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How to Face Confusing Thoughts

Three Parts:Preparing Your MindWorking Through Your ThoughtsGetting a Fresh Perspective

Everyone, at some point in their lives, is faced with confusing and disturbing thoughts. This can lead to stress and anxiety. It can be hard to determine what is right and what you should do. Taking the time to prepare your mind and think critically will allow you to face these thoughts.

Part 1
Preparing Your Mind

  1. Image titled Gain Weight Quickly (for Girls) Step 6
    Get some exercise. Exercise reduces anxiety and stimulates your brain to create memories. Exercise will increase your ability to focus and keep your mind on the task at hand.[1] Do any exercise you enjoy that gets your heart rate up and causes you to sweat. Just 30 minutes of exercise can improve your ability to solve problems.[2]
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    Practice self affirmations. A brief self-affirmation exercise reduces stress and improves your ability to solve your problems. [3] Write down the values (e.g. family and friends, business, money, independence, creativity, music, politics, religious values, humor, kindness, etc.) that are most important to you. Then write about why the value(s) you chose are important and a specific time they were important. This exercise gives you the opportunity to broaden your perspective and realize what is really important to you.[4]
    • A broadened perspective will help you feel less overwhelmed[5] by your confusing thoughts and may help you identify a way to make a decision.
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    Take a mental vacation. Taking 20 minutes to relax your mind can give you new ideas. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and think about a relaxing moment that you have experienced. Use all your senses as you go to this relaxing place. It may help to tell yourself, "I'm going on vacation."[6]
    • Slowly inhale for 6 seconds; hold your breath for 3 seconds; slowly exhale for 6 seconds.
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    Do progressive muscle relaxation. When your mind is racing, you need to calm your thoughts and refocus. Progressive muscle relaxation is an effective strategy to do this.[7] Go to a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Tense each muscle group for 5 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat and then move to the next muscle group.[8]
    • Start at your toes and work your way up. Do not forget to breathe as you do this exercise.
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    Breathe deeply. Taking deep breaths from your diaphragm triggers your body to relax.[9] Sit upright with your back straight. Slowly inhale and fill your belly with air. Hold your breath for 4 seconds, and slowly exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat the cycle a total of 5 times.[10]

Part 2
Working Through Your Thoughts

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    Write them down. Moving your thoughts from your head to a piece of paper will help you view them more objectively. Do not edit your thoughts as you write them down or make any judgments about what you are writing. Be honest with yourself as you write. Writing helps remove mental blocks and frees up the creative part of your brain.[11]
    • Do not worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar as you are writing.
    • Try to sit and write for 20 minutes.
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    Study the thought objectively. Treat the thoughts as opinions instead of facts. This is important as you may feel like something is true even when it is not.[12] Remember that your thoughts are your perception of what is going on not necessarily what is actually happening. Begin to consider alternate perspectives. If your thoughts are around a specific decision or problem, ask yourself what would your friend do to solve the problem or what advice you would give someone who is having that same problem.
    • It is okay to have negative thoughts throughout this process. Do not feel pressure to only think positively.[13] The goal is to allow your mind to be flexible and creative.
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    Clarify your thoughts. Begin the process to sort through your thoughts. State one point, elaborate on the point, and then connect that thought to your life experiences. Start by saying, "I think..." then "In other words..." and finish with "For example..."[14] If you are comfortable, you can speak to another person as you do this. Explaining your understanding of an issue to someone else is a good way to clarify your thoughts.
    • Writing this down or speaking out loud to yourself may make the process easier.
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    Check the facts. Gather the information you need to make sense of your thoughts. Ask yourself some of these questions: What do I need to answer the question or solve the confusion?; On what information am I basing my thoughts?; How do I know this information is accurate?; Is there any information that I left out that I should consider?; What information is relevant to the issue at hand?[15]
    • Always consider the source of the information. If it is not reliable or based on someone else's opinion, you might not want to consider it.
    • Focusing on the facts can keep you from relying on your emotions alone.
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    Consider your assumptions. Our thoughts are often based on beliefs that we may not initially recognize. Your assumptions are usually at the subconscious or unconscious level. It is important to examine the assumptions that are fueling your thoughts. Ask yourself some questions to help uncover them.[16] You can answer these questions in your head, write them down, or talk through them with someone that you trust.
    • What assumption has brought me to this conclusion?
    • Am I assuming something that I should not?
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    Think about the consequences. Your thoughts will probably lead to an action. There are different outcomes and consequences based on the decisions that you make. Thinking of these in advance can help you make a choice you are comfortable with. You can discuss these questions in your head, write them down, or talk through them with someone that you trust.
    • If I do X, what may happen?
    • If I do not do X, what may happen?
    • What things are most likely to happen based on my decision?
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    Avoid thinking traps. Everyone falls into thinking traps at times. You can not always prevent the fall, but you can recognize when you are in one and make adjustments. Common traps include jumping to conclusions, looking at the worst case scenario, treating your feelings as facts, or thinking in black and white terms only.[17] If you find yourself falling into these traps, disregard those thoughts after you identify them. Tell yourself that they are not helpful and let them go.
    • When you jump to conclusions, you predict what is going to happen without any evidence or facts. You might think, "I'm not going to that party because I know I will not have a good time."
    • Worst case scenario is when you exaggerate how bad something will turn out. You might think, "I am going to flunk out of school because I did not finish my homework."
    • If you think in black and white terms, your only options are very extreme. For example, "If I don't figure out what to do, my life will be ruined."
    • When you treat your feelings as fact, you may think, "I feel unsure of myself, I'm not capable of making any good decisions."

Part 3
Getting a Fresh Perspective

  1. Image titled Be a Good Listener Step 11
    Talk to someone else. Speak with a trusted friend or even a professional to help you sort through your thoughts. If possible, speak to someone who has gone through the same experience as you.Hearing about another person's experience has been shown to provide greater insight than thinking of the outcomes on your own.[18][19] Another person may be able to give you ideas that you did not consider on your own or just be a listening ear.
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    Take a break. Go for a walk, cook, or do some other activity that requires you to fully engage your mind.[20] While you are occupied, your brain will unconsciously continue to work on your problems. [21] Once you return to your problem, you may have a different perspective or new ways about how to handle your situation.
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    Go outside. Spending time in nature can increase your creativity. Leave your phone, electronics, and any other technology behind. Spending time in nature restores the part of your brain responsible for reasoning, problem solving, and task management.[22]


  • Sorting through confusing thoughts is a process and takes time. If you get frustrated, take a break and come back to it.
  • There will always be more than one option or solution to an issue. Choose the one that is best for you.
  • Don't put yourself down when you feel confused it is often a sign that you are working hard on something and persevering with it will bring great satisfaction.
  • Don't be hard on yourself, confusion happens to all of us.
  • Talk to someone you trust if you feel you would like help.

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