Thought Tornadoes: What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep because your mind was racing about something? This is what I like to call a thought tornado.
Thought tornadoes are those times in our lives when our thinking is on overdrive. Non-stop. Spinning and whirling and tossing us around. And because of these thought tornadoes our emotions, too, are on overdrive. Anxiety, worry, stress, overwhelm – they consume us.
Often, as my clients begin to realize how much thinking they’re doing – and how little action they’re taking because of it – they ask, “Okay, so how do I stop this?”
My answer: “You don’t.”
You can’t stop thinking – it’s what your mind was designed to do! Seeking out a way to stop it is like trying to stop a tornado from passing over.
Here, though, are some simple things you can do to tackle thought tornadoes and over time lessen their frequency and severity:
- First, notice that it’s happening. Your emotions are wonderful red-flags exactly for this reason. Overwhelmed emotions = overwhelmed thinking, so even if you’re not too practiced in thought-noticing, you are likely very good at noticing how you feel. Next time you’re up at night or catch yourself ruminating all day, practice slowing down and looking inward at the narrative flowing through your mind.
- Take tiny steps. Microactions can often create powerful results. If you can’t approach the big problem or opportunity, can you chisel off a piece of it?
- Begin to trust – even if just for a moment – that you are not your thoughts. You are the being that is watching your thoughts flow in and out. You are the sky. You are not the tornado. Just noticing this can be quite profound, so try it.
- Hold on. You can’t stop the tornado, but you can hunker down while it passes. When your emotions get hot and you feel overwhelmed, slow down. Feel them. Know they will pass. Just as the weather comes and goes, so does your thinking and so will your feelings. Practice waiting it out.
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