Some children are prone to obsessive thoughts or getting “stuck” on one particular thought or fear. This is mostly due to their unique biochemistry make up. We often try to rationalize, argue, debate, and fix surrounding circumstances to get rid of this unwanted thought. Unfortunately, this only magnifies the thought and empowers it. Here are some suggestions for getting “unstuck” and letting go of obsessive thoughts. Each person will respond differently and a strategy may work better for one person than another person.
- Don’t talk back.
The first thing you want to do is respond with logic. You think by talking back, you will quiet down the voice. The truth is you usually empower the voice. You give it an opportunity to debate with you. The more attention and focus you give it, the bigger it becomes. Quit sorting it all out and trying to find a solution for the specific problem the thought is presenting to you.
- Know it will pass.
Ride it out. You can do anything for a minute and most things for an hour, even a few things for a day or two. Know that the most intense stuck thoughts won’t last longer than this and just bear with it. You will ride the wave no matter how big it is back to being unstuck. Don’t fight it but let it sit for as long as it wants.
- Focus on right now.
Your stuck thought is almost always based on something similar that happened in the past or something that may happen in the future. Being around people and doing things with them or talking to them about stuff happening right now will help you. That is why you probably rarely get stuck when hanging out with your friends.
- Tune into your senses.
Grounding exercises are effective ways to anchor your mind in the here and now. List three things you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.
- Make a list.
Make a list of any subject matter. List all the places you would like to travel. List all the famous football players you can think of. List everything you can remember that is in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter what the list is about. There are other ways to engage the frontal lobe, but this is easy for most. It is likely your brain has gotten hijacked by the amygdala that stores all our emotional memories and controls our “fight or flight” responses. Using your frontal lobe of your brain will get it back under control. The frontal lobe controls all our planning, prioritizing, and other executive functioning. The amygdala and the frontal lobe cannot operate at the same time thus, list making and planning may rescue your brain from being hijacked.
- Do something else.
If you can, distract yourself with a different activity. Walk around the block, bake cupcakes, go to the kitchen and do your homework. Leave the space you are in and get in a new environment and engage in another activity.
- Change your obsession.
What else are you interested in that isn’t as harmful or paralyzing? Maybe you would like to learn creative lettering or doodle art. Maybe you want to learn how to play an instrument or learn all about cars or gardening. You may decide you want to run a mile under 7 minutes. Change your focus and obsession to something new and purposeful.
- Blame the chemistry.
It may help to know you aren’t stuck and obsessing because there is something terribly wrong or a critical problem to solve but because of your biochemistry. The subject matter isn’t important. In fact, the subject matter in your obsessive thinking will change often. Think of your brain as just getting bored and needing to make up stuff in your head to entertain itself.
- Picture it.
Picture your friend coming to you with the same problem, fixating on it all day, and the problem or thought is all they seem to talk about. Seems pretty ridiculous? Perhaps, a bit annoying? Yes!
Try one of these suggestions and see how it works for you. Then, try another. Finding what works for you is important in the process of getting your brain unstuck.