First off, let’s all just take a few minutes and get the song out of our heads. Take a deep breath and sing the chorus as loud as you can. Feel better? Good.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from obsessive thinking. Doctors tell me that this is just another delightful facet of the joy that is Bipolar Disorder but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.
We all have times where something becomes lodged in our subconscious and we can’t seem to think of anything else. You can try to distract yourself but it’s always there, niggling at the back of your mind. It could be anything. A snide comment from someone at work. A judging look from a stranger.
How to break the cycle
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. For years, I dealt with a situation that I believed to be outside of my control. The stress of which caused me to suffer regular anxiety attacks. Looking back, I can see that by constantly giving this situation attention, I was never able to fully let it go. I was giving the resulting emotions complete control over me and, without me being fully aware, everything I did and said was affected by it. As I study Mindfulness further, I have accepted two major truths:
1. Just because I feel negative emotions, it does not make me a negative person.
2. Only I have the power to stop this from affecting me.
The main focus of Mindfulness is learning to live in the present. It’s easy enough to say you need to “clear your mind” but the practice can be difficult. It’s not about blocking out the negativity altogether – it’s about accepting it, acknowledging it and moving on. The first step is to accept that, whatever the scenario, these emotions and thoughts are valid. We just need to learn to deal with them in a different way.
It is important to remember at this point that acceptance is not approval.
“Accepting our emotions, letting ourselves realize that we have these emotions and that they are real and valid, is NOT approving of our suffering, or approving of the events that preceded these emotions. We DON’T have to approve of our negative emotions as we learn to accept them.” (Source)
Much the same as in my Mindful Mondays – Breathing post about how to begin meditation practice, the below steps may help to break the cycle of obsessive thinking. I find this one useful whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by thoughts.
Either sit or lie comfortably.
Begin by taking 3 deep breathes, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
As you exhale on the third, gently close your eyes.
Continuing breathing deeply for a few moments.
Pay attention to the rise of your chest, the way the air fills and expands your lungs.
On breathing out, feel your chest fall and the sensation of your breathe as it travels out of your body.
As you allow your breathing to return to normal, it’s natural for thoughts to drift in to your mind.
Acknowledge them but don’t dwell on them.
As soon as you have given the thought some brief recognition, return your focus to your breathing.
Continue like this for as long as feels comfortable.
When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.
Begin to notice the room around you.
The colours, the feel of the bed/chair on your back and legs.
Slowly bring the world back in to focus.
If meditation isn’t your thing, try completing a crossword or devoting your attention to a hobby. Anything that allows your mind to wander freely but that also provides a point to return your focus to is good.
Let me know if this works for you or if you have any other ideas on ways to break the cycle of obsessive thinking.
See you soon x