I was riding in the car one day and it had been raining pretty bad (to match my mood, of course) when I saw the little bit of blue sky poking out ahead. I couldn’t help but be struck by how true these words are: beyond all the storm clouds in the world, is a blue sky. Eventually, the clouds will dissipate and the sky will show itself.
Remember the last time you couldn’t get away from a storm of negative thoughts? The time when your brain was stuck in the same dark place, refusing to budge and move on to a different topic?
It happens to everyone. Remember, you are not alone. And dealing with it is not always easy, at least not for me. In particular, there are a few topics (wounds, actually) that once touched are especially difficult to get myself to step out of them.
So what do you do in those situations? How do you cope in a healthy way? How do you reset?
I’ve reflected deeply about why it’s so difficult for me to step out of those thoughts. I’ve found that once I’ve been hit by a negative thought storm, I resist stepping out of it. At first, this sounds like a contradiction but it makes sense - my go to is to try to “fix it”. Leaving the negative thought storm feels like leaving something “unresolved.” I, therefore, automatically start thinking more and deeper about the negative thoughts.
So the first thing I do when I’m hit by the negative thought storm is I remind myself that leaving the storm, driving away from the dark, thundering sky, is the solution. I will not gain insight if I’m moving towards chaos. I need to move towards clarity.
After this reminder, I try the following healthy distractions:
I pick a color and find all the items around me of that color. Depending on how I feel, I either pick a color that is abundant around me if I need a distraction that makes my brain move fast. Or I pick a unique color, if I feel a distraction that would take more concentration would work better. Sometimes I don’t pick a color at all and just name all the colors I see, either around me or on my clothes.
Singing and Dancing
For this to work, I really have to focus on the words that I’m singing. Not the meaning of the words, but the words themselves. This can act like that smell of coffee beans in a perfume store - a reset for my senses. So pick a song you like, turn it on and belt it out. Dance while you are singing (moving your body will help shake you loose from the thoughts you are stuck on). Don’t hold back. Really go for it.
An honest laugh goes a long way to refresh my brain. I remember clips on YouTube that made me laugh out loud (actually laugh out loud), and I watch those. Usually one of them will make me chuckle, and that sliver of a gap between the dark storm and sunshine is helps me get a foot in the door. Think about your favorite comedy shows, your favorite episodes, favorite clips, or simply search for funny animal videos. Letting yourself laugh will help ease the storm.
Being Understanding Towards Yourself
Sometimes I do all of the things above, and then some, and none of them work. That is okay. Sometimes you can’t drive away from the storm, you have to drive through it. The key here is to be understanding and kind to yourself, not beating yourself up for not being able to get out of the negative thought cycle. Being hard on yourself and being mad at yourself for the negative thoughts only prolongs the storm.
Once I have created some space from the negative thoughts clouding my brain, I can start to Reset my cycle.
Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Resetting Your Cycle
First, I can try to identify what it was that was stressing me out. I might write a list of the things that come to mind here.
Next, I can think about the the thoughts that I have surrounding my stressors. A common story line at the core of our thoughts is, I am not good enough.
Asking myself if these negative thoughts are true, absolutely true, usually puts my thoughts into perspective and changes my thought process pretty quickly. Or, when I notice my body getting tense, but am too ‘thought-out’, I can simply breathe. Breathing deep breathes until I become more relaxed helps take my mind off of my negative thoughts and directs my focus to the calmness of the in and out of my breathe.
You can reset your cycle. You can experience freedom from your negative thought patterns.
When you have time, think about why you have a hard time letting go of the thoughts. What are you resisting? And try out the healthy coping options mentioned in this post. I hope they are helpful to you. And if you need a bit of extra help weathering out the storm (like we all do at some point), seeing a therapist could be that hand on the umbrella that you need. So don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we can help you reset.
Till next time,
Wishing you joy, safety and ease.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.