Move over mini mental tornadoes

Blonde girl thinking and contemplating over city view

Ever counted all your thoughts in one day? Us neither. But according to the National Science Foundation we have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts every day. And not just that, on average 80% of these thoughts are negative and 95% are repetitive. Author Suze Yalof Schwartz justly calls them ‘mini mental tornadoes’ – where one thought triggers another, and another and another:

The scenario: You receive an email from your boss with a criticising undertone

The thoughts: “I’m so useless… he thinks I’m rubbish… I hate this job… my career sucks… what if they fire me?”

You lose your laptop charger
“Where is it?… I’m so useless… I have so much to do… how am I going to carry on… I’m going to end up working so late now… I’m so tired I don’t want to work late… why am I so tired all the time perhaps I’m ill”

You miss your train
“I’m going to be late… the train system is useless… why did we move here... I hate living in this city… now the whole day is ruined”

If any of these feel familiar, as the science shows, you’re not alone. These blusteringly ruminating thought patterns whip us up into a frenzy of anxiety, quickly taking us from one criticising email to disastrous thoughts of being fired, losing a laptop charger to worrying about our health, missing a train to a whole day ruined before it’s begun. Really our brain is trying its best to be helpful but these pesky mini mental tornadoes can be distracting, stressful and affect our confidence and progress without us even realising it. But fear not, there are solutions at hand to calm these potential mind storms.

The key is awareness.

Notice today when you are feeling stressed by a thought and see if you can trace it back to where it began. Do you really need a new house because you burnt the pizza in an oven with a temperamental timer?

When you notice one come in connect with your breath, breathe deeply from your diaphragm for a few breaths. Notice where your mind is trying to take you, keep breathing, aware and watching. Once you feel the impact reduce, smile. You have noticed what is happening in your mind and as you continue to notice them they will lose their power and peace will follow. 

Of course it’s important too to pre-empt the mini mental tornadoes and reduce how much they happen in the first place. A tired frazzled mind creates the perfect conditions for these unhelpful thought streams to occur. Doing what relaxes you, setting your intention in the morning for your day at work, making a to-do list and sticking to it are all ways to keep our mind-sets on the sunny side. In addition reducing reactivity – keeping your phone on silent, checking and responding to emails and phone messages at set times and in bulk, creating space for yourself and prioritising that – keeps a knee-jerk monkey brain in check.  

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