941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

stress Being able to think about several things at once is a good thing, right? To be able to remember and think about all of the different times you’ve seen this scenario before will give you plenty of ideas of how to handle this specific scenario…or, more likely, it will give you more anxiety. Being able to think about getting to your kid’s basketball game after work while trying to finish that report will help keep it at the forefront of your mind so you make sure you leave on time…or, more likely you won’t be as productive and actually won’t get out on time.
The reality is when we live life with a million intrusive thoughts all day, we are less productive and less happy than when we are focused on what we are doing in the moment. It affects our ability to finish work on time, affects how well we do our work, affects our ability to separate this situation from others, thus making more mistakes, affects our relationships as we’re more focused internally than with our families, and affects our ability to feel less stressed when we make healthy choices like exercise.
The downsides to the intrusive thoughts outlined above include increased stress, more irritability, less patience, less sleep, weight gain, headaches, relationship difficulties, and more. All of these symptoms due to intrusive memories make living a fulfilling life even more difficult.
Not only do these intrusive thoughts make living a fulfilling life more difficult, we start to notice in ourselves emotions and behaviors we never thought we would have. After all, we are strong, independent, and know how to handle every stressful think life throws at us.
Perhaps you didn’t recognize it until it overtook every aspect of your life. Perhaps you ignored the early warning signs that looking back you now see with full clarity. Hindsight is 20/20!
At the time you might have had a million excuses – being overtired, a specific incident at work, a coworker you can’t get away from, other responsibilities becoming overwhelming. It might have felt stressful, but you could rationalize it.
Unfortunately, as you ignored it long enough, it finally became too much and now it’s impacting not only your life, but your loved one’s lives as well, causing so much frustration.
If you haven’t already, one thing I know for sure is if you don’t get ahold of the intrusive thoughts, you’ll wind up in an even deeper hole. You see where this has come already. It can continue to get worse. You could end up feeling completely crazy and unsure of yourself.
But you are not alone. Many people struggle with the effects of long term intrusive thoughts wreaking havoc on their lives. It’s ok to admit you struggle with this and that it has taken control of your life. It’s the first step to getting your life back.
It is true that these intrusive thoughts cause you to feel crazy and out of control. However, if we can learn just three tips to calm these thoughts, we can find peace and control again. When we make a few changes in our lives, the results will be unbeatable. It is entirely possible to make the thoughts decrease significantly.
Keep reading for my three tips so you can start feeling more in control today
This downward spiral will continue to take control if you don’t
The biggest problem to these intrusive thoughts is the impact it has on your ability to be yourself and do what you do so well everyday. It impacts every aspect of your life from work to relationships to home to leisure to sleep to health.
At the very least you find yourself struggling with an internal war. You start to second guess yourself as a million other ways to handle this situation come through your head. Then all the times your solutions didn’t work start coming up. Then your mind is off and running and you can’t concentrate on what you’re doing anymore.
Living this way feels extremely defeating. You think you can’t do anything the way you used to. You once chalked it up to becoming jaded, but that excuse just doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.
Gain control of your thoughts, gain control of your life
Although you struggle with intrusive thoughts causing feelings of frustration and hopelessness, you have the potential to let go of those thoughts – to take control of them.
When we chose to take control of the thoughts instead of letting them control us, there is a possibility for feeling confident, hopeful, strong, and competent. You have the opportunity to take control of your thoughts and regain that feeling of strength.
3 Tips to Achieve Control Over Intrusive Thoughts
Yes, you may be feeling skeptical, hopeless, and frustrated, but the key to achieving freedom from these thoughts is to take your control back. To not let the thoughts have control over you any longer. To show the thoughts who’s boss.
Making these changes is not as hard as you think because you are full of control and strength. You show it everyday in your work. We have to redirect some of that power back to yourself.
Take a look at these three tips to see how you can obtain freedom and control over your own thoughts. Think just how good it will feel to have control over you again. To feel in control. To feel happy. To enjoy life.
Take a look at these three tips to see how you can achieve the life you want
Concern #1: The thoughts won’t stop
One of the reasons you struggle with intrusive thoughts is because the mind ping pongs around different memories and thoughts as a way to remind you of past lessons so you do it “right” this time. It makes sense you’re feeling tired of this. The mind cannot bring positive thoughts and memories to the surface; just the unpleasant ones. This is so you will remember past mistakes and not repeat them – both your mistakes and other people’s mistakes. It is a primitive survival mechanism of the brain.
