Do you struggle to concentrate because your mind is SCREAMING at you?

Blog, Anxiety, Depression

“I need to kill myself”, “I need to kill myself”, “I need to kill myself… and on and on it goes.

Repetitive, dark and dangerous words can sometimes come to people involuntarily. They appear inside their minds at times when it all feels too much.

To an outsider, it may not seem like anything is wrong. The person may be acting “normal”, doing something completely mundane like catching a bus to work or washing the dishes. But inside that person’s mind there is an intense emotional pain.

Sometimes, the screaming may not even formulate into words, it may present itself just as a blind panic, a feeling that something is terribly wrong, and that the person is in imminent danger. This too can cause pain.

This emotional pain can be so intense that it manifests itself into something physical. A pain in the chest that makes it difficult to breathe or a feeling of weight, crushing down on you, making it hard to get out of bed.

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Intense emotional pain, thoughts and fear can make concentration HARD.

A common misconception of people who repeatedly struggle to control their mind and focus is that they are lazy. But when your mind is focusing on dealing with pain, anything else can seem inconsequential, or unimportant (even when it is extremely important).

Ordinarily, if you were to badly burn your hand whilst cooking, your thoughts and actions would instantly revolve around relieving the pain caused by the burn. Your mind wouldn’t place importance on continuing to cook in the moments directly following the burn. This shows us how our mind will focus on pain, and (importantly), trying to relieve pain, rather than the completion of a task.

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Now, in cases where your mental health is really bad, you may still focus on the thoughts inside your head rather than a (relatively) mild physical pain. But your natural instincts should kick in to protect yourself if you are in real physical danger.

So, we have established that by focusing on the pain occurring inside the mind, it is possible that we are trying to ease that pain. The trouble is, unlike something physical (like a burn), we can’t always go to a hospital to receive instant care and pain relief for mental distress.

Instead, we face a much greater challenge, we must learn to process these highly distressing thoughts and feelings AND try to find a way to concentrate on those day-to-day things which may seem insignificant, but actually are not.

What causes your mind to scream in this way?

There are many reasons why you could be experiencing this kind of emotional pain. The most common reasons are anxiety and depression (or a combined effect of the two).

Just because these are the most common reasons however does not necessarily mean they are the causes of YOUR pain. There are many others including; post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and schizophrenia, just to name a few.

What you are experiencing may even be a result of something physical, especially if this is a relatively new experience or a big departure from what you think of as your “normal” state.

It is important that you understand what is going on for you. Consider noting down any other symptoms you have, whether these be mental (like mood swings or a sense of being watched or followed) or more physical (like weight gain/loss, skin problems or hair growth/loss).

Then, when armed with all your symptoms, think about speaking to a medical professional. The human body is complex, and the human mind even more so. Many symptoms overlap and it is important to try and not self-diagnose (no matter how tempting it may be to jump down the internet rabbit hole)!

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What can you do to stop feeling this way?

1.     Rule out anything physical.

Speak to a medical professional and get their opinion on your symptoms. If the cause is something physical, then this will need to be fixed for you to recover.

2.     Speak to a medical professional about medication.

If your doctor or consultant believes that what you are experiencing is caused by a mental illness, then you should consider the option of taking medication.

Medication can be a huge help to many people, but in can take a while to get working and some medication (such as the most common type of antidepressants – SSRIs) can make you feel temporarily worse before you get better.

It’s important that you talk to your medical professional about possible side effects and come up with an action plan for if you experience them – such as getting in touch with the practice.

Medication can be a necessary step for some, as without it they are unable to cope or unable to focus enough to engage in counselling/therapy.

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3.     Find a qualified counsellor to talk to.

Counselling can help you understand why you started to experience these kinds of thoughts. By understanding why they occurred, you can begin to process the pain you are in. Counselling can also help you get through day-to-day tasks more successfully and start you off on the path to reclaiming a successful and happy life.

It is important that you select the right kind of counselling for you. Not all counsellors will aim to focus on the reasons why you are experiencing what you are, whilst others will focus less on your experience in the here and now. If you are unsure what kind of counselling would be best for you, you can check out this article which outlines some of the most common forms of counselling.

What can you do to make it through the day?

Although the overall goal should always be recovery, the fact is that just managing to get through the day can be a challenge in itself. So, what follows are some ideas which may help ease your mind and find peace enough to concentrate on the day in front of you. These are not therapeutic techniques, but more a list of ordinary things that may be helpful for you to try.

1.     Sing

We can experience great levels of emotional pain but struggle to find an outlet for that pain, meaning we cannot release any of the tension we are feeling. When we listen to music and connect to the emotion within it by singing, it can help create empathy which results in a greater level of self-care and self-reassurance.

2.     Cry

It may sound counter-intuitive but actually, crying can be a good thing. When we stop crying we often feel a sense of calm. There has been an emotional release and, in a way, we have eased the pressure on ourselves to “hold it together”.

We have given ourselves permission to be upset about what we are experiencing and that can be healing, especially if we were brought up to believe that crying is a sign of weakness.

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3.     Change the scene

When your mind is screaming at you, it may be accompanied by the urge to “get out” or run away somewhere. Whilst actually leaving where you are completely isn’t always practical (such as if you are at work), you can try and change the environment you are in.

So, if you have a break at work, instead of sitting in the staff room, try and get outside for some fresh air. Or if you have been in your bed all morning, try moving into a different room for the afternoon. Sometimes simply changing your environment can help you focus on the world outside your mind. 

4.     Have a warm drink

Warmth is soothing, it is often associated with comfort and safety. When you make yourself a warm drink you are showing yourself care. This act of self-care and the soothing effect of the drink combine to help you feel calmer. Ideally, if your mind is racing, you should aim to drink something that does not contain caffeine, as this can actually make you feel worse.

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5.     Write or record a video

Writing or recording your thoughts on video (or just audio if you prefer) can enable you to share how you feel without actually having to share it with anyone else. In writing or recording the way you are feeling you are expressing your suffering. This can help you achieve self-empathy and (as a result) lead to you looking after yourself better.

6.     Run

Racing thoughts can often be accompanied by a feeling of needing to escape. You may want to try channelling this anxious energy into exercise, be that running, boxing, dancing or hitting the gym.

7.     Cuddle

Cuddling, for an extended period of time helps us feel more secure and safe. Although you may immediately think of cuddling a partner. You can also cuddle a pet or even a soft toy. Chances are that a soft toy won’t help quite as much as interaction with another living being, but there is a reason soft toys are given to children. They provide comfort.

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8. Listen to guided meditation

Guided meditation can help you switch your focus. Unlike traditional mindfulness where the aim is to notice and then let go of any passing thoughts, guided meditation can help you replace those passing thoughts with new ones. This can help to keep your brain distracted and focused on something calming.

9.     Sleep

Sleep can be extremely healing. When we sleep we process a lot through dreams. If we are exhausted from what is going on in our minds, sleep can be a powerful way to recharge and “try again” when we have more energy and capacity to concentrate on the day.

It should be noted though that sleeping too much can actually make us feel more tired. So, it is important to get the balance right.

Conclusion – support yourself

What you are experiencing is hard and often scary. You need to take action to support yourself through the day and put steps in place to support yourself more long term.

If trying to ignore the thoughts (and beating yourself up when you can’t) isn’t working for you, then try a different approach. Face your issues head on and take care of yourself, after all, you only get ONE YOU.

To speak to me about beginning counselling you can email me at: sophie@sbcounselling.co.uk .

Alternatively, drop me a message (or call if that’s more your thing) on: 07588 117305 .

Thank you for reading, and take care.

Sophie x

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