The Acronym I Created to Help Deal With Racing Thoughts
During times of stress, my thought patterns can spin out of control. I swing from catastrophic, worst case scenarios, to numbed paralysis and the inability to want to do anything. Both of those, and everything in between, are traps for my mental health. Because I have struggled with depression and bipolar disorder for over 25 years, I must have tools in place to help me manage my spiraling thoughts.
These racing anxious thoughts are not just detrimental to my mental well-being, but they impact my physical health as well. Here’s why:
Our brains don’t distinguish the difference between a real or imaginary stressor. With just one single stress response, our body can fire out hundreds of biochemicals.
Our mental stress impacts our physical health. It affects our interaction with other people. It affects our energy, and how we spend our time.
Creating awareness of our stressors is crucial and a key component in becoming more mindful, grounded and secure during times of stress or uncertainty. When we find ourselves faced with a real or imaginary stressor or an anxious thought, we must take that thought captive!
I created an acronym to help myself take ownership of my thoughts. Doing this slows my reactionary responses, causes me to be more empathetic with others and keeps me rooted in the present. It is very difficult for me to maintain healthy relationships and make decisions with a clear mind when I am held hostage to a state of mental stress and anxiety.
How to OWN your thoughts:
O: Observe your thought without judgment and observe your physical response. Are you tensing up? Is your breathing pattern short and shallow? Does your stomach feel uncomfortable, like there’s a tightening at the pit of your stomach? Observe your mental response. Are you spiraling from one worst case scenario to another?
Are you going down the rabbit hole of “what if?” Take note of what is happening, step outside yourself, and without judgment, name what is going on for you.
“That’s interesting. I want to punch through a wall right now.” Or “I want to binge on a carton of ice cream.” Or “I yelled at my kids for no reason.” Again, no judgment — observe what is happening for you physically, mentally and behaviorally.
W: What is causing you to feel that this way? Are you hurting? Lonely? Sad? Disappointed? What is at the root of the stressful or anxious thought or behavior that you observed? Why are you feeling this way? Typically, there is a core belief associated with unpleasant feelings. Do you believe that you are unloveable? A failure? Worthless? Not valuable? What core belief is driving that stress response to begin with?
N: Negate that thought with truth. This is a powerful way to rewire the brain and keep from being trapped by old thought patterns. Fight back with a scripture verse that encourages you, or a statement you can help default your thinking to. Even something simple like, “I’m doing the best I can with what I have” completely changes the trajectory of my thinking. Telling myself, “I’m living my purpose,” or “God has given me everything I need to do what I need to do” is also helpful for me.
You know what’s even more helpful? Say that thing out loud! Words are even more impactful when they are verbalized. The app Think Up is a great one to record my own voice speaking truth to myself.
It is more important than ever to renew our minds with truth. It is more important than ever to take captive anxious flickers in our brains. And it is more important than ever to OWN our thought patterns.
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