How to Get Out of Thought Loops

Thought loops. Rumination. Spinning thinking. Whatever you want to call it, sixes have plenty of it. For a long time this was why I hated waking in the middle of the night. Before I knew how to manage my mind, if I woke up, my mind would start spinning on future or past worst case scenarios. Usually using my past against me to spin up future worst case scenarios. Or it would be the middle of the day and I would be so consumed by the news, someone else’s life, spinning on my latest health symptom, etc. that I couldn’t function as I wanted to in the world. Hours would go by with me not being as productive as I had planned and not much to show for that time. Yet I was exhausted.

Emotional exhaustion is a common six experience. It comes from allllllll that unproductive thinking we do all day (and sometimes night!) long. We think and spin and loop and worry and then don’t have nearly as much energy available for the things we want to do in our lives.

Here is how to get out of a loop:

Recognize what is happening here.

We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. It is easy for us to spin up into stories because it’s familiar to us and we BELIEVE everything our brain is telling us when this is happening. Your brain is just doing what it does, taking in the world through thinking and then generating feelings in response to all those thoughts, so we get stuck in a think and feel loop. Your brain is NOT ACTUALLY PREDICTING THE FUTURE. Learn to recognize when you are in a loop.

Once you recognize the loop, STOP

S- Say stop out loud to yourself. Saying this out loud (or internally if you are in public and care about that. 🙂 ) immediately gets your lower brains attention and lets it know a new command is coming.

T- Tell yourself you know you are in a loop and that’s OK (this work MUST be done with self compassion. It’s OK that your brain is doing what it does!)

O- Opt out of the loop. Yes. You can just opt out. You can turn your attention to something else. (I can let this go. It’s OK. This loop is not necessary and I have things I want to do. It’s OK that I was stuck and I can let it go.)

P- Pivot to something you want to be spending your time doing. You will use the energy that is going into your loop to complete something you care about that you have control over!

**A note on opting out. I KNOW it doesn’t feel like that is possible, but we know it IS because if something more compelling and present came into your brain you would switch to that. If someone you love was actually hurt, whatever you were ruminating about would vanish and your focus would shift. This work is about you building that control consciously.

As I mentioned above, a critical part of this work is that it is happening within a context of self love. Often this is the hardest part for my clients and something I’m able to help them with. We do not make lasting positive change from negative emotion. It doesn’t happen. To speak kindly to yourself as you learn new things is crucial for change to last.