Prior to my burnout, I was thinking a lot. From early in the morning until late at night, all kinds of thoughts ran through my head. You couldn’t think of anything so crazy, or I was thinking about it. When I got up in the morning, it already started. In the shower I started thinking and that went on all day. There was no real structure in the thoughts.
I was mainly thinking about what was wrong, what I would do better or differently and why. And especially with regard to other people. Thoughts like why this is happening to me, why don’t they see that, if I had to do that, they flew through my head. The undertone of these thoughts was angry, suspicious, and above all, negative.
In retrospect, I sometimes thought if I was addicted to negative thinking. That somehow, I also liked to think about anything and everything, to whine, to whine and to see myself as a victim (but that’s another theme that I’ll discuss in another part).
I didn’t know at the time that these thoughts go hand in hand with too much stress and fatigue. In hindsight, it makes sense. When you are low in your energy, you are tired, which makes you angrier and more negative in life. In addition, this mindset takes a lot of energy, so it works as an energy guzzler.
But how do you stop thinking in your head? In short: you can’t. I don’t think you can stop thinking. After all, you do that all the time. So yes. That is not the solution.
You can, however, provide distractions, such as other stimuli (smoking, drinking, partying, eating, sports, sex, etc.). However, this is often short-lived. In addition, you will notice that it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve the effect of distraction. So that you need more and heavier distractions to stop thinking.
But then what then? What can you do to deal with this?
Directing the thoughts, that’s possible and I’m going to explain that to you.
The moment you notice that you are too much in your head, you are already changing. After all, you are aware of the fact that you are doing that.
Before, I could literally be swallowed up by these thoughts. But when I became aware of the fact that this was happening, I started thinking. And I started looking for answers on how to stop this. Actually, I came to the conclusion that I myself was producing this thought and that I myself have to get this thought production under control.
I was ready to take the first step.
The first step is to let your mind run wild.
Here’s how I did it:
-I bought a square cushion (at the Action)
-some incense sticks
-downloaded an app with rain sounds
And I sat down (call it meditating).
In the morning and evening I sat in my room, put on the incense sticks and with the rain sounds in my ear I just sat down (20 min.) and let my thoughts run free.
Well, what happened then. All thoughts started to run through my head. In full vehemence and intensity. I was shocked, but I also thought apparently that has to be removed or something. So let it run for a while. So, I just let it happen.
I did that for a few weeks before I noticed that I was calming down.
I remember it very well, on a Wednesday morning, after my 20-minute thought storm, I cycled to the Aldi. And I noticed that I was getting lighter. (strange feeling)
And that’s step 2.
Step 2: is experiencing that you become calmer.
While racing my thoughts, I noticed that the intensity eventually diminished. At first, they flew in all directions, but over time it really became less.
Maybe I had also thought about some topics so often that at a certain point I was done with them. You can constantly think about a theme, but at a certain point I didn’t feel like it anymore. And the subject was well and truly exhausted.
And then I noticed that a lightness was emerging. The thought was no longer so present and that relieved me.
My psychologist advised me to take step 3 as well.
Step 3: Replace Thoughts
My psychologist said: “Yes Marco, if you are done with your
negative thoughts, you can also replace them. You can try to consciously see the beautiful things in life and start thinking about them.”
I did that with a notebook (also picked up at the Action…). In that booklet I wrote the positive things of that day.
In two pieces:
-the positive of that day (can be very simple things: the sun is shining, the kids are home, the food was good, etc.)
-the positive of tomorrow (what are you looking forward to, what is fun etc.)
By doing this, I fed my positive thoughts in the moment. And although the temptation to negative thoughts was really palpable and I sometimes couldn’t escape it, I still tried to stay positive.
I also noticed that I had (unconsciously) gathered people around me who found my negative thoughts interesting. I started avoiding these people or tried to get them to go along with the other thoughts. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Through the use of writing, I started to wear in the positive thoughts. And that made me think about things more positively and that I became calmer. Less angry, reproachful or jealous. In addition to feeling light-headed, I also saved energy.
I felt that my thoughts were going in the positive direction NOW. And that I became happier. The feeling this evoked made me happier. And I wanted to hold on to that.
The fact that I am calmer now and have finer thoughts makes me more satisfied and gives me the confidence that I am on the right track.
It has been quite a journey to escape my negative thoughts. And honestly, sometimes I still have them. But consciously reflecting on the positive in life can really make a difference and saves a lot of energy.
Just give it a try.