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20 Ways to Stop Overthinking
20 Ways to Stop Overthinking are my tips to help you! Do you overthink things? I know that I do, and I’m pretty darn good at it. I have a crown to prove it, too. Well, maybe not a crown. I’m more of a tiara kind of person. But you still get the idea.
If you are an overthinker, you’ll want to read this! Overthinking is an unhealthy habit to have, and I’m here to help you break that habit. Overthinking is caused by a variety of things like fear, intolerance to uncertainty, trauma and abuse, anxiety, and perfectionism.
Overthinking can take a serious toll on relationships because it is so easy to assume the worst and jump to conclusions. This can lead to arguments and unnecessary conflicts with people you care about. This can lead to behaviors like constantly needing reassurance or attempting to control other people. These kinds of things are harmful to healthy relationships and can turn them into toxic relationships.
Signs that you’re overthinking
- An inability to think about anything else
- Being unable to relax
- Constantly feeling worried or anxious
- Fixating on things outside of your control
- Feeling mentally exhausted
- Having lots of negative thoughts
- Replaying a situation or experience over and over in your mind
- Second guessing your decisions
- Thinking of al the worst-case scenarios
How to stop overthinking
Are you ready to stop overthinking and break that habit? Here are my 20 Ways to Stop Overthinking!
Ask yourself, “is this a productive thought?”
Don’t stew on the answer. It is a yes or no question, nothing else. Start there, and if the answer is no, remind yourself that this is not a productive thought. A wise person once said that our brain is the biggest muscle in our body, and just like when we workout and train other muscles, we can do the same thing with our brains.
Remind yourself that your thoughts are just that, thoughts. Thoughts are not facts. Thoughts are not always truthful, accurate, or realistic. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if the thought is productive or not. By doing this, you’re identifying negative thoughts and once identified, you can start to change them.
Put things in perspective
I was in therapy once, complaining about something and the therapist asked me how often this specific issue happens in any given day, then any given week, and month. When I thought about it (the answer was a whopping ten minutes a day), it wasn’t nearly as often as it felt like in my head. This helped me put the issue in perspective, one that was rooted in reality, not just how it felt to me.
Sometimes we need to do exactly this with ourselves and put things in perspective. What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is it that the worst will actually happen? Is the worst really that bad? What does that mean for me?
When we take the time to judge the real importance of a situation or problem in relation to everything else, we are taking control by keeping it in perspective. That is a healthy way of looking at a problem.
Know your body rhythm, and schedule your activities accordingly
This means going to bed at the same time each night, getting plenty of sleep, eating at the same time daily (and healthy meals), exercising daily, even just 30 minutes.
Your body will adjust to whatever schedule works for you and your life. You just want to be as consistent as possible. Schedule activities that fit into whatever your body rhythm is. If you normally wake up at 11am, don’t schedule an appointment for 8am. You’ll throw your body rhythm off, and it can be very difficult to get back on track.
Focus on your five senses
- Acknowledge five things you see around you right now.
- Acknowledge four things you can touch right now.
- Acknowledge three things you can hear right now.
- Acknowledge two things you can smell right now.
- Acknowledge one thing you can taste right now.
This is a simple and very effective way to regain control of your mind by bringing you back to the present through relying on your five senses. It is an amazing grounding technique.
Surrender the need to be perfect
Being perfect is simply impossible. The need to be perfect and holding yourself to impossibly high standards only guarantees one thing: failure. That’s the only thing that comes out of being a perfectionist.
Signs you’re a perfectionist:
- You have a fear of failure
- You’re self-critical
- You have obsessive thinking
- You seek constant reassurance
- You set unattainable goals
A perfectionist often is insecure and anxious about falling short of their impossibly high standards, and lives in fear of shame and humiliation.
Setting real and attainable goals is essential! Set goals by writing them down, and a deadline, and the steps necessary to reach your goals. Detail in writing exactly how you need to proceed to reach these real and attainable goals in your life. Once you reach one, celebrate it! Shout it from the rooftop and be proud of this accomplishment. You deserve it!
It should also be noted that you need to be patient and forgiving of yourself. Not every day is going to go exactly as you planned. That’s ok! It really is. Think about how much you did accomplish today.
Sometimes just acknowledging that the kids and pets are fed and the house didn’t burn down is a serious accomplishment. That’s awesome. You can do other things tomorrow, but be proud of what you did today too.
Accept that you can’t change the past
No matter how much you dwell on the past, you can’t change it. But you absolutely can use the past as a learning experience and choose to be better each day from there. Focus on the past as a learning experience that you can grow from instead of dwelling on whatever has happened.
Also keep in mind that we have all made mistakes, made bad decisions, or have a skeleton or two hanging around in the closet that we don’t want others to see. You aren’t the only one! Nobody is perfect.
Accept that you can’t predict or control the future
Accepting this fact allows you to live in the present moment instead of worrying about things you have no control over. The present is just that, it is a gift you’ll never experience in the same way twice. Enjoy it!
Exercise not only helps to reduce the risk of some major medical conditions, it will boost your energy, improve your mood, and mental health. Mood and mental health are easily affected by overthinking. Exercise can also reduce anxiety and depression.
