A monkey mind or racing mind makes us want to reach for the off switch to turn off our thoughts because we can’t quieten them. Indulge me for a moment and picture a monkey holding a tambourine who is continuously clapping it. Every clap represents a thought and some days, the frequency of the claps (or thoughts) increases. It’s when our minds are racing that we feel unsettled and even a little hopeless because we aren’t sure how to decrease the frequency of claps (or thoughts).
On average, we have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day yet when we are confused, restless or unsettled, it may feel like more. Many of our thoughts are ones that we have on repeat and so we many not be aware of them as much as we are of our new thoughts.
During stressful times, our minds tend to race, bouncing between what if scenarios and the past. It may seem impossible to quieten your mind, especially when you’re sleeping but there are ways you can help to turn down the noise.
Below are three methods I use to tame my monkey mind during times of stress. It isn’t easy and it’s not an instant fix. Depending on what you are working through, it may take a few days or weeks to get back to a mind that isn’t racing as fast as it was.
Tip 1: Meditate.
Meditation encourages you to still your body and mind for a few moments. I know you’re probably thinking, I am stressed, busy and have way too much to do, how can I possibly find time to meditate? My answer to that is, make it a priority and schedule in 5-10 minutes to just meditate.
Sit with your thoughts and notice them as they come and go. You don’t need to attach to any of your thoughts, it’s simply about being aware of them and knowing that you don’t need to take any action in this moment. Your thoughts will be there after you have had a few moments to reset. Focus on your breath, how your body feels and how you are feeling.
Tip 2: Come back to the present.
When we are unsettled, we tend to focus on the future and worry about what may happen or we may reflect on the past and try to think of what our current situation would like if we hadn’t made a certain choice.
Reflecting on the past or thinking about the future can cause stress and anxiety because we can’t change what has happened and we can’t control what happens in the future (to the extent that we would like at times). In order to quieten your thoughts, come back to the present and focus on what is happening right now.
Notice the sounds, the smells, the colours and focus on your breathe. Take a few deep breaths to come back to the present moment and give your attention to the task at hand. If you are driving, focus on your speed, the cars around you and on navigating your vehicle rather than flicking on the auto pilot switch and thinking of what you need to do once you get to where you’re headed. In the present moment, there is no stress because you are exactly where you are meant to be.
Tip 3: Write it down.
What is on your mind? Grab a pen and paper and just sit still for a few moments. Allow yourself to scribe without judgement or trying to articulate your thoughts. You may be surprised with what comes out, it may not even be something that you’re consciously aware of.
Personally, I start with a prompting question like ‘What am I feeling stressed about’ and then I let myself write down whatever my mind comes up with. When I did this activity last week, I had a page filled with stress triggers and there were a few that I didn’t even know were causing me stress.
I hope these tips resonate and work for you. Just know that we don’t need to be living in a heightened state of stress or anxiety. It doesn’t need to be our norm so when your mind is racing, be proactive and have a strategy in place to calm that monkey mind.
What strategies do you use to tame your monkey mind? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.