Have you been kept awake by an overactive or racing mind? Do you find that once you start thinking you become anxious and it’s hard to stop your mind’s activity? Do you feel frustrated and exhausted by all your mental activity?
The good news is that there are several practices that can help support you!
A racing mind can be caused by a number of issues —
- An overly stressful lifestyle
- Inflammation due to poor diet or other issues
- A lack of nervous system regulating practices
- History of trauma
- An underlying mental health condition such as anxiety, ADHD, or others
There are tools to manage these racing thoughts and get your nervous system to calm back down. My favorites are acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet changes, and breathwork.
Acupuncture is famous for its ability to calm the nervous system. Even the placement of a few acupuncture needles can release the neurotransmitters needed to calm mental activity and help the body move from “fight or flight” into the calmer “rest and digest” nervous system state. Many people feel dreamy or even fall asleep while receiving acupuncture and they wake feeling calmer than they have in days, weeks, or months. Using acupuncture to reset your nervous system is a great way to begin to calm your racing thoughts.
Similar to acupuncture, herbal medicine can regulate the nervous system. Naturally occurring herbs can reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, and provide an anchoring feeling to help emotions settle down. Herbs can be taken easily in pill or liquid format, multiple times a day, to provide continual benefit in calming your nervous system and slowing down your thoughts.
Breathing is very well known to regulate your nervous system and can be used either to increase or decrease mental activity. My favorite breathwork pattern to calm mental activity is Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breath. You breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then breathe out for eight seconds. You repeat this breath pattern for a minute or two, multiple times a day. You’ll be surprised at how rapidly your heart rate calms down and your mind settles. This practice has benefits in the moment as well as long term, so make it a habit!
We know that there is a strong “gut-brain” connection, meaning that what we eat can directly affect our mood. To tame anxiety and a racing mind you’ll want to decrease:
Foods high in “bad fats “ such as red meat and fried food.
High glycemic index carbs such as white rice, potatoes, pasta, and foods made with white/refined flour.
More than 400mg of caffeine per day. A venti Starbucks brew puts you over the limit so you’ll need to stop with a small mug once or twice a day at most.
Alcohol – no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.
Gluten — check for celiac disease and consider a trial of removing gluten as some people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (this is me!). I have needed to be gluten free for more than a decade and I’m happy to provide advice on making it work if you’d like!
Supportive foods to calm that racing mind include:
High fiber foods such as beans, brown rice, bananas, berries, apples, pears, carrots, almonds, walnuts, oats, barley, and more.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and others, or through supplements.
Fermented and cultured foods such as yogurt, kombucha, miso, tempeh, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Tryptophan from sources like turkey, other meats, and chickpeas (best when eaten with carbs to maximize absorption).
Vitamins D, B1, B6, A, C, and E — consumed by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Sun exposure is key for Vitamin D production and also helps to improve mood!
Turmeric – remember to combine it with black pepper to improve absorption.
Herbs including lavender, passionflower, and chamomile — either consumed as teas or in tincture or flower essence format.
I hope these recommendations help you to calm your racing mind and those never ending thoughts. If you have any questions about whether acupuncture or herbal medicine can help you, please contact me. Here’s to your health!