How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts

uncontrollable thoughts, How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts, Dr. Nicolle

Uncontrollable thoughts are not uncontrollable, but they can feel like it. These are those intrusive thoughts that come when you don’t want them to, that you can’t seem to shake. It can be related to something that has you stressed out, something you worry about, a past experience you regret or dwell on, or fears about the future.


Intrusive thoughts often feel uncontrollable because they keep popping up in your head, which then leads you to over-analyze, stress, and overthink these thoughts. It unfortunately is a common cause for severe stress, but with the right methods, you are able to gain control of these thoughts and keep them at bay.


What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?

Uncontrollable thoughts are often very intrusive and almost always come without warning. You might experience images you don’t want to see, relive past traumatic experiences, or see your greatest fears and worries in your mind time and time again. It almost seems that the harder you try to get these thoughts out of your head, the more difficult it is to get rid of them.


This can cause stress, but the thoughts are often FROM stress and overwhelm as well. You aren’t able to stay calm or positive, as the thoughts just keep coming back. You might also keep them a secret due to the nature of some of your uncontrollable thoughts. If they are causing you great distress, making your stress worse, or leading to becoming very overwhelmed, then it is time to do something about them.


When Thoughts Become Obsessions

Some people experience these uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts as a result of a mental health condition like anxiety disorder, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This makes it really important to see a mental health professional to get the disorder treated, as the stress you live in your daily life can only make it worse.


For people with OCD, you might find that the thoughts turn obsessive, where you can’t stop thinking about them, and you may even act on them.


The following tips can help if these thoughts go beyond just causing stress, but serious struggles just in your daily life:


Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness does take a little practice, but it can be amazing for those thoughts that feel uncontrollable, whether obsessive or not. With mindfulness, you aren’t trying to get rid of the thoughts, but make more sense of them. You get into the state of acceptance of what is happening right now, then are able to stop thinking too much about the past or a future that may or may not happen.


Switch your thoughts (even temporarily)

You may not be able to just wish the thoughts away, but sometimes you can distract your mind even for a few minutes at a time. It might not seem like much, but this is going to relieve your stress related to these intrusive thoughts at least in short bursts. It WILL make a difference, and before too long, you are able to distract your thoughts for longer periods of time.


Write it down 

When you have a lot on your mind, doing a brain dump in a journal is an excellent method. This works both for things you want to think about, and those that you don’t. Plus, a journal is personal and private, so you don’t have to show anyone else what thoughts keep invading your mind and causing distress.


Talk to someone

It is also a good idea to talk to someone about your thoughts, whether you tell them exactly what your intrusive thoughts are, or just to have a little distraction. Call up a family member or friend, text someone, meet a friend for coffee. Their conversation is often enough to give you at least a few minutes of peace from your own intrusive thoughts.


Simple Steps for Overcoming Uncontrollable Thoughts

If you still don’t have a handle on your uncontrollable thoughts, there are a few more things you can do to manage them, which is going to help you control your stress and overwhelm as well.

uncontrollable thoughts, How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts, Dr. Nicolle

Here are some more tips for these intrusive thoughts:


Use mindfulness to accept them, then move past them.

Mindfulness helps you to reach a level of acceptance, so instead of just trying to make the thoughts go away, accept the thoughts, then try to move past them, removing their power over you.


Understand why the thoughts are there to begin with.

Sometimes your uncontrollable thoughts are trying to tell you something, similar to how a dream isn’t realistic, but it is sending you a message or explains what your subconscious is going through.


Stop trying to will them away.

This isn’t going to work, and may even cause you to focus more on them. Think about it like a craving. If you have a craving for something, the more you try to get rid of the craving, the more you want it. But if you have just one of whatever you’re craving, it eventually goes away.

I would love to give you a free resource sheet to support your quest for a healthy mindset. Click the button below to receive your gift.


uncontrollable thoughts, How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts, Dr. Nicolle


I really wanted to talk about this topic today because I wanted to share some lifestyle-based strategies to improve your overall mindset and mental health, which in turn improves your life. You must do the internal work to improve your overall health. You can do this by learning what motivates you and working each day on improving your mindset. Your thoughts control your feelings, which controls your behavior. You can cultivate certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.


If you are familiar with my approach, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle modifications, such as stress reduction and mindfulness exercises, can help you feel better about yourself and your life. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.


Tools For Motivation And Mindset


Although you don’t need a cushion to meditate, you may want to consider using one at some point.  You could meditate in a chair, or simply sit on the floor if you want. You can also use pillows or cushions from your furnishings to try out. Cushion, chair, bench, floor – it’s all good. Eventually, though, if you’re not sitting upright on a chair, you’ll probably do well to buy a dedicated meditation cushion. The cushion will support your sitting posture and help you create an appealing mindfulness corner that will encourage you to practice every day. I recommend this meditation cushion and mat bundle.



If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can be a great idea. Even if you don’t have these conditions, journaling can enhance your life in many ways. Having difficulty processing your thoughts and emotions? Journaling can help clear that mental clutter and move towards a positive mindset. Research suggests that keeping a journal can have positive impacts on both mental and physical health. So, to start you on your journey, I recommend this self care journal.


Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, meditation and mindfulness, as well as healthy and supportive relationships are the best ways to support mental health. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.


Stay healthy,


Dr. Nicolle


PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.


PPS. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe stress, anxiety, depression and/or other mental health issues, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. This is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

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How to Handle Uncontrollable Thoughts

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