It’s happening! Your SO has started talking to someone, is on a (first?) date, or is playing in a scene. You’re mustering all the compersion you can, and still you’re having you’re own personal Mr. Brightside moment worrying about your own Jolene. Often, even with the best intentions, we can find ourselves in a loop of intrusive or ruminating thoughts fueled by jealousy, envy, or insecurities. Let’s take a look at how to gracefully (as possible) get off this most unfun ride and avoid possible panic attacks in increasing seriousness of stuck-thoughtedness.
We know with just a little bit of work we can nudge ourselves to copacetic-ness. In the same way idle hands to the devil’s work, an idle mind can tear you down. Finding something to do instead of torturing yourself could be just the ticket, here’s a short (and impossible to be complete) list of ideas.
- Do that thing you always wanted to do they never do. You have opinions on salsas, they only have an opinion on salsa, which is no thank you. Hit that favorite Tex-Mex truck that looks kind of sketchy but has the best taquitos! Or whatever that thing is, hiking, painting, growing your side hustle, bad movies… you name it. You are free to do that.
- What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. There’s also the old adage that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone…. while I’m not saying that exactly, making social connections, or even better social support networks, is a vital aspect of the human experience that can help us here. Finding your local poly/kink/lifestyle/pagan/stitch ‘n bitch/whatever community can be an awesome investment in the larger scale of your life. All that said, having your own date lined up isn’t the worst idea either.
- Exercise. It’s hard to remain fixated on other thoughts when you keep counting to 15 or are low key wondering if you’re going to even survive this next set / mile / pose. This will also help settle the mind by settling the body.
Mindfulness and Acceptance
We know we’ve tried some basic distractions, socializing, and exercising but we need something more restorative. Mindfulness is tossed around all day, ‘err day like a miracle cure… because it kinda is. Mindfulness doesn’t have to look like getting in your fave robes, lighting incense, and ‘ohm’-ing to ourselves, here’s some ideas to try.
- If your thoughts are all about ‘what-ifs’, ‘I just know’, or awfulizing grab some pen and paper. Re-write the narrative by putting down the fear you’re working through, the worst thing that could happen, and then 3 possible positive outcomes. Relist these into most to least likely to happen.
- Write down or speak out your thoughts. Look at the fear or insecurity behind them. These fears have served you at some point, tried to keep you safe from harm. Consider how each has protected you before and compare that to how they are serving you now? If they are not helping you, let them go. If you feel they are helping you, write that down and repeat the process.
- Develop a ritual. Years ago in a documentary on Alanis Morrissette she mentioned her magical rock collection, which rock gave her better balance, finances, or love. I’m like, those are rocks. My wife was like, “I got rocks yo.” Then I had to figure that out, glad I did. While the rocks themselves may not have power, when my wife and Alanis bump into them during the day by putting one hand in their pocket (I had to), their minds focus (however briefly) on something that is important to them. Like the mynah birds in Aldous Huxley’s Island, reminders of what we want to work on are powerful. Rituals can be made for anything such as bathing (with bath bombs!), cooking, wood working, etc.
Ongoing intrusive thoughts
So, it’s not just about one night. We happen to often get stuck in our heads, circling the same negative thoughts in a downward spiral and we need some big help. Step one is to talk to a professional. A therapist, psychiatrist, or family doctor can help you identify the source of unending rumination and form a treatment plan with you moving forward. Some next steps look like:
- Therapy. If your intrusive thoughts come from relationship challenges (lifestyle changes often to not solve relationship problems, they highlight them) or mental health challenges seeking out mental health specialist that use Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Relationship Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Exposure Response Prevention can be beneficial. If you suffer trauma, EMDR or hypnosis treatments may serve you well.
- Medication. The goal of any medical intervention is to use the least of it. A good surgeon isn’t sawing off a leg over a hangnail. I would never tell someone to not take the medications their psychiatrist prescribes, but I do help them determine if they need to advocate for themselves more strongly about the medications they’ve been prescribed. If you look at your medications and think, “I could just add milk and call this breakfast” it’s probably time for a healthcare team meeting.
Whether one night or approximately one life time so far, intrusive thoughts suck. Fortunately there are many ways to effectively confront them. If this resonates with you or someone you know and you’d like to explore some options for support, let me know below.