Have you ever found yourself going over and over something in your mind, never quite being able to let it go, unable to concentrate on other things due to constantly replaying the video of your thoughts over and over again in your mind?
Waking up in the morning and your first thought being that same one that's been bugging you?
And despite constantly thinking about it, you never come to a peaceful conclusion or answer to the worry?
A permanent loop of going over what happened, how it made you feel, how other people wronged you, how you did the wrong thing?
OF COURSE YOU HAVE!!!
YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING!
It's something that most of us experience, some more than others and it's what I like to call my "Monkey-mind".
Actually the term "Monkey-mind" has been around for a very long time. In Buddhist theology, over 2500 years ago the Buddha identified that our mind is like a forest full of chattering, swinging, noisy monkeys, swinging from one thought to another, never bringing peace, but more and more chatter and noise.
Does this sound familiar?
The big question is-how do we tame those pesky monkeys and give our minds a break from all the chatter, questioning, overwhelm and over-thinking?
1. Get active.
Most of us, when we've had a tough day at work think the best self-care we can have is to totally chill out, lounge on the sofa, have a glass of something, maybe watch some tv or a film, after all, we're tired, we've had a stressful day and we deserve it, don't we?
The trouble with chilling out when we've got things on our mind is that instead of calming and quieting our minds, the chatter often gets louder and the loop of negative thoughts gets more and more convoluted; our minds find it so hard to stop thinking and just "be".
So one helpful tool to quieten the mind when we feel overwhelmed is to distract those monkeys with activity. Exercise; running, walking in nature, swimming, cycling, yoga, team games; these can all divert the mind, causing us to concentrate on the exercise and our surroundings and create some peace and space in our over busy heads. Plus the release of endorphins caused by exercise lifts the mood. It's hard to over-think when we're trying to hold a 3-legged downward dog in yoga class!
2. Switch off.
Many of us when feeling on-edge or overwhelmed by thoughts find ourselves reaching for our phones and checking on social media.
A little bit of surfing other's posts can be so therapeutic, can't it?
Or can it?
Monkey-mind thrives on multitasking, information overload and comparisonitis. When we pay attention to too many things at once, checking out everyone else's problems on facebook, comparing ourselves to people we hardly know on instagram, we are feeding those monkeys with more and more information to overthink and clog up our already noisy minds.
So the second tool for taming monkey mind is limiting our time on social media and our mobile phones.
If you have ever tried a digital detox you will know just how difficult it can be to avoid the temptation of having a quick look, which then turns into a 2-hour look.
I find that if I set some time aside regularly by putting my phone in a different room and actually doing something creative instead, not only do I switch off the chattering, but I also make more space in my mind for new ideas and solutions to problems.
Mindfulness has become the in-word in self care, and rightly so.
In today's hectic over-stimulated world, many of us are either living in the future or the past. Constantly thinking about what is still to come, even catastrophising about events that haven't happened yet, or mulling over and ruminating about things which didn't go so well in the past, causing us to rarely appreciate or enjoy the gift of the present.
And yet when we do live in the moment, it can quieten our busy minds and bring us much needed peace.
The first thing to remember is that it in normal to have a monkey-mind.
It's part of being human.
Acknowledging our thoughts is important, trying to fight the monkeys just makes their chatter louder.
Instead, notice and acknowledge them, then try some mindfulness exercises to "find" the present moment and quieten that chatter.
Listening to guided mindfulness meditations is a good way to get into mindfulness and there are many apps which can be downloaded and listened to whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
One helpful mindfulness technique you can try when feeling overwhelmed or overthinking is the 5 senses exercise.
What 3 things can I see?
What 3 things can I hear?
What 3 things can I feel?
What 3 things can I smell?
What 3 things can I taste?
Using our senses and really exploring what we are seeing/feeling etc grounds us in the presence and stops the overthinking and ruminating.
Take some time to tame the monkey mind and you will find some much-needed clarity and peace of mind.