"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with a busy mind that races, overthinks and repeats. Our face-paced culture, coupled with digital over-stimulation, yield a recipe for processing information constantly - even in the middle of the night. Who wants to be kept awake mulling over events from the day or to-dos for the following day? I will confidently answer no one. We have both tools and resources at our fingertips to slow down our minds, but it takes practice, patience and persistence. What is behind a racing mind and what can be done to slow it down?
Racing Mind = Anxiety:
Anxiety, a racing mind and fear create a vicious cycle. It can be difficult to pinpoint how it all began, but one perpetuates the other. Let's take a common example - getting a phone call from your doctor.
"Hello, Anne, this is Barb from Dr. Smith's office. Your test results are back and the doctor would like to see you to review them."
"Oh, is it serious?"
"You will have to discuss your results with Dr. Smith. I will schedule an appointment for you to see him as soon as possible."
We don't even know Anne, but I am sure we can guess how she will feel until she sees Dr. Smith. Although Barb was just doing her job, she has left Anne feeling fearful, anxious and her mind is racing about what the results could mean. She will likely go on to think of the worse case scenario and how it will impact both her and her family. Ideally, Anne will recognize that there is nothing she can do until she meets with Dr. Smith, make a list of questions, and put it aside, as my husband would say 'compartmentalize it'. However, anxiety is a combination of psychological, biological and individual factors so our response to stressful, anxiety-provoking situations varies from person to person.
Are there tools to help quiet a busy mind?
Although many suggestions exist, here are a couple of research proven methods to slow down our thoughts:
■ Headspace: Andy Puddicombe is a Buddhist monk and mindfulness expert that says 'all it takes is 10 mindful minutes' to calm a wandering mind. As he indicates, stress leads to a whizzing mind, directly leading to unhappiness. He advocates 10 minutes a day of meditation, stepping back and letting emotions come and go, as a form of prevention for feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Through meditation, you gain focus, calm and clarity. He is the co-founder of Headspace, a guided meditation online program and app, designed to deliver daily meditation in order to reduce stress and calm the mind as well as many other benefits.
■ HeartMath: The HeartMath system is an innovative approach to regulating stress and improving well-being through offering both technology and training options. This system is designed to manage your emotions through harnessing your heart rhythms. The unique emWave technology measures Heart Rate Variability as a response to emotions. In this video about the system, the emphasis is on achieving a coherent state between the heart and brain, allowing an intuitive connection to the soul's guidance. Ultimately, this brings us back to the importance of our breath in managing stress.
My experience with these tools:
I purchased the Headspace program in the fall and did appreciate having it on my phone so it was portable. However, I can see the benefit of using it repeatedly in the same environment to enhance the connection of slowing down and paying attention, to the soothing voice of the guided meditation. Now that we have a yoga/meditation room, it's time for me to use it more regularly.
Interestingly, my husband purchased a version of the emWave 2 for me about 10 years ago. Despite how much I needed such a tool to calm my mind at that time with young kids, a significant move and a busy clinical practice, I didn't take time to really understand it or use it. I am certainly interested in trying out the new version with a new outlook on work-life balance, the importance of stress management and anything to quiet my busy (albeit better) mind.
Do you have difficulty quieting your mind? Have you found ways to decrease the cycle of anxiety, racing mind and fear?