When something goes wrong, our minds often punish us far worse than the actual situation does.
We can’t stop thinking about it. We try to get on with our day, but intrusive thoughts, a racing heart, and a flushed face continue to plague us. It’s hard to think about anything else. Maybe we even have feelings of dread—because we know there’s more to come, whether that’s a confrontation or the consequences of a mistake.
If the situation can’t be helped, for now or forever, and we need to get on with it but we just can’t—here are a few ways I’ve found that work best to get my mind right again:
1. What’s the worst that can happen?
I’ve found that going over the worst-case scenario, rather than trying to avoid thinking about it, helps me find peace. You know that moment of surrender in a bad situation? When you finally accept whatever is happening and have no choice but to deal with it? Role-playing, in your mind, what that might look like helps bring about that surrender a lot sooner. It helps us realize that whatever the “worst thing” is, we can deal with it, and we consider how we would handle it. Consider a few different bad outcomes and how you would handle them. Feeling prepared for the worst thing, whatever it might be, takes the bite out of it.
2. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique.
Let’s face it: we’re having a small anxiety attack, a mental crisis. It doesn’t have to be a huge, full-blown panic attack for that to be true, or for this technique to be helpful. Sometimes all it takes to get our minds out of a rumination rut is to name: five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. This is often all the pause we need to allow ourselves to realize that regardless of what’s going on right now, we are okay, and we will be okay.
3. Add the good back in.
This is sort of a “yes, and” exercise, or maybe similar to a mindfulness meditation practice, where we’re acknowledging the bad feelings here and now, but also pairing them with something good. So, for example, if you’ve made a mistake and can’t stop thinking about what happened, how you feel about it, and what the consequences might be, pause for a second and think about something good—something that happened this week, a person you like, good luck you’ve had, an experience you enjoyed. It can be related to the situation you’re struggling with, but it doesn’t have to be. The point is to both acknowledge that something yucky has happened and realize that it’s not the only thing that’s happening or will happen.
Are you generally an anxious person? You might be suffering more than you realize, or have to. Check out this video, and if it resonates, consider seeking mental health help.