Do you overthink even the smallest of things? Do you lose energy, time, and joy by worrying and envisioning all the worst situations? Are you always stressed out over the strangest things, often with no real payoff or to an irrational extent that never seems grounded in reality? Well, you’re definitely not alone!
Overthinking is a difficult habit to overcome, especially since it can often happen without your explicit control. You’re not making yourself overthink intentionally – it’s just happening! But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to circumvent these intrusive and anxiety-inducing thoughts.
6 WAYS TO STOP OVERTHINKING EVERYTHING AND WIN YOUR MIND BACK
1. REPLACE THE THOUGHT
Overthinking is, when you break it down, really just a collection of negative thoughts, typically spawning from one single bad thought that spirals from there. It’s not possible to tell yourself to stop thinking about something cold turkey, so do this instead – replace the harmful idea with something better.
· STEP 1
Take notice of when you start getting stuck in your overthinking. Being aware of your thoughts is your first step to overcoming them. If you can never tell when you’re slipping into bad thinking habits, how can you stop it from happening?
· STEP 2
Try some cognitive restructuring; take the thought you’re having and reframe it so that your worries begin to seem very implausible. For example, if you’re worried about getting toxic shock syndrome from a tampon despite your conscientious and safe tampon usage, consider the chances of you developing TSS at all – so rare that there’s barely a case a year in many countries!
· STEP 3
Make the thought positive. Turn the negative statement that you have into something hopeful and optimistic. For example, instead of saying that you’re stuck in a dead-end job, say that you want a better career and start working towards that. Notice the difference: one is a defeatist statement, and the other takes control.
· STEP 4
Find ways to learn. When something terrible happens, instead of focusing on how it’s going to ruin your life or on how you’ve messed up terribly, ask: “How can I fix this?” or “What lesson can I learn from this?” Focus on finding solutions, not on the problem!
· STEP 5
Ground yourself. If you’re panicking, try using grounding techniques. Look around you and take note of what your senses are experiencing. What can you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? Focus on those things until you’ve calmed your thoughts a little.
2. CHANGE THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR DAY
There could be something about your day that is affecting your ability to process or parse thoughts rationally. Typically, there are causes of stress hovering around your daily schedule that cause your nerves to be frayed, opening the door for more unhelpful overthinking. Here’s how you can change the structure of your day to reduce these effects:
· START THE DAY RIGHT
Find a positive habit to incorporate into your morning routine. You can exercise, read a book, play some tunes you love – anything that gets you in a good mood, and ready to tackle the day!
· DON’T BEGIN WITH THE NEWS
If your first step every day is to read the news, you’re likely to read a lot of potentially upsetting or unhappy stories. Keeping yourself informed is admirable, but do that later in the day – maybe during your lunch – instead of when you’re barely even properly awake.
· DO THE HARDEST THINGS FIRST
It’s effortless to want to put off difficult tasks until the last minute, but don’t do this! As you lose energy throughout the day, you will also lose motivation and focus, causing you to feel very stressed out at your inability to get things done. It also means that something you have to do could wind up being done poorly or pushed to another day.
· DO ONE TASK AT A TIME
Multitasking sounds like something impressive, but the idea that it’s a mark of a sound mind is mostly a myth. No one functions at full capacity when their focus is divided – and if you’re an overthinker, you’ll likely get even more stressed out.
· TAKE BREAKS
It’s very easy to get stuck on a task for hours when you’re very stressed out and probably overthinking its every aspect. Set the alarm once every 50 minutes, walk around or breathe for 10 minutes, and then go back to work. You’d be surprised what a short break can do for your positive thinking!
· KEEP YOUR INPUT TIGHT
In this digital age, we’re constantly absorbing information – from emails, news, social media, websites. Everything! This media barrage just gives you even more things to overthink. Reduce how much input you’re receiving in a day.
3. DON’T FALL FOR VAGUE FEARS
The most difficult thoughts to overcome are vague ones. They’re not coherent enough for you to find rational rebuttals for, but they’re just worry-inducing sufficient to spend days mulling over. Don’t fall into that trap!
