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How to Deal with a Spinning Mind and Racing Thoughts

"I can't sit still. When I try, my insides quiver. My mind is like a room full of superballs, bouncing randomly in all directions. Sometimes, my head hurts with all the activity," Brad said. 

Brad's son Barron contracted AIDS, most likely from a dirty needle. His family went into shock at the news, and then into panic. Ten years of treatment slowed the disease process, but Barron finally succumbed to a variety of infections. He was 37.

"I watched him suffer, dwindle, and slowly fade away. I knew this was coming. I've been preparing myself for a decade. But no amount of time, energy, or study could have prepared me for his final breath. No wonder my head hurts," Brad shared.

 

Our minds spin 

When loss hits, it affects us mentally. Our brains struggle to make sense of it all. Our minds shift into overdrive. Racing thoughts are natural and common for those of us who are grieving.

Our brains search incessantly for answers. Why did this happen? How? Could it have been avoided? What could I, we, or anyone have done differently that would have made a difference? Who's responsible for this?

Certain images are burned into our consciousness, especially if we witnessed trauma to our child, or their death or decline. Nightmares invade. Sleep is disturbed, or flees altogether. Some of us may even be afraid to close our eyes. We've seen enough. We don't want to see anymore.  

Our thoughts spin, with little to no resolution, like some continuously revolving door that does nothing except circulate a little air. We want off this mental merry-go-around, but how? 

Some of us need medication to slow down this mental runaway train enough to be functional in daily life. There is no shame in this. All of us need assistance from a variety of sources and people if we're going to make it through this halfway intact. 

Some medicate in other ways, attempting to quiet these raging thoughts with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or shopping. Anything for some relief. This solves nothing, however, and the racing thoughts return with a vengeance if not processed in a healthy manner. 

Our minds spin. Racing thoughts are natural and common. Losing a loved one is a mentally shaking experience. 

"My mind is never still. I'm always thinking about and looking for you."

 

An exercise to try:

Racing thoughts can be frustrating. Here are three simple things you can try - Breathe, Write, Speak.

Breathe

  • Making deep breathing a practiced habit can be a huge weapon in your arsenal when attacked by racing thoughts. Take some time each day and practice breathing. Then apply this when you have racing thoughts.

Write

  • Prepare some paper, a spiral notebook, or a journal. When your mind spins, grab a pen or pencil and write down what you're thinking (no matter how weird or ridiculous some of it is). The act of writing slows down your mind and forces you to focus. As you write, you will usually notice yourself growing calmer.

Talk

  • Get by yourself and begin to speak your thoughts out loud. Yes, talk to yourself. Simply say what you're thinking as you are thinking it. This too slows your mind down, as your brain works to put thoughts into words. "Talking out loud" can be a quick, easy, and effective way to deal with racing thoughts. 

Racing thoughts are natural and common in times of loss. Breathe. Write. Talk.

 

Adapted from the newly released bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child

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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at www.garyroe.com.

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