When your mind is racing, it’s hard to concentrate and get anything done. Sometimes it can be hard to even just be present or carry on a conversation—your mind is moving a million miles a minute while the rest of the world seems to fall behind.
There are a few different types of racing thoughts, and they come from different places. The more common ones come from anxiety. Your mind fixates on one or more things that make you nervous, and you start spiraling into endless thoughts about everything that could go wrong. Of course, this only makes you feel more anxious, which feeds into the spiral.
What to do about anxious thoughts
Before you can get to the root of the problem, you need to take yourself out of this downward spiral. There are lots of strategies that can help to clear your head and take a step back.
Try a deep breathing exercise: breathe in while counting slowly to five, then hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out while slowly counting to five again. Repeat this ten times. It sounds simple, but it helps remind your brain that you’re not in immediate danger.
Another strategy is to temporarily distract yourself. Doing a really stimulating activity like watching TV or listening to music can help distract you long enough to calm down a bit. Different things work for everyone, so it’s up to you to figure out what your coping skills are.
Keep in mind that these are short-term solutions. If this happens to you often, your brain is probably trying to tell you that something isn’t quite right. You can start by writing down the thoughts you keep having. If they seem illogical or unrealistic, you might be able to come up with alternative thoughts that make more sense or are more helpful. But dealing with anxiety on your own can be difficult. It’s a good idea to talk to someone about what you’re experiencing and try to get help.
What if it’s not anxiety?
Sometimes racing thoughts can feel positive and exciting at first—like every idea you have is pure genius, and you have to act on them all right now! Maybe that means starting lots of new projects, or maybe you just have to tell everyone around you what you’re thinking. You might start talking about one thing and end up changing subjects throughout the conversation.
You might be surprised or confused when other people don’t see how brilliant your ideas are. Maybe they even have trouble understanding what you’re saying. You might become frustrated when you notice that you’re starting lots of projects, but not finishing them. It might just feel scary to be out of control of your thoughts and words.
Mental health professionals call this flight of ideas. It’s often seen in bipolar disorder, when a person is experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode. It can also be a symptom of drug use, or the beginning of a psychotic episode.
If you think you might be experiencing any of these mental health conditions mentioned here—bipolar, psychosis, or anxiety—take one of our free mental health tests to find out if you’re at risk. Then keep exploring this site to learn more about how mental illness works and how it’s treated.