Do you ever have thoughts that play over and over in your head till you feel as if you’re going crazy? Do you lie awake at night worrying about everything from your children, to your health, to your job, your relationships, your finances, the state of the world – and on and on?
How do you keep track of all these concerns and all the things that need to be done? And how do you let go of these ongoing obsessive thoughts?
Feeling stressed and getting nowhere
When thoughts and worries remain in your head, going round and round, they torment you until you feel as if your brain is like a hamster on a wheel!
No matter how many times you repeat the same old anxieties, you never make any progress or much sense of anything. This is because you don’t do anything constructive to take these thoughts from the abstract into the concrete.
Worrying feels as if you’re doing something – but you’re not
Compulsive worry about things that you have no control over – such as the weather on that special occasion, what other people are thinking or doing or how things will turn out – gives you the illusion that you’re being responsible in some way – but, unless you’re able to do something practical, you’re really just wasting your energy.
Write it down
The most constructive and effective thing to do to stop your hamster-mind draining you of your precious energy is to get all this stuff out of your head and onto paper.
You’ll feel better not worse!
While you may not want to look too closely at what’s going on in your head, the relief and sense of empowerment that come from actually knowing the situation are profound. The first step to freeing yourself of these worries is to pay attention to them. This then starts to reduce your anxiety levels.
It’s a bit like waking up in the night and seeing a dark shape in your bedroom that frightens you. You have the choice to lie awake worrying about this and dreading what it is – or you can turn on the light and have a look. Usually, the scary shape is nothing more than your jacket hanging over a chair, but seeing what’s really there takes the fear away. It paves the way for doing what needs to be done.
Get yourself a simple, cheap scribbler/jotter type book
Don’t use a beautiful glossy notebook or you’ll feel intimidated and restricted about writing down your scruffiest thoughts! Rather get a cheap, scribbler-type book so that you can feel free to pour out all your troubles, worries, fears and anger.
This book isn’t for lofty words, clever language or poetic thoughts, but for getting out all the clutter in your head that’s blocking you from seeing clearly, getting perspective and finding solutions.
Just start writing, by hand
There’s something very powerful about writing by hand because this connects you to your brain and your heart. It slows you down enough to access what’s going on inside you.
Don’t do this exercise on your computer or any electronic device as you’ll shortcut the process.
I’ve been writing like this for nearly twenty years and I always help myself get started with the first sentence:
‘So, how am I feeling today?’
This gives me pause to consider and to reflect.
The ideal is three foolscap pages
This is how long it usually takes to get past the mind chatter, the complaining and the petty stuff. At first it may seem overwhelming, but you will soon notice relief, peace and clarity trickling in.
With ongoing practice you will start to see patterns in your life and, significantly, what to do about those patterns.
Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation
Ignore your handwriting or grammar and write what comes into your head in a stream of consciousness.
It’s liberating to let this stuff go
This is your safe place for getting out all your uncomfortable feelings, so, if you don’t want anyone to see what you’ve written, you can tear up the pages or even burn them!
Don’t go back and re-read what you’ve written but, if something does come up that you do want to remember (such as a call to make, something to do etc.), make a mark in the margin so that you can easily find this again.
Do this in the morning (well, try anyway)
This ‘Morning Pages’ exercise comes from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron and she suggests that you do this in the morning, before the day crowds in on you.
Because of the pace at which most of us live, mornings can be difficult. But, in my experience, it’s more effective to do this exercise in the mornings – so try to do whatever you can, as often as you can.
Invest in yourself
You may think that you don’t have time for this, but, finding a little slot to clear your mind pays great dividends in the long run.
You’ll understand things better, have interesting insights, be able to let go of useless worrying, do what needs to be done, as well as sleep more peacefully.
Try it for a while and see the effects.