I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say my brain can be a messy place. At times it feels like my thoughts are all over the place. I can go from feeling like everything is order to feeling as though my thoughts are spiralling out of control very quickly. There is no clear message they are trying to tell me, but everything they do say is destructive and negative. The longer I ignore it for, the more the negative thoughts build up.
When this happens, it is easy to point the finger and say there is something wrong with my mind and way of thinking, but is there really? When I think about it slightly more deeply, I see it differently. My brain is actually trying to tell me something, and it’s saying it loud and clear.
When my brain feels messy and my thoughts become increasingly negative, it is not it attacking me, it is instead my brain trying to tell me to look at what is going on in my life and make some changes. Slowly, overtime, through speaking to my wellbeing and performance coach (the wonderful Wendy) and unpacking my thoughts, I have come to recognise this. It never gets easier, but I have become more in tune to the warning signs. These red flags manifest in a very chaotic mind.
Trace the thoughts.
When my brain starts to feel chaotic, I find it helpful to trace the thoughts and slowly peel them back to their source. The best way to do this is through talking. Speaking about whatever is going on in my mind helps me take each thought back to its origin. More often than not, they all have the same origin. As soon as I get them out, in whatever order they come, however disjointed it may seem, they all start to make sense. Gradually the pieces of the jigsaw come together and this allows me to recognise what really is going on. It may not seem logical initially, but by getting every worry, stress, negative thought or destructive idea in your mind, out into the open, the real cause will become clear. These don't have to be said in any order. Whatever order they come to the fore in, say them. It might not seem like the right order initially, and it may seem very random, but it won't by the end.
If you do not feel able to talk to someone about your thoughts, or you don't have someone you can throw heavy thoughts at, write them down. Get your messy brain onto paper.
Recently I felt this overwhelming mess in my brain. I had so many worries and destructive thoughts going on and I just didn’t know where they were coming from. I found it a lot to handle. However, as soon as I was able to open up about all of them, and get them into the open, I realised that the problem actually lay elsewhere, and the superficial worries in my mind weren’t actually worries at all. They were just a front for the real problem. This is why it does not matter which order the thoughts come out, because they will all lead somewhere important.
Once I can recognise that my mind is actually shouting at me to trace these thoughts back to their origin, I am able to address the true problem, and start on the path towards feeling more stable.
Our brains are incredibly clever things. They do not think destructively for no reason. For some of us, myself included, this is simply the brain raising the alarm, telling us that we need to address the real problem before things spiral out of control. Try not to ignore the warning signs, because otherwise it will explode at some point, in some way.
Next time you find ourself getting frustrated at the way your brain can be messy and chaotic, listen to it. It is only trying to help you, not push you down.
Be kind to yourself, listen to the signs, and trace them to their source.
As part of my masters at University, I wrote a children’s picture book based on the story of Kathrine Switzer. She was the first woman to ever officially run the Boston Marathon. At that time, it was unheard of that a woman would run a race, let alone a marathon! Long story short, she was attacked during the race by a man insisting she stop because women weren’t allowed to run and she was frequently asked, ‘when are you going to stop?’ throughout the race. No one expected she would ever finish. However, no matter what she was faced with, she persisted. As a result, she became the first woman to officially finish the Boston Marathon and was a vital part in the progression of women’s sport. She paved the way for girls and women like me, to be able to pursue their sporting dreams.
My point with all this is, that we all have to start somewhere, and no matter what our journey looks like, we will have people questioning us. There will always be someone with an unhelpful comment or someone who thinks you will never achieve your goals. However, Switzer shows the power of self belief, because it doesn’t matter what others say about you, what matters is what you say to yourself. You have the power to overcome whatever you set your mind to. It is only the questioning of others that makes you doubt yourself. If you can work to block this out and ignore those who enjoy having an opinion, who knows what you could be capable of. If you feel you should pursue something, then do it, because you’ll regret it if you don’t. People will always have something to say, but you’ll be the one laughing as you experience happiness whilst chasing your goals.
Some people may say that following your dreams can be selfish at times. I’m not denying there is some truth to that, but in order to progress as an individual you have to invest in yourself. It could be interpreted as selfish, but putting time into yourself is one of the greatest life investments. It is quite the opposite of selfish. By choosing ourselves , we are able to help others more than we realise.
If we have the confidence to pursue our own dreams, we might be surprised by how much this helps someone else to do the same. Every journey is different, but this is where the power lies. Every single person, has the capacity to inspire a slightly different audience. Whatever you go through, your struggles, your highs, and your daily battles, someone out there will relate to them, so we can all use our journeys to help others through theirs. Following your ambitions has the capacity to change other peoples lives, just like Kathrine Switzer’s journey did. It was her bravery and determination that gave us the confidence to pursue our sporting dreams. If we have the courage to follow ours and persist through difficult times, then who knows what benefit this could have to future generations.
To read more about Switzer’s story, click here:
I don’t know about you, but I have a mind that is constantly on the go. From the outside it can look like you have it all under control, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Then add injury into the equation, my mind activity multiplies by about 100%, which can be exhausting.
At times I struggle to sit down and focus because my mind just won’t shut off. I always feel like I need to be doing something and be busy in order to occupy my mind. Otherwise it operates at 100 miles an hour, constantly. At times I wish I could just hit the off switch on my mind, but it isn’t as easy as this. I’m used to releasing this brain and physical energy through running, and I do struggle when that’s taken away.
However, I always try to slow my mind down at these times. Sometimes it is the complete opposite to busy that helps calm my mind. Here’s what I try to do when my mind feels a bit too much.
Do what you CAN.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I find it helpful to focus on what I CAN do. At the start of my injury it was just core and a small bit of work in the pool, therefore I focused on working myself hard in these areas. This way you feel like you have done something and get the little boost that exercise can provide whilst not getting too deflated by what you can’t do. When you are so used to training a lot, it can take its toll mentally when it is taken away, so I always try to do a little bit of something, no matter how big or small. A little bit will always make you feel better than none at all.
This is one that you really need to get in to because it acts as a complete form of escapism. If you find yourself a good book, one that is to your taste, you can become so consumed by it that your mind is temporarily taken somewhere else. It is a great hour or so where you can forget about your injury and take yourself to another world.
I find writing a very therapeutic act. If I can put my thoughts on paper, I can slowly unpack them and try to understand where my thoughts are coming from. Writing may not be for everyone, but even so, putting your worries or troubles down on paper can allow you to rationalise them a lot more.
It may sound silly, but colouring is actually incredibly mindful. Just like reading, it allows you to become completely absorbed by the activity. Your mind is able to switch off (and calm down) without you even realising as your energies are redirected elsewhere. You are also consumed by something, so your thoughts are not able to drift away with themselves.
Most runners have had to battle with injury at some point, and if you haven’t, you are doing very well! Whether you have or haven’t been injured, you can relate to the struggle of having running taken away from you. For this reason, every runner understands how you feel.
If you find your mind working at 100 miles an hour, and find it difficult to cope with, I hope some of these might help settle it a little bit.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!