How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts
Uncontrollable thoughts are not uncontrollable, but they can feel like it. These intrusive thoughts come when you don’t want them to, that you can’t seem to shake. It can be related to something that has you stressed out, something you worry about, a past experience you regret or swell on, or maybe fears about the future.
Intrusive thoughts often feel uncontrollable because they keep popping up in your head, leading you to over-analyze, stress, and overthink these thoughts. Unfortunately, it is a common cause of severe stress, but you can gain control of these thoughts and keep them at bay with the right methods.
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Uncontrollable thoughts are often very intrusive and almost always come without warning. You might experience images you don’t want to see, relive past traumatic experiences, or see your greatest fears and worries in your mind time and time again. It almost seems that the harder you try to get these thoughts out of your head, the more difficult it is to get rid of them.
This can cause stress, but the thoughts are often from stress and overwhelm as well. You cannot stay calm or positive, as the thoughts just keep coming back. You might also keep them a secret due to the nature of some of your uncontrollable thoughts.
If they are causing you great distress, making your stress worse, or leading to becoming very overwhelmed, then it is time to do something about them.
When Thoughts Become Obsessions
Some people experience these uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts due to mental health conditions like anxiety disorder, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This makes it really important to see a mental health professional get the disorder treated, as the stress you live in your daily life can only make it worse.
For people with OCD, you might find that the thoughts turn obsessive, where you can’t stop thinking about them, and you may even act on them. However, the following tips can help if these thoughts go beyond just causing stress but serious struggles just in your daily life:
Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness does take a little practice, but it can be amazing for those thoughts that feel uncontrollable, whether they are obsessive or not. With mindfulness, you aren’t trying to get rid of the thoughts, but you make more sense of them. You get into a state of acceptance of what is happening right now. Then you can stop thinking too much about the past or a future that may or may not happen.
Switch your thoughts (even temporarily) – You may not be able to just wash the thoughts away, but sometimes you can distract your mind even for a few minutes at a time. It might not seem like much, but this will relieve your stress related to these intrusive thoughts, at least in short bursts. It WILL make a difference, and you can distract your thoughts for longer periods of time before too long.
Write it down – When you have a lot on your mind, doing a brain dump in a journal is an excellent method. This works both for things you want to think about and those that you don’t. Plus, a journal is personal and private, so you don’t have to show anyone else what thoughts keep invading your mind and causing distress.
Talk to someone – It is also a good idea to talk to someone about your thoughts, whether you tell them exactly what your intrusive thoughts are or just to have a little distraction. Call up a family member or friend, text someone, or meet a friend for coffee. Their conversation is often enough to give you at least a few minutes of peace from your own intrusive thoughts.
Simple Steps for Overcoming Uncontrollable Thoughts
If you still don’t have a handle on your uncontrollable thoughts, there are a few more things you can do to manage them, which will help you control your stress and overwhelm. Here are some more tips for these intrusive thoughts:
Use mindfulness to accept them, then move past them. Mindfulness helps you reach a level of acceptance, so instead of just trying to make the thoughts go away, accept them, then try to move past them, removing their power over you.
Understand why the thoughts are there, to begin with. Sometimes your uncontrollable thoughts are trying to tell you something, similar to how a dream isn’t realistic, but it sends you a message or explains what your subconscious is going through.
Stop trying to will them away. This isn’t going to work and may even cause you to focus more on them. Instead, think about it as a craving. If you have a craving for something, the more you try to get rid of the craving, the more you want it. But if you have just one of whatever you’re craving, it eventually disappears.