As you rack up the miles, the wheels of your mind turn.
Lengthy highway drives inevitably lead to random thoughts, self-questioning, problem-solving, fantasizing, and more.
Feelings can sail along on cruise control or be as bumpy as the potholes in the road.
Your spirits soar, gaining speed with each positive thought, then sadness consumes you, stopping you short and leaving skid marks on your heart.
It’s quite a drive, riding high with elation one minute, when suddenly your mood crashes as if hitting the brakes.
We focus on the good in our lives. We struggle with sadness. We reason with our anger. We evaluate the crosses we bear.
And those crosses can be so many that it’s a wonder any of us can get anything done.
The voices in our head go round and round like a carousel, then ping-pong from positive to negative, happy to sad.
And, oh the conversations that we have with ourselves—the mental chatter that consumes us and our presence:
What a lovely day. Look at the sun, the beautiful skyline. It’s so good to be out.
Did I lock the door? Do I have my keys? Did I turn the stove off?
Am I truly living my life or just existing? Where do I see myself in five years? Am I content with my work or am I complacent?
God, I miss the jerk. No, I don’t. It’s a fleeting feeling. What do I miss? It was an unhealthy relationship and I made the right decision. Why am I thinking of him right now?
When will this pandemic end? Will people be able to rebuild their small businesses? What impact will this have on children and their futures?
We snap back to reality when we find ourselves in the parking lot of our destinations, unable to remember any of the details from the drive because we were so lost in our minds; we forgot to be present.
How many minutes of our lives have been spent like this that we will not be able to get back?
Time for critical thinking, problem-solving, and reflection is an important part of our every day. However, when our minds are continuously racing with busy thoughts that pinball around with no specific goal, it can be exhausting and deplete not only our energy but our souls.
Here are some tips to silence those erratic voices in your head, whether on the road or in our other daily activities:
1. Pay attention.
When you are at risk of getting lost in your mind, choose something to trigger your awareness and bring you back into the moment. It could be a color you see or a word that you tell yourself—anything to pull you back.
The aim is to ensure that you do not allow those thoughts to spiral out of control. As one thought starts racing to another, be sure to put a stop to it before it gets out of control.
2. Keep your eyes on the road.
Once you bring yourself back into the moment, focus on one thing you want to think about.
Whether it is a personal problem that needs solving, a work project that needs planning, or the memory of a good time that you want to relive again, practice focusing on one topic to afford it the time it deserves.
If you stay on topic, you may solve that problem, plan that project, or find joy in recalling the past. Your thinking should fuel you, not find you running on empty.
3. Slow down.
You only save 2.51 minutes by driving 15 miles over a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.
When you speed, you risk reckless driving and accidents, much like when your thoughts race, putting you at the risk for reckless thinking, which can lead to a higher incidence of mistakes rather than good decisions.
That recklessness can lead to exhaustion, frustration, and depletion.
When you slow down, you make the time to pay attention to your thoughts and discard the anxious, doubtful, or random ones that yield no results. By slowing down, you may just get to your destination faster.