm and gives me a peace of mind.
When I was living in New York all alone, I found a small park that became my happy place. Every day I would ride my bike to the end of the park and walk down to the water. I would breath in the fresh air, skip rocks and then I would cry. I would sit down with my unprocessed pain and I would let it out by crying and yelling.
It’s so important that you have a place where you can escape to when you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed.
Surround yourself with positive people
Laughing really is the best medicine. I’m very passionate about being present but sometimes it’s important to forget about the stressors in your life and hangout with the people you love and just laugh.
When I’m not in a great place, I often isolate myself from the people I love and I have realized that it’s the worst thing you should do.
When you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, make sure you are making time to laugh with your family and friends.
You should also be very mindful of these two things as well:
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Stop harping on what you haven’t done and start celebrating what you have done.
Image courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez.