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Distracting from Racing Thoughts

Whitney Emrick

African-american woman relaxing and listening to musicWe have all experienced racing thoughts that seem uncontrollable or impossible to untangle. Many times it can be helpful to reframe the thought or return to a calming mantra to feel grounded. These skills can work for many situations, but not all. Other times the thoughts are so intense, those powerful tools don’t seem to do the trick… What should you try next?

One of the best ways to distract yourself until you are calm enough to effectively process the situation is to do so externally. The best way to get out of your head is to get into your body. A powerful way to do so is by using your five senses and breathing techniques. Here are a few ways to help stop racing thoughts by using your body.

Cooldown to calm down: Place an icepack on your neck, hold ice cubes or splash cold water on your body. Temperature is your friend; it slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and can jolt you back to the present moment.

Mindful musical moments: Put on a few songs that you know will help you during this time. Sit and take in each note, lyric, and beat, truly feel the music and let it engulf you. Create a playlist of soothing songs, so you are ready and don’t need to scramble for a song when you are in a panic. You might even catch yourself dancing to the music before you know it!

Touch: Try to squeeze your fingertips together, grasp your arms & release, or massage your ear lobes. Even better if you can combine deep breathing with this technique.

Change locations: Sometimes, it helps to change our mental space, by moving into a different physical space. Go outside, take a shower, lay on the bed, go to a friend’s house, or for a drive.

These are all short-lived so it’s best to combine them when you can. These tips are not a way to completely escape from the situation, but rather a tool to calm down before you start to navigate the thoughts.

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