🥼 3 special tools

This is a technique to try to stop the thoughts that go round and round (and round and round and round and round and round…).

All you have to do is recognise that you are in the spiral, and then ask yourself three questions:

  • Is it a helpful thought?


Then bin it! (Obviously this is hard, but we can talk about distraction techniques that you can use in this case)

But what if it is a helpful thought but it’s just the wrong time of day? Then: YES! so

  • Can I do something about it now?

YES! I can do something about it now if I really wanted to! So:

  • Can I do it as well or better, tomorrow?

NO! Then get up and do it!

Notice how you might not want to leave your comfy, warm bed, and yet you’re happy to ruminate and cause yourself stress and anxiety? Hopefully you will see the amusing side of this, which in itself helps reduce the power behind these thoughts.

At this point you have recognised that these thoughts are not helpful and probably being blown out of proportion. While this technique may not get rid of the thoughts altogether, it can help you to make them smaller and manage them rather than making them bigger and bigger.

Yes! Sometimes, it’s not possible to resolve our issues at 3am!
Yep, you guessed it – put it in your to do list for tomorrow and make sure you do it!

This technique does take practise, and you can use it for all sorts of thoughts at any time of the day or night if you want. The idea is to simply challenge your thoughts rather than let them take over…

NO? Then put it in your to-do list for the next day and make sure you do it!
Remember it works by trusting that you have been through this before and you dealt with it, therefore allowing you to relax in the future when you make a conscious decision to put in in your diary.

This technique does take practise, and you can use it for all sorts of thoughts at any time of the day or night if you want. The idea is to simply challenge your thoughts rather than let them take over.

Thought stopping – the ‘THE’ technique

This is a distraction technique. It can help stop unhelpful thoughts in their tracks without challenging them directly.

Every couple of seconds repeat the word THE either in your head or out loud, whatever suits. The word ‘THE’ is a neutral word. That’s means it’s quite difficult to associate anything meaningful to the word, unlike if I asked you to repeat the word ‘elephant’ which would soon have you thinking all sorts of things that might be associated. Also, thoughts are generated in an area of the brain that also generates speech. At any one time it can either transmit thoughts or generate speech. So if it is generating the very neutral word THE then it cannot transmit another thought or speech at the same time. Don’t worry if after a while your thoughts drift off and you stop thinking or saying THE. This is natural and your just need practice. Just carry on as soon as you know you have stopped.

Imagery technique

This technique has often been tried before, but without doing it properly it won’t help you feel more relaxed. It can help when you have a lot of thoughts that won’t go away. It takes practice, so start by practising it earlier in the day at a time when you feel reasonably relaxed anyway. When the technique is becoming easier and is leaving you relaxed then you can start doing it at night.
This is very different to our normal, one-dimensional thought processes. For example, “It would be nice to be on the beach. I wonder whom I would go with.

I’d better take sun cream. Have I got any in the cupboard? I’d better have a look.” It also uses different areas of your brain – it’s good to shut off that very one-dimensional thought station for a while!

Imagery involves: Staying in the place you want to be in, where you enjoy and where you feel safe, using all the senses to build up a picture. For example, smelling the sea, tasting the salty seawater, feeling the heat of the sand, hearing the seagulls.

You can choose several different images or places, real or imaginary, or based on a memory. Move around within that space. If your mind wanders off, then gently bring it back – it’s only natural for this to happen and it’s all part of the process. When you start doing it at night, think in advance where you would like to go, remember your senses, and use them. When you switch off the light at night, you now have plenty of strategies to make that time positive, relaxing and a pleasure to be in.
Here is an audio of me doing a guided imagery walk in the forest. You can make your own recording if you want, or just take yourself
through your chosen imagery using your senses. There are lots of guided image audios and videos online as well.

Here is a script that you can copy or take ideas from.

  • Put your pens and paper down.
  • Get yourself in a relaxing position sitting up or lying down.
  • Start by breathing in and out slowly.
  • With every breath out:
    • Feel your chest relaxing.
    • Feel your legs and arms lose tension.
    • Feel your head let go, and your face become heavy.
  • Your eyelids might start to feel heavy, and with every breath out let them get heavier and heavier.
  • Gently close your eyes.
  • Imagine you are in a large forest.
  • Picture yourself walking in a beautiful cool forest.
    • You are walking down a track.
    • What can you see?
    • Look at the trees.
    • What colours are the leaves?
    • What shape are they?
    • How big are they?
    • Look at the sunlight coming in between the trees.
    • Look at the patterns it makes on the ground.
    • What can you hear?
    • Can you hear the birds?
    • Can you hear the breeze with the rustle of the leaves?
    • What can you feel?
    • How does the air feel on your face?
    • How does the ground feel on your feet?
    • What temperature is it?
    • What can you smell?
    • Can you smell the fresh leaves, the fresh rain?
    • As you carry on walking, what can you see?
    • What colour is the sky?
    • What are the shape and colour of the clouds?
    • Look at the bark of the trees.
    • What colour is it?
    • Run your hand over the surface of the bark.
    • How does it feel against your hands?
    • What temperature is it?
    • What can you hear?
    • Can you hear your feet crunching on the undergrowth?
    • Can you hear your own breath?
    • Pick up a few leaves.
    • How do they feel?
    • Are they crispy and damp?
    • The track opens out and you walk towards the shore of a beautiful lake.
    • You stop by the water.
    • What colour is it?
    • Is the water clear?
    • Is the water lapping gently?
    • Are there any animals around?
    • Can you hear the swans taking off and flying over the lake, landing on the other side?
    • What do they sound like?
    • Are there ducks splashing and cleaning in the water?
    • Run your fingers through the water.
    • What temperature is it?
    • Can you hear the drops falling back on the water?
    • Look around you.
  • Take a deep breath in, and out.
  • Take it all in.
  • I’m going to ask you to leave your place now and return to the room.
  • So in your own time, open your eyes.