Go outside and go for a 30 minute walk each day. Exercise doesn’t need to be elaborate or complicated. You don’t need to join a gym. Just go outside and get moving. That’s it!
Accept that you don’t have to understand everything
It really is perfectly okay that you don’t have the answers to everything. Because nobody does. You aren’t missing anything by not having all the answers, and it doesn’t make you less of a person.
Trying to understand everything and have all the answers takes you away from the present though, and that can rob you of the joy of what is happening in your life right now. You owe it to yourself to live in the moment, not in the past, and not worrying about things you can’t control.
Repeat phrases to calm and center yourself
Sometimes you just have to talk to yourself. Repeat phrases like, “relax”, “I am safe”, “settle/be still”, or any other phrases that will help remind you that things are okay.
My personal favorite is, “I have done this before, and I can do it again.” This reminds me that I can handle things because I always have in the past and made it through.
Do only one thing at a time
Focus on one task. Just one. Once you’ve accomplished it, move on to the next thing. I have to make a list of things I want to do each day, then start checking them off the list as I go. Because if I’m not focusing on one single task at a time, my brain starts running off in way too many directions that aren’t healthy, and I don’t actually accomplish anything.
Acknowledge the problem
Acknowledge the problem, but focus more on the potential solutions instead of just the problem. The biggest problem with overthinking is that we dwell on the problem instead of the solution.
Give yourself a moment to acknowledge the problem, it is there, it is present, and it is absolutely a problem.
Now that you’ve acknowledged the problem, let’s start working on a solution. Focus your time and energy there. When you shift toward finding a useful solution, you are developing critical thinking skills that will not only serve you better and are healthy, you are helping yourself break the habit of overthinking, and it will happen less often as you focus on solutions versus problems.
Consider what you’re depriving yourself of by overthinking
What happens when you overthink? You take yourself out of the present because you are so focused on the future, problems, and everything that can go wrong. Overthinking is the thief of joy.
Think about the positive things you’re missing out on by being so busy overthinking. You’re likely missing out on laughter, being present and spontaneous, having fun, amazing moments with family and friends, creating wonderful memories.
Are these things really worth missing due to overthinking? If the answer is no, it is time to really take that into consideration and break the habit of overthinking.
Consider what you might feel if you stopped overthinking
What if you stopped overthinking and you felt happy? What if you found you laugh more, have more energy for relationships in your life? What else could you feel and enjoy if you stopped overthinking?
Take some time and really consider the positive results that can happen if you stop overthinking. I think you’ll be amazed at the answers!
Ask yourself, “What is within my control? What isn’t?”
When I was in high school, there was a police officer that worked there. He drew a picture of a big circle and a little circle inside of it. I remember making the joke that it was a donut. A cop drawing a picture of a donut was amusing to me at that age. But this is something I still remember to this day, because it has stuck with me, and is such a useful tool.
The big circle represented things that were not within my control. The small circle represents the things that I can control. When I am struggling with this, I will draw those same two circles, a big one and a small one, then write down the things I can and can’t control within the appropriate circle.
This helps me to put things in perspective. I need to be worrying about the things in the small circle, the ones that I can control. Things in the big circle I don’t need to worry about, because I cannot control those, so worrying about them is useless.
Compartmentalize worry time
Give yourself 15 minutes to worry, then it is time to move on. Set a timer on this one. That way you ensure you stick to that 15 minutes, and not a second more. If you absolutely have to take the time to worry, do it. Just don’t overdo it.
Mindfulness is a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surroundings. This is done without judgment of yourself. Remember that the world isn’t black and white. Be patient with yourself.
This is an excellent way to be present in the moment and let go of past and future thoughts. Don’t waste your time and energy on regrets. Focus on the present.
- Take a seat in a place that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, choose a short amount of time, like 5-10 minutes.
- Notice your body and what you’re feeling.
- Feel your breath, and what that feels like to you.
- Notice when your mind starts wandering off and taking you out of the present.
- Be kind to yourself when your mind wanders. But also bring yourself back to the present.
Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing and meditation can be an excellent tool for redirecting your thoughts into a more positive direction. The goal here is not to clear your mind. It is meant to focus on something and practice redirecting your focus when your mind starts to wander in an unhealthy direction.
Take a class on improvisation
Taking a class will allow you to practice being both creative and spontaneous in a supportive setting. This can help you to let go of the need to constantly plan things out, and force you to focus on being in the moment. Doing so in a healthy and supportive environment will also help you to feel safer practicing this.
Help someone else
Helping others can improve your self confidence, self esteem, and self awareness. It also reduces symptoms of depression. This can also improve social interaction, be a great distraction from overthinking, and may put your problems (or perceived problems) into a better perspective.
Acts of kindness and helping others are also contagious. We can all use some more kindness in our lives. Let it start with you!
20 Ways to Stop Overthinking Discussion
Overthinking is one of the most destructive habits that you can have in your life, in my opinion. I speak this from experience, because once I decided to break that habit, the results were simply amazing to me. I often wondered why I tolerated this habit for far longer than I should have.
Have these tips helped you to start breaking the habit of overthinking? Is overthinking a problem in your life? What kinds of issues or challenges have you faced because of overthinking, and how were you able to break that cycle in your life? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!