It’s not only when you are trying to go to sleep that intrusive thoughts make life a misery, they can butcher your day too. It’s very difficult to concentrate on completing a task when you know in the back of your mind, there are a dozen other critical things you must do.
This simple ‘trick’ if you want to call it that, will solve the problem almost every time.
When your brain is swirling with thoughts of things that must be done, things you’d like to do, even thoughts that need to be thought about (some claim we get about 100,000 a day) the quickest solution is to enter them on a page. This could be a word processor or spread-sheet but a writing pad will do just as well.
If you’ve had trouble getting to sleep, tonight get yourself a pad and pencil and put it close to the bedside lamp. Every time you think of something that will need your attention tomorrow, turn the light on and write it down. That part of your brain that is trying to protect you from forgetting these important matters, doesn’t realize it is doing you more harm that good but as soon as it’s entered on paper and can’t be forgotten, that part of the brain can relax. You even start to get a mild feeling of being in control, of being prepared. (How your brain REALLY works, including those brains cells in your butt.)
During the day, you will find that some thoughts are good at getting and holding your attention, but that does not mean they are the most important or should have the highest priority. All they do is confuse you and raise your stress levels, generally because they are the negative ones.
If you haven’t already gone to bed, sit at your computer or if you’re in bed, grab a pencil and catch them. It does not matter how important, urgent or trivial, just capture them all. Everything you can think of, everything, write them all down, no matter how trivial or even ridiculous. Only give it a couple of minutes, no more.
The trouble with most thoughts is they are so slippery and they seem to have a mind of their own too. They pop in and then disappear, only to pop back and interrupt when most inconvenient. The frequency of appearance is also a problem as some thoughts that are of no particular importance or urgency, can be those that are very good at getting your attention.
Taming your thoughts is the best way to get life in order and the best way to tame them is to tie the little buggers up.
It is as easy as writing them down as they occur and the best part is you don’t even have to try to catch them. Your thoughts are like jealous dogs, always looking for your attention. They just can’t help dropping in as soon as you start thinking about something else. As soon as they pop in, tie them up.
Now, if you’ve got most of them in the corral and no more are interrupting, start putting them into some sort of order. The most useful column headings to use are “Urgent” and “Important”. Obviously these are not the same. Something can be incredibly important but doesn’t have to be done until next week.
As you start doing this, a few slippery and cunning thoughts that escaped the first round-up will pop in. Stop what you are doing and immediately tie them to the page, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve caught them you can move them to the most appropriate pen later.
Now go back to putting them in order and within a few minutes, calm will start to prevail. The previously wild and choppy sea that was your mind will quickly calm down to gentle waves lapping the shore.
Probably the biggest surprise awaits you. As you scan the list of thoughts, you will see that a few have made bad copies of themselves and really, they are the same thought but have been taking turns to irritate and worry you. Some thoughts are pernicious little bastards.
You will be happily surprised to see the number of urgent and important matters is a lot fewer than you “thought”. Happy days indeed.
If you really want to put your mind in ‘safe’ mode, write an action against each one. Strangely, it doesn’t really matter what the action is, it’s still effective. For example, you may have a thought about a problem that is so complex no immediate solution is available. It could be very troubling indeed but even if the action you assign it is nothing more than setting a time to discuss it, your brain will put it away for later and it will stop worrying, annoying and confusing you.
Obviously that does not solve the problem which could be serious indeed, but this is not proposing a solution for every problem one may encounter in a life time, its a way to deal with the lack of calm that comes from intrusive thoughts over which you feel you have no control.
Well now you do have control over them and after a good night’s sleep, you may well be better prepared to come up some ideas about solving the problems.
The last thing to do to really finish it off is to write a number next to each item. You’ll find you end up doing them out of order but that doesn’t matter a whole lot. When you find yourself thinking ‘what should I be doing now?’ go to the lowest number left on the page.
The goal you are trying to achieve is some respite from the constant pressure of dealing with negative, depressing thoughts and this will do the job. You will be far better equipped to deal with these difficult issues when your mind has been rested. Quite often by the time the scheduled discussion of other action arrives, the problem has moved on saving you a great deal of unnecessary worry time.
Something worth reminding yourself about, Yesterday cannot be changed, Tomorrow may not arrive but Now you can choose stress and negativity if you want. Or you could choose peace. Tie them down and you will tame them before they do you more harm. Peace brother/sister.