Are you a chronic over-thinker? Even if it is the smallest thing, do you tend to overanalyze it and break it apart until it’s actually bigger than it is? When you hear positive news, do you obsess about the potential negatives and worry so much that the news is actually causing you anxiety and stress? If so, this level of overthinking can cause low motivation, decreased productivity, and can even lead to depression. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to get out of your head. Here are 8 tips to stop overthinking.
You May Be An Overthinker If You…
Have a Hard Time Making Decisions
Continuously Beat Yourself Up Over The Past
Care Too Much About What Others Think
How To Stop Overthinking
1 – Calm Your Nerves
Overthinking can wreak havoc on our stress and anxiety. In turn, our stress and anxiety can fuel our overthinking. One feeds into another. One way to break this loop is to learn how to calm your nerves. If you can calm your nerves, it’s much easier to think clearly and logically about a situation instead of letting your mind run wild on you.
Here are a couple of things I do to calm my mind and stop overthinking:
Mindfulness means to be present in the current moment. It means to slow down and engage with your surroundings. A great way to do this is to rely on your senses. What things are you smelling right now? What colors do you see? Can you feel anything physical such as your chair or clothing? What can you hear? The point of this is to get your mind out of the past, out of the future, and back to the now. Mindfulness is an excellent way to calm your nerves and get out of your head.
Get Out In Nature
Another strategy I use to calm my nerves is to get out in nature. Nature and the outdoors have a way of calming us, so get outside as much as you can. It can be as simple as going for a walk on your lunch break, sitting on a park bench, or even going out on your porch for a minute. You do not have to go camping in the woods for a week to benefit from the calming power of the outdoors. The next time you are overthinking or stressed, do what I do and take a few minutes to get outside. Go a step further and practice mindfulness while you do.
When you catch yourself overthinking, start by calming your nerves. There are many ways to bring yourself peace but I suggest starting with mindfulness and getting out in nature.
2 – Challenge Your Beliefs To Stop Overthinking
Overthinking often involves creating beliefs that are most likely not true. For instance, “I’m going to embarrass myself when I speak at the meeting this week,” or “I know they think I’m an idiot for saying that.” How about, “I just know my kids will get hurt when they go on that field trip.” Whatever the situation, an overthinker will find it easy to create these false beliefs and run worst-case scenarios in their head. A powerful strategy to stop overthinking is to challenge these beliefs and scenarios.
When you find yourself overthinking, take a step back and ask yourself these questions:
How likely will the worst-case scenario happen?
On a scale from 1 to 10, rate how likely it is that whatever you are overthinking about will happen. Is it really a 10 when it comes to your kids getting hurt on a field trip?
Can I be 100% sure this is true?
More than likely you aren’t anything close to being 100% sure your beliefs are true. Are you 100% sure they think you are an idiot for what you said?
Will this matter a year from now?
I always ask myself this question if something is bothering me or if I’m overthinking. It helps me to view things differently. If this won’t matter a year from now, why the heck am I thinking too much about it now?
Asking these questions will help you challenge your beliefs, instead of just having your thoughts continuously reinforce them. Stop overthinking by challenging your beliefs.
3 – Flip Your Perspective
Stop overthinking by flipping your perspective. Start thinking about the best possible outcomes rather than the worst case. I know that when I start overthinking, I usually think of the worst possible things that can go wrong. Once I catch myself, I immediately flip my perspective.
Here are a couple of ways to change your perspective:
Ask Reframing Questions
One way to flip your perspective when you are overthinking is to ask yourself questions that will help you reframe the situation. Ask yourself, “What is something positive that could happen?”, or “What ways did that experience go really well?”, or “What is another way of looking at this?” You’ll be surprised by how powerful these types of questions will switch your thinking about a situation.
Look at the Big Picture
Overthinking causes us to get into the minutia of it all. We obsess about little things that in the grand scheme of things, really don’t matter. Instead, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Get out of the weeds and back onto the porch.
