Do you ever struggle with overthinking? Do your thoughts seem stuck in an endless loop, constantly circling the same worries and anxieties?
Everyone overthinks sometimes, and breaking out of this cycle and finding peace can be challenging. But don’t worry. With some simple techniques, you can train your brain to let go of those obsessive thoughts and achieve a calmer state of mind.
Here are the top tips to stop overthinking so you can finally free yourself from its grip once and for all!
10 Simple Steps To Stop Overthinking
1. Become Aware of Your Triggers
To stop overthinking, you need to become aware of two things:
- That you are overthinking
- What is causing you to overthink
Since you are reading this article, we are sure you have already identified the problem, which is a crucial step. You can’t fix something you don’t acknowledge exists.
The second step is to understand what triggers your tendency to overthink. Are you going through a period of high stress? Is it a situation you find yourself in regularly? Is it your finances? Is it talking to certain people?
Once you have identified your triggers, you can work on eliminating how they impact you. For example, if you only overthink when stressed, work out how to reduce your stress levels. If certain people or activities trigger your obsessive thinking, reduce your exposure.
Some people will argue this is just avoidance, which, to an extent, it is. But there is nothing wrong with removing negative influences from your life. You’ll still want to tackle the obsessive thinking in other ways, as it isn’t going to disappear on its own. But removing your triggers should make your over-analyzing easier to tackle.
2. Find a Distraction
Think you’re about to enter into an over-analyzing cycle? Distract yourself. Do something interactive. Play a video game. Read a book. Go for a walk. Talk to somebody. Write down a list of things to be grateful for. Do any of these things as soon as you begin to think too much to stop it dead in its tracks.
Consider taking up a hobby in the long term. This way, you can have a healthy outlet for your mental energy.
It is essential that whatever you choose to do, it is interactive. Some people watch TV or movies to distract themselves, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If you watch something to try to distract you, you may find yourself tuning out from the entertainment and start over-analyzing again. However, engaging in activities to distract you makes it easier to stop intrusive thoughts.
3. Learn To Challenge Your Thoughts
A lot of overthinking occurs because people are afraid to challenge their thoughts. Over-analyzing starts with a couple of negative thoughts; if you dwell on them, those thoughts worsen. Eventually, if left unchallenged, people start thinking about the outcome of highly unrealistic situations. So, to stop overthinking, you need to start challenging your negativity. Your goal is to turn those negative thoughts into much more positive ones.
Rather than thinking about the worst-case scenario, think about what could go right with the situation, which is the more likely outcome. Let’s look at a quick example.
Let’s say you want to ask somebody out on a date. Your over-analyzing may start with thinking the person may say no. Your thoughts could progress, leading you to believe they may say no and ridicule me. Ultimately, your thoughts could end with thinking they may say no, tease you, and you’ll be alone forever.
Instead of giving in to negative feelings, you want to train yourself to think they may say yes or no, but there are plenty more fish in the sea, and it isn’t the end of the world.
Of course, you could always confront whatever you are fearing head-on. A lot of overthinking is related to future situations, such as something you dread or try to avoid. So, why not tackle that situation?
Let’s look at the dating situation again. Want to know the actual answer to the question and stop overthinking? Ask the question!
Not everything is as cut-and-dry as tackling whatever you are overthinking right away. Some of our worries are things we cannot control or solve quickly. In these situations, positive thinking will help.
The more you can change your mindset to having positive thoughts, the easier it will be to stop irrational thoughts. Additionally, the more you can focus on the positives in life, the better person you will become.
4. Remind Yourself That Overthinking Is Normal
A lot of people believe thinking too much is abnormal. This belief can lead to even more obsessive thinking. After all, not only are you now tackling the original thoughts, but you start wondering if there is something wrong with you.
Go for a walk in a busy area and look around. We can guarantee most people there overthink. Even when you think somebody has a perfect life, they spend a small chunk of their time overthinking.
The sooner you realize many people over-analyze things, the less you will think you have a mental disorder. Knowing you are like many others will allow you to let go of the stigma and start finding techniques to slow and control your unwanted thoughts. In fact, for those with mild overthinking problems, the mere realization others are going through the same is enough to cull some of the overthinking.
5. Acknowledge Your Thoughts
That’s right. Acknowledge your thoughts. Combatting overthinking isn’t about casting your thoughts to one side. Ignoring the thoughts will only make them more intrusive. Your thoughts want attention, so give them attention.
When you acknowledge your thoughts, they don’t consume you as much. You’ll find it much easier to toss them to one side when you don’t want to dedicate time to thinking about them.
We get it can be tough to acknowledge your overthinking at the start. You probably don’t want to think too heavily about much of the stuff you are concerned about. You’ll feel quite bad when you acknowledge those thoughts. However, we promise that the longer you avoid acknowledging them, the worse your thoughts will be and the harder it becomes to tackle your overthinking problems.
