Sometimes we all feel stuck in our head, where we experience obsessive and overwhelming thoughts and emotions. This can be extremely exhausting, paralyzing, distracting, or crippling.
Usually it indicates that there is a deeper problem we need to identify and address, however there are things you can do to help yourself.
Writing a personal journal is a reliable way to build a relationship with yourself because it offers a genuine opportunity for self-reflection. If you feel sad, write about it. If you feel angry, write about it. If you feel unsure, write about it. Write down your feelings and the thoughts behind them. Try to understand what is going on and why. There is no incorrect way to journal.
Again, many inner problems we experience as adults have their roots in the past, which makes the present issue more complicated than it would be otherwise. Resolving the source cause eliminates a whole bunch of symptoms that stem from it. But even we are unwilling or unable to get to the root of it, simply talking about how we feel and what is bothering us can be truly helpful.
Journaling is a great tool that you can use both to talk about your present thoughts and emotions – which may relieve a significant amount of stress in itself – and to dig deeper and resolve the underlying problem.
Get into a habit of journaling for self-work and for gaining more awareness, regardless if you are just starting or have spent years on self-exploration. (If you don’t know where to start, here are a few tips.)
2. Have some alone time
For the most part, we live in a disruptive environment. Sometimes it can be extremely valuable to spend some alone time to gather your thoughts, calm down, reset your mental state, take a break from other people, and revitalize yourself.
There are many things that you can do: going for a nice walk in a park, sitting in nature, meditating, taking a relaxing bath, doing some breathing or stretching exercises, taking a refreshing nap, and so on.
This may sound like a contradiction to the previous tip, but in different situations we may find certain things more helpful than others. Sometimes what helps us to change our mood, thought patterns, or unwanted behaviors, is to be around people. Interaction isn’t always necessary, but it is an option if that’s what you want.
Sometimes it helps simply to meet a few acquaintances, or go sit in a crowded place, people watch, or go for a walk in a public area. Especially if our struggle is somehow related to people – be it real or perceived, current, or something from the past.
Sometimes simply being around people and seeing that people don’t hate us, that we are just like those around us, that people are not dangerous, that you have the same rights as others can help tremendously.
4. Use your body
Often people become stuck in their head and can’t find a way out. In that moment, our inner reality is our whole reality. In this moment, certain worrisome thoughts or overwhelming emotions can feel enormously heavy, overbearing, and omnipresent.
What sometimes helps is trying to get out of your head by using your body in your physical reality. In other words, getting out of your inner reality into the real world. You could exercise, go for a walk, build or fix something, do the dishes, clean, reorganize, and so on.
The key here is to shake off those obsessive thoughts and feelings, even just for a little while, give yourself some room to breathe and get back to reality.
5. Focus on the here and now
This is an extension of the previous point. The activity you are participating in is helpful in itself, but it can only help you to a point if you are not present. So try to stay in the moment as much as possible.
Consciously focus on the activity at hand. Look your surroundings, listen to the sounds, pay attention to how your muscles feel when you do this or that, notice the textures you’re touching with your fingertips or the breeze on your skin.
The less weight you give to your obsessive thoughts and emotions, the easier it will be to overcome them.
6. Do something fun
When you feel down, anxious, or overwhelmed, sometimes doing something truly enjoyable can remind you that there are mental states, perspectives, and experiences other than the one you are stuck in. It can remind you that life can also be beautiful, pleasant, and joyful despite its harshness and the pain you feel.
Ask yourself what you really enjoy and try doing more of that. And again, try to stay present to be able to fully experience it and gain the positive benefits of it. Some fun activities could be watching a movie, listening to music, dancing, watching a stand-up comedy routine, listening to a comedy podcast, playing a video game, joking around with friends, doing something spontaneous, running in the rain and jumping into puddles, climbing, kicking leaves around, cuddling a pet, cooking, solving a puzzle, working in a garden, going for a bike ride, and much more…
7. Talk to someone you trust
If the problem is complex, seeking competent professional help could be a great option (therapist, counselor, life coach, social worker, etc.). Otherwise, you can also call a friend, talk to your spouse, meet people for a conversation. There are other services, such as distress centers, that exist solely to provide someone safe and confidential for you to talk to.
It serves the same purpose as journaling except it provides external input. We sometimes have blind spots because we are in ourselves 100% of the time. This skews our perspective, and getting an outsider’s perspective, social support, and proper validation can help us sort out whatever we are going through more quickly and easily. For many of us who are accustomed to going it alone, asking and receiving help is difficult, so practicing it can help with many internal problems just on its own.
While dealing with unpleasant and reoccurring emotions and thoughts in the moment can alleviate them, usually it requires a lot of work to deal with the underlying issue in order to eliminate the actual problem instead of just managing symptoms. It’s important to recognize that there are no quick fixes for complex, decades-long problems, and it is important not to ignore or minimize them. However, the actions mentioned here can help you along the way.
What is the hardest thing for you when you get stuck of feel overwhelmed? What other ways did you find helpful when battling this? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or write about them in your personal journal.