Solution #1: Stop technique
You need to interrupt the thought process. Stop the game of ping pong before you can do anything else. Next time you notice the racing thoughts, very abruptly tell yourself “stop” while either visualizing a stop sign or clapping your hands. What happens when you do this to a young child or a pet? They immediately stop and look at you.
With Meg Young, LCSW, we practice this technique in session to understand the feeling, notice the effects, identify what may make it not work (including your own thoughts), and solutions that will get you around these pitfalls before they become pitfalls.
When you do this, you may feel a bit silly at first. That’s ok. If you notice feeling silly, for that one second, your intrusive thoughts stopped! You may notice your family or pet’s reactions as well. Take note of these reactions. Who responded and how? Even if your family is aware you’ll be doing this (and you should tell them), they won’t necessarily be expecting it, so you’ll see their reactions.
Concern #2: I can’t let it go
Your brain is “set” to survival. It makes sense you can’t stop thinking about something as your brain tries to find all the possible lessons it can from the experience(s) you have. The survival part of your brain doesn’t distinguish between your pain and someone else’s pain. Nor does it distinguish between real and not real (as in television). The survival part of your brain cares about one thing: keep all the lessons up front so you will survive.
Solution #2: Distraction
This technique goes with the first one. Once you interrupt the thought process, you have to help your brain realize you are not in danger. To do this you have to continue to interrupt the process. (This may take a long time depending on several factors). Distraction is key to gaining control of your thoughts. The process is simple, but not easy to implement. You tell yourself “Nope, I’m not thinking of that, I’m doing this.”
Together with my clients I help them identify which distraction techniques would work best for them, help them develop a plan to use distraction, and help them understand with “survival” being turned on in their brain, all the reasons you shouldn’t do distraction will come up. Of course it will! If you’re distracted, you won’t be able to see the danger, won’t be prepared, and will die. There is truth in this…if you are in danger. But when it’s just your own thoughts, there is no true danger and distraction is not only ok, but desirable.
At first when you start doing distraction, you will still struggle with the intrusive thoughts, but you will soon start to see during the times you are distracted, you are actually feeling ok. Maybe not fully yourself yet, but you’re start to feel the hope return.
Concern #3: These thoughts keep interrupting my family/leisure time
Whereas we can multitask and think of more than one thing at a time, we cannot have two complete thoughts at once. It’s more like one thought and one vague idea, which you then focus on making that a complete thought. It makes sense these thoughts interrupt your fun time. Your brain, being set to survival wants those thoughts to take front stage, even when you don’t. Do you struggle to make distraction a full thought.
Solution #3: Focus
All three of these tips need to be used together. First you have to interrupt the process, then you distract to get your brain our of survival mode, but since it wants to stay there, it will make distraction difficult. Therefore, focus is the last aspect of this plan. Focus means no matter what comes to mind, bring it back to the task at hand. Just like at work, sometimes you have to shut everything else off and deal with what’s in front of you, same goes for your leisure time. Shut everything else off. Notice what you’re doing with all of your senses. Notice your body – what’s tight? Loosen those muscles. What are other people doing? How do they look? How do they appear to be feeling? Then get back to you in the situation. Just be there in the situation.
When you schedule a session with Meg Young, LCSW, you will learn tips to make focusing easier. You will learn and practice skills related to focus and will get the encouragement and direction you need to make it work for you.
Adding these things to your life will make it possible to live a happy, fulfilled life. You will feel more confident and in control. You will gain your family time back and not lose out on the full experiences with family and friends.
Achieving control over your thoughts can be excited and freeing. It can give you what you’ve been missing out on. You absolutely can enjoy life and Meg Young, LCSW can help as my practice specializes in first responders, medical professionals, and court professionals – all of whom deal with other’s struggles daily. The survival part of your brain does not distinguish between other people’s struggles and your own. We can all end up on this path of intrusive thoughts. But with the right tools, we can just as easily avoid this road and maintain the fulfilling lives we want.
Call me today to schedule an appointment and choose strength!