If you start over-analyzing, tell yourself, “I acknowledge this thought; I’ll deal with it later,” and mentally lock it away until you have time to think more effectively.
6. Schedule Your Overthinking
You may have spoken to a therapist if overthinking is a major concern. At the very least, you probably would have Googled some techniques to help combat it. You may have stumbled across Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. CBT is the most-used technique by therapists, particularly regarding anxiety disorders. Many methods we have discussed to help you stop overthinking have their roots in CBT.
As you may know, CBT is a form of talking therapy. When you undergo CBT, you’ll speak with a therapist, who will help you break down your negative thoughts into more easy-to-manage chunks. It is incredibly effective. You’ll have homework each time you leave your CBT sessions so you can work on yourself outside of the sessions. One piece of homework is negative thought scheduling.
Breaking free of your negative thoughts is tricky. Nobody is asking you to quit them cold turkey. Well, not at the start. However, you can’t let them impact your life.
Get into a routine where you schedule your negative thoughts. Give yourself 20-30 minutes daily to dwell on them. Set a timer. As soon as your time is up? Stop thinking. Yes. It is going to be hard at first, but this is a technique that has helped many people.
As time passes, you’ll dedicate less and less time to overthinking. You’ll also find your thoughts become much less intrusive in your day-to-day regime.
7. Change Your Scenery
When you notice yourself beginning to overthink, get up and switch your scenery. Changing the scenery in your life can be highly beneficial. Our brains tend to associate specific locations with thoughts, and removing yourself from those locations stops those thoughts from coming.
It doesn’t have to be a massive change of scenery, either. For example, sit in the living room if those negative thoughts enter your head when in your bedroom. If your thoughts appear when you are working from home in the kitchen, find another space to work.
You can even tie this in with the distraction part. If you want a significant change of scenery, go for a walk. It is interactive, and you are taking yourself out of situations where overthinking intrudes on your life.
8. Practice Mindfulness and Self Care
Mindfulness is a collection of techniques that help you to live in the now. If you are overthinking, chances are you are overthinking about things that could happen in the future. You don’t want that. You want to live in the present moment.
Now, there are a lot of mindfulness techniques out there. The best we have found effective for tackling overthinking is meditation.
If you can, dedicate 20-30 minutes per day to meditate. Live in the moment. Just sit and observe your breathing. If your brain starts to overthink, absorb the thought and push it to one side. Tell yourself those thoughts don’t matter right now. You’re in the moment.
If you struggle with meditating, you can also opt for self-care. Self-care is when you prioritize yourself by doing simple things you enjoy. It could be a massage, a round of golf, or even a drive in the country. It would help if you came up with a list of self-care ideas you can choose from when you need them rather than having to think about something you would like to do.
Taking care of yourself allows you to deal with worry and overthinking much easier than if you are tired and not your best self.
9. Journal Your Thoughts
Journaling is another technique that is often used heavily in CBT. Sometimes, writing out your thoughts and feelings can go a long way. During your scheduled overthinking time, write down those thoughts. No matter how unrealistic your overthinking is, get it out onto paper. Getting your innermost thoughts onto paper can be incredibly therapeutic and help you tackle the reasons behind your negative thought patterns.
Why does this work? You can think of your overthinking patterns as ideas just itching to escape. If you write down your thoughts, you are acknowledging they exist while at the same time mentally freeing yourself from them.
As you journal more, you will have fewer thoughts that must be committed to paper. You may still overthink occasionally, but you’ll find you do it much less often. You may drastically reduce overthinking within a few weeks of using this technique.
You may even want to read back on some of the past thoughts you wrote down. A lot of the time, you will realize many of the ideas you have about certain situations are unrealistic. This will help you in the future when bad thoughts come about. You can remind yourself the worst-case scenario never came true, so there is no need to worry now.
Make sure you also journal your successes. Jot down anything that has gone right for you in the last week or so, no matter how minor it may seem. It will help you to put things in perspective.
10. Find Somebody to Talk To
Sometimes, talking to somebody is the only way to escape from overthinking every little thing. A therapist is preferred since they are qualified to deal with this. However, talking to a trusted friend or family member can work wonders if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a therapist. We cannot stress enough how important it is to choose somebody you are close to. You want somebody to assist you with the problem, not laugh at your thoughts.
The person you are talking to can help you understand why you are dealing with some of these thoughts. They may even help you realize why some things you are overthinking aren’t realistic.
Good friends can help you to work through your problems. They may even share some of the times they overthink, which can help you realize what you are going through is normal.
You Can Stop Overthinking
It is important to understand that everyone overthinks. It only becomes a problem when worrying or anxious feelings have a destructive impact on your life. But even if this isn’t the case and you want to stop worrying, you can do plenty of things to calm down and be happier.
Using the outlined thinking patterns is a great way to overcome negative emotions and stop overanalyzing things.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.