The next time you start feeling anxious about something, ask yourself:
- What’s the worst that can happen in this scenario?
- What am I anxious about?
- How likely are the scenarios I’m envisioning?
- What is the specific problem triggering this stress?
- What can I do about this issue now?
This can help to contextualize your fears, helping you to see that, under all that worry and fear, there really isn’t much substance to many of them.
4. USE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
Positive affirmations can work wonders on your self-esteem. You’ve probably heard that continual insults can cause a person to embody those insults and make them real eventually. If that’s a widely accepted idea, then why not the other way around – using positive statements to bring good things into your life?
Make yourself a couple of good positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself every day in the mirror. Say them to yourself with conviction and don’t waver. It will feel a little silly at first, but before long, you will start to believe in your words and change your actions. Some examples of positive affirmations to reduce overthinking are:
- I’m capable of making intelligent decisions.
- I will learn to trust my gut instinct.
- I do not allow overwhelming thoughts to control me.
- I’m in control of my thoughts.
- My mind is my own.
- I am smart enough to choose wisely.
- I remain anchored no matter what life has in store for me.
5. PUT A DEADLINE ON DECISIONS
One of the biggest ways that overthinking can mess you up is by making it difficult to make decisions. You’re too busy overthinking to make a choice! You might:
- Second-guess every thought or instinct you have
- Spend hours researching the decision, especially to look up how bad it can get
- Attempt to plan for every single obscure outcome
- Try to please multiple people with your decision
- Become frightened that no matter what you choose, it will end up going south
It’s, unfortunately, not as simple as saying, “Alright, I’m going to stop overthinking now,” because you won’t be able to – at least, not at first. So give yourself a deadline for each decision. For example, a simple decision shouldn’t take longer than an hour, a more complicated or emotion-fueled decision should be slept on for one night only, and a life-changing decision shouldn’t take longer than a week.
Once you’ve made a choice, move on and deal with whatever comes your way. If you find yourself feeling anxious about the decision or continuing to obsess over it long after you’ve made it, dedicated 15 minutes of your day precisely to “worry time.” You may only worry about this choice during that time frame. Whenever anxious thoughts pop into your head outside of your 15 minutes, push them aside, and save them for your worry time.
6. TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH
We hear all the time that a healthy body equates to a healthy mind, and while that’s an oversimplification, it’s undoubtedly generally true. Here are some ways to take care of yourself that can help reduce overthinking and other anxiety symptoms.
Working out can relieve stress, and while it isn’t a miracle cure by any means, it proves to have positive effects on anxiety and anxiety symptoms.
Exercise also releases feel-good hormones that can help boost your mood, reducing the poor thoughts, and improving control of your mind.
· EAT WELL
Unhealthy foods can worsen symptoms of anxiety and severely decrease your positive thinking in the long run. You should focus on consuming whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins as opposed to sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Also, the health of your gut and its microbiome balance has been linked to mental health problems, too – so that’s even more reason to eat well!
· SLEEP ENOUGH
Getting good quality sleep is essential, but when you overthink everything, that’s easier said than done. It’s a vicious cycle – you need good sleep to reduce stress and anxiety, but when you’re stressed out from overthinking, it’s hard to get positive sleep!
Things that can help you fall asleep include maintaining a suitable bedroom temperature, invest in blackout curtains, using earplugs, or taking supplements and medication (but speak to your doctor first!). You should also try and wind down with relaxing activities beginning an hour before bed.
Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you’re having difficulty, know that just lying down and resting with your eyes closed is better than nothing! Relax, breathe deeply, and let yourself lie quietly instead of getting up and burning more energy.
It’s okay to feel worried and anxious about your life. It’s okay to be afraid. And, really, it’s okay if overthinking is something you do now and then. But when it starts to take over your entire life, and when you stop being able to control your thoughts, it’s a severe problem.
Remember, you have control over your mind, your thoughts, and your actions. It’s not easy, but with a little effort and positive thinking, you can stop overthinking everything and rewind your mind from yourself.