How to relax when we feel anxious, and our mind is racing.
When we suffer from anxiety, we can find it very hard to relax the mind and body. Not only can feel irritable and uneasy but also, we may find it hard to switch off our brain and the constant racing thoughts that can go with it.
What causes our minds to be so active?
The reason we have so many thoughts running around is that all we have done for the last few weeks/months is to think about ourselves and our condition constantly. Thinking has become a habit.
Because of this continuous thinking, our mind now has a momentum to it. This momentum, built through constant thinking, worrying and self-monitoring, has now created the noisy/repetitive mind that feels out of control. Once we fall into a cycle of overthinking, then we are denying the brain the rest it needs.
It is the constant overuse of the mind that has created this mental turmoil, the mind that never seems to be at peace. We are the ones who can choose to pick the thinking mind up and use it or put it back down and allow it to rest. Even when the mind feels noisy and chaotic, you can just sit back and allow it to be as it is. This action is the very thing that will eventually bring the momentum of the mind down, and it will begin to settle.
What most do though is they try and stifle this noise through suppression, be it through alcohol or distraction techniques.
Or they may try and quieten their mind through more thinking, mentally trying to figure a way out of their overactive mind by constantly looking for answers to silence it. Unfortunately, this does not work as all they are doing is incorporating more thinking, and so the brain just stays active and busy and never gets the break is desperately needs, it just creates more mental strain and effort.
If you continually use a broken arm then it can’t get the rest it needs to heal, if you continue to use the exhausted mind, then it can never get the chance to heal.
The main reason anxiety sufferers have a chaotic mind is that they spend far more time thinking and worrying than the average person. It has little to do with the anxiety itself and more to do with their continuous inner dialogue.
This inner dialogue can be through worrying about how they feel or due to them continually trying to make sense of how they feel or mentally trying to find a way out to find relief. All of these actions just keep the mind busy and so inner peace keeps eluding them.
A lot of this inner dialogue slows down due to understanding
Because of a better understanding of my anxiety, I was then able to go about my day without the constant need to try and figure everything out or continuously question how I was feeling. Because of this, my thinking process slowed down and in time I was able to experience more mental peace. This process took time, but slowly but surely my mind began to settle down and regain its clarity.
There is great wisdom in any suffering, be it mental or physical. It is your mind or body’s way of telling you that what you are doing is not helpful and you need to change something.
My confused/erratic mind was telling me that I was overthinking/worrying/stressing and pushing it way beyond the limits of what it was designed to do and when I stopped, in time, it went back to its natural/restful state.
The more I tried to force it to shut up and to be how I wanted it to be, the more noisy and chaotic it became. I eventually realised that I could not fight with my mind and win, I could not force it to be at peace.
Through continued suffering, it was telling me that this approach was not the answer and so I did the complete opposite and just allowed it to be as it wished and let it settle down all by itself.
Learning ways to relax the mind
There are many ways to relax the mind, but just taking a step back from how you are feeling can help, even if it is only going for a walk in the fresh air to blow away a few cobwebs or maybe taking up a new hobby like painting or gardening.
Walking in nature or taking up a hobby will also help you become more outward than inward-looking and reduce the time you spend dwelling on yourself and how you feel.
I used to go for a walk once a day and also listen to some music or take a bike ride. I also started to unplug from technology more and cut down on my T.V time. At first, this silence was hard to deal with, but in time I started to crave it as I started to feel more mentally at peace.
You don’t have to ‘try’ to relax; this is an attitude and not something for the mind to execute or get good at. It is also not about ignoring your suffering by trying to distract yourself from it. It is more about just adding different things to your day in order to give your mind another focus and help you to stay in the present.
Whatever way you find to use the lessen mind activity will help and give it the downtime it needs. If you look at Buddhist teachings, all they are doing is helping you to see life differently so that you can be more at peace.
But it is not seeing life differently that brings the peace; it is because in seeing it in a different way you are now more allowing of things as they are, which lessens the stress and worry and cuts down on so much mental activity, and so you feel better.
This lessening of mental activity is the cornerstone of finding mental peace; it won’t come from the outside or some technique, it is when you cut down on all the stress and worry and give your mind the rest it needs to be at peace that things begin to change.
For more advice on finding peace in your life, you can read this article on why life seems to bring so much suffering.