Two heads with different patterns of thinking are displayed on a black background in the image provided. The lines on one head show a series of loops drawn with a white line, creating a chaotic mess. On the other head, the lines move in concentric circles, suggesting a calm way of thinking. This represents the difference in thought patterns that can be observed in various life situations.
Dr. Fairlee Fabrett, a psychologist at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, describes how anxiety can lead to busy thoughts. People who experience busy thoughts are constantly worried about their responsibilities, what they have failed to do, and potential future scenarios. These thoughts can be overwhelming and lead to increased anxiety and stress. Fabrett details five strategies to help manage busy thoughts.
The first strategy is to allow yourself to experience and overcome busy thoughts. Admitting to yourself that these thoughts are ‘noise’ in your head can give you a sense of control. Practicing awareness, such as counting breaths, can also help change your thinking patterns. This exercise is particularly useful before bedtime when burdensome thoughts arise.
Distracting yourself from busy thoughts by engaging in activities like reading, listening to music, or calling a friend can break the cycle. Physical activity, like exercise or completing household chores, can help alleviate anxiety and redirect your focus.
Another strategy is to schedule dedicated time to worry. By acknowledging anxious thoughts but delaying the exploration of them until a later time, you can prevent them from interfering with other activities. Fabrett recommends setting a specific time limit for this worrying period.
Finally, if busy thoughts are significantly affecting your life or sleep, it is essential to seek professional help. Frequent racing thoughts could be indicative of underlying mental health issues such as anxiety disorders or trauma. Consulting a family doctor or mental health professional can help ensure proper support and treatment.