I went to bed one recent evening. I was tired; ready for sleep. I went through my normal wind-down routine to get ready, turned off the light, and got in bed.
And then my mind started thinking…
Topic to topic, to-do lists, worries, contemplating, analyzing, debating, etc. This sort of thing doesn’t happen too often for me, but I find it happens most when I have some worry on my mind and/or I haven’t been taking time to “reset” my mind.
Obviously, this time of pandemic, quarantine, safer at home, and the unknown have many of us worrying more than normal. I am, overall, a laid back, optimistic person. For that reason, most of what is going on doesn’t get to me and take hold. I am mostly able to observe it, process it, and let it pass.
It is what it is.
– Me to everyone
But sometimes if I’ve spent too much time on social media or have read too many news articles that day, I’m left with an “ick”. A heaviness that gets my mind working and spinning.
This doesn’t just happen in times of pandemic. This can occur when I have other unrest in my life, one of my kids has something heavy happening in their lives, or, once again, I spend too much time on social media and see too much negative (why people, why must you be so negative all the time!).
This is when it’s time to quite my mind
As we process these things and worry, fear, sadness, or irritation fill our hearts & minds, it is very common for our stress levels to rise. It may not even be something you notice, or you might feel it as heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate, having a harder time breathing, poor sleep, loss or gain of appetite, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, or fatigue.
Increased stress is never good for your body, and neither are any of those side effects listed above. Increased, constant stress leads to negative effects in your body that can affect your metabolism, energy levels, and immunity.
So let’s quiet our minds!
Here are some of my favorite tips for quieting your mind and reducing that stress…
1. Stop looking at the news & social media
I’m serious. Take a break. If you feel awful and negative feelings happening every time you look at Facebook, perhaps it’s time to stop looking at Facebook. Trust me when I say that you can stop going there multiple times per day and that you will still know what you need to know and be fine. I limit my scrolling to not more than twice per day and sometimes only once or not at all.
I also don’t actively visit news websites or watch the news. So much news is sensationalized and is focused on the hype or negative that it isn’t really telling the whole story. By checking Facebook once/day I do end up seeing the biggest most important news articles. If you want a great news source, check out The New Paper email. It’s a free daily email that aims to “overcome sensationalism by spreading factual news”. I get this report daily and it’s just the facts without bias or hype. I really enjoy it. You can subscribe on their site at this link.
2. Don’t forget to pray
There is something about prayer that has always calmed my mind. It gives me peace like nothing else. It allows me to unburden my heart & mind to God and release those worries to Him. Sometimes we turn to prayer as a last resort, but I encourage you to use it as your first plan of action.
3. Find gratitude
Something amazing happens when you spend a few minutes every day writing down the things you are grateful for. Whether you decide to list 3, 5, or 10 things every day, I promise you that it will change your mindset. Find a journal or old notebook and start today by writing down those things you are grateful for. The things you are blessed with despite anything else that might be going wrong. There is always something to be thankful & grateful for.
4. Practice mindfulness
Next to prayer, meditation is one of the main things that helps clear and quiet my mind. Some days when I practice it goes better than others, but the end result is always a mental improvement. You can use an app like the Calm app, or find various YouTube videos for meditation. Spending even 5-10 min per day meditating can have wonderful effects on your mind. It helps you to focus and remain in the present.
I also love listening to relaxing music or nature sounds to help me relax and clear my mind. This is one of my current favorites.
5. Try breathing techniques
There are various breathing techniques that can help reduce stress and bring calm to your mind & body. One very popular relaxation breathing technique is the 4-7-8 method. You can do this technique by sitting or lying in a relaxed state, whichever is more comfortable. Exhale completely and then breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. The exhale should be forceful breath pushing all the air out, making a shhhh noise. Repeat this 4-6 times. If you can’t hold your breath for 7 seconds, try halving all of the times instead.
Another technique to try is to breathe in through your nose for 7 seconds, then breathe out through your mouth for 11 seconds (no breath-holding in the middle). Repeat multiple times.
I’ve found that, for myself, both of these methods can slow down a rapid heart rate and help to reduce anxiety.
Do what works for you!
Not all of these techniques will work for everyone. Start with what feels most natural to you, but don’t be afraid to try something new. I was skeptical about what meditation would do for me before I tried it. Now I love it and it’s something I look forward to doing often.
Which of these methods have you tried? What works for you to clear & quiet your mind?