4 -Don’t Talk It Out (With Other Overthinkers)
Talking things out with friends or family to come to a solution to a problem is fine. Dissecting the minor details and revisiting the negative aspect of a problem with others, on the other hand, will only cause further distress. One of the worst things you can do for your overthinking is to confide in another overthinker, or worse, a Debbie Downer.
If you want to talk to someone, find someone who will help you change your perspective or get you to look at things more practically. If you know a person like that, go to them when you struggle with overthinking. Otherwise, consider getting a therapist or life coach to help you work through it.
5 – Stay Busy To Stop Overthinking
Doing something that takes up physical and mental energy will pull you out of your obsessive thinking. Get out and go for a brisk walk, practice Yoga, or hit the gym. Put a puzzle together or play a board game with a friend. If you are laying in bed at night, and can’t sleep because you can’t stop overthinking, get up and do something like read a book. Sleep is important but if you are not going to be able to get rest anyway, you may as well do something that puts your mind at ease.
Here are the best activities to stop overthinking
Paint or Draw
Being creative is an excellent way to get out of your head. Can’t draw or paint? Even better. That means it will take up more of your focus just putting pen or brush to paper.
Not only will exercise keep your mind busy, but it will also get those positive endorphins flowing. You’ll feel better physically, and emotionally.
Use a “Coping” Box
I saw this ingenious idea in the article: 43 Small Things People With Depression Do Every Day To Feel Good. Basically, you put together a self-care box with lots of little things you enjoy. Candies, fidget spinners, coloring books, games, doodles… basically things that will keep you busy and give you a little bit of joy.
6 – Get To The Bottom Of It
Stop Overthinking by getting to the bottom of it. Everyone overthinks, but if you struggle with this constantly, it may be time to take a deeper look. Did something catastrophic happen in your past? Do you have a track record of negative things happening? Something like this can definitely cause you to overthink a little too much.
Digging deep into an issue and getting to the root will help you to understand what is truly going on so that you can address it. It can be difficult to do this on your own, so it may be beneficial to seek out a therapist or counselor who can help you work through the underlying issues.
7 – Let Go of Control
Letting go of control is one of the hardest things to do, but you must work on it. You don’t have control over every circumstance, so do your best not to dwell on it. Trying to control things just causes more frustration, anxiety, and fear. I always use the phrase, “If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.” This is true my friends. We may not understand everything that happens, but there is a reason for it. Let it go and let the Universe handle it. Go with the flow.
Here are a few things you can do to let go of control to stop overthinking:
Think of the Energy It’s Costing You
How much unnecessary energy is it costing you to try to hold on to control? It is emotionally taxing to want everything to go the way you want it to. All that energy and focus can be going elsewhere.
Give Yourself a Pass
Stop putting pressure on yourself to control it all. Give yourself a pass and show some self-compassion. Realize that there are some situations that are completely out of your hands. You can only do what you can do.
Learn to Accept the Way Things Are
Learn to accept that there are some things that are out of your control. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you like it or agree, it just means that you accept it is out of your hands.
8 – Use a Stop Word or Phrase To Stop Overthinking
One of the most powerful ways I personally use to stop overthinking and stop negative intrusive thoughts in their tracks is to use a stop word. My word is “STOP”. I will literally tell myself to stop in my head or out loud. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and stop yourself. It’s like dealing with bickering siblings (if you have children you understand). When enough is enough, you say “Stop!” or “Enough!”
This technique sounds too simple to work but it is powerful. Decide on a stop word and use it when you are obsessing. What will you tell yourself when you catch yourself overthinking? Be firm when you use your word, then immediately think of something else in your mind.
Here are some other examples;
- “Enough already.”
- “Let it go.”
- “Get out of your head!”
If you obsess and want to stop overthinking, try these strategies. Calm your nerves, challenge your beliefs, flip your perspective, and avoid talking to the wrong people. You can also stay busy, getting to the bottom of your overthinking, letting go of control, and using a stop word.
Which of these strategies will you try? Let me know in the comments.