5 Simple Steps to Stop Overthinking!
Everyone has some degree of anxiety. The type, intensity, and frequency may change depending on your surroundings and emotional state. Overthinking often occurs when your mind gets stuck on a negative thought or question repeatedly.
Do you often find yourself overanalyzing situations and questioning yourself? Do you dread going to work or school because it feels like the entire world is against you? If yes, this article is for you! Overthinking negatively affects your mental health and quality of life in many ways. It can eat away at your self-confidence, lower your productivity at work or school, trigger unnecessary stress responses, and more. To break the cycle of overthinking and regain control of your mind and emotions, follow these 5 simple steps that anyone can do.
What is overthinking?
Overthinking is a normal human reaction to new or challenging situations. On the other hand, it can be an unnecessary waste of time and emotional resources. Overthinking is when you engage in negative, stressful thinking that doesn’t bring you any peace or happiness. It can create anxiety, stress and depression as well. In general, overthinking is an unproductive form of thinking. However, there may be certain situations where overthinking may appear as a necessary reaction to a particular event or circumstance in your life that has caused you distress
What are the symptoms of overthinking?
Overthinking is linked to psychological problems like depression and anxiety. Overthinking likely causes your mental health to decline, and as your mental health declines, you are more likely to overthink. It's a vicious downward spiral.
A prolonged overthinking is linked to psychological problems like depression and anxiety. Overthinking causes mental health to decline, resulting in sadness, loneliness, and feelings of emptiness. Overthinking symptoms also include physical conditions such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
What are the types of overthinking?
Overthinking can be categorised into two types – i.e., based on the past and future.
Overthinkers spend most of their time ruminating about past events or worrying about the future.
It would be best if you didn’t mistake overthinking for healthy problem-solving or self-reflection. Problem-solving is thinking about a difficult situation from multiple viewpoints when necessary, whereas overthinking is dwelling perpetually on the problems.
Overthinking is also altogether different from self-reflection. Self-reflection is healthy introspection and involves learning and gaining perspective about the self. On the contrary, overthinking is thinking about everything you don’t have control over and then dwelling on how bad you feel about it. Unlike self-reflection, overthinking does not serve any purpose, nor does it help develop any insight into the situation.
The time you spend in deep thought doesn’t really matter, though, if unproductive. Hence, the time spent overthinking won’t enhance your life, regardless of whether it's for 10 minutes or 10 hours, as time once gone, never comes back.
How to overcome overthinking?
It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in overthinking. With just a little effort, you can adjust your thinking and take steps to replace your self-destructive thoughts with productive and positive thoughts. You can develop a healthy mindset by taking an approach to self-reflection and problem-solving. Doing so will reclaim your brain power, energy, and time.
Before you stop overthinking, you need to understand why and when you are overthinking.
Here are 7 telltale signs of overthinking –
- You relive embarrassing moments in my mind over and over again.
- You wish you hadn’t done that.
- You keep thinking and reminding yourself of your mistakes
- You constantly keep worrying
- You have trouble falling asleep
- You constantly apologise and are nervous
- You keep coming back to the words that you have said.
How to avoid overthinking?
Prolonged hours of overthinking not only cost you time but also take a toll on your confidence, mental and physical health, and relationships and have detrimental effects on your personal and professional life.
Let us discuss how to stop overthinking with these 5 simple steps –
1. Practice meditation –
Your mind is like a monkey! Yes, Buddhist monks call this the “monkey mind” because just as a monkey swings from branch to branch, your mind jumps from thoughts to thoughts. The human mind hates being still and is overly active, loves to analyse past events, is eager to solve puzzles, and calculates infinite future possibilities.
Suppose a person comes to you and tells you not to think about a pink horse or a flying goat; guess what your mind turns to? Simply telling your mind to stop overthinking won’t work. Your mind keeps on tricking you with what it wants, and unless you master its functioning, it will keep on bringing in flashes of flying goats, pink horses, and an alien spacecraft crash on your roof.
This is why you need to redirect your thoughts. Meditation gives your brain the space to think freely and calmly. We turn more mindful as we meditate and become conscious of the thoughts that are turning up in our minds. While meditating, we acknowledge thoughts and their presence and let them drift away without allowing any thought to overshadow others.
Several scientific studies have shown that practicing meditation can promote mindfulness and psychological stresses such as anxiety and depression. When we meditate, we embark on an inward journey, focus on what we feel, and live in the present moment. Observing your mental patterns allows you to recognise which ones are counterproductive and bring forth a sense of realisation. You can also practice gratitude, self-love, loving kindness, and mindfulness meditation.
2. Practice journaling –
One of the best ways to clear your mind is to write it down on blank paper. Getting your thoughts out on a plain piece of paper can help you stop overthinking. You can write each point as it flows in your mind, or you can sum it all up and just let it all out at once. Allow each idea to emerge naturally and, as it forms, write it down without judging.
At first, journaling might seem a hassle, a little awkward, or even your loud mind may find it difficult to bring yourself to write even the first few words on the paper. But, gradually, it will become an activity as normal as reading an article. As you clear youmind,t, you will find it easier and feel much lighter later. Studies show that when journaling becomes a daily habit, it becomes a great tool for managing stress and reduces the chances of overthinking. As your stress decreases, you’ll get a clear mind with which to weigh your thoughts and see which are worth your time and which aren’t.
Journalling can eventually also help you build constructive thoughts, organise scattered memories, and improve your overall mental and physical health. It can help increase your attention span and focus. As you match your thoughts with your handwriting and speed of writing, your mind turns calmer and returns to live in the present moment.
You must have heard of the famous book (a diary compilation) – ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank. Well, it was indeed a collection of her daily diary entries. Give it a try; it will definitely bring a calm and overwhelming feeling.
3. Talk to a supportive person –
You can always turn to your ‘go-to’ person. Find a person you can confide in. Invite someone you trust for a coffee or tea and let go of all that has been weighing on your mind. Confess that you're second-guessing every decision; every moment is tormenting to you, and ask them to help you gain better control over your thoughts by pointing out when they notice you ruminating over done deals.
Ask them, “what would you have done had you been in my place?” take a mental note of the proceeding.
However, remember that people may help you from afar; you are the only one who has to fight your own battles. So, the best strategy is to keep your intimate circle small, so you don’t get overwhelmed by thoughts and overburden yourself with suggestions. As too many cooks can spoil the broth, too many viewpoints create a roadblock to making a decision.
4. Let it go –
“Do you feel cold and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failure's all you've known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go.”
There Linkin Park has the solution for you!
On a serious note, fix your mind and let all other irrelevant things go and once you have made a final decision, create a schedule, stick to it, and move on.
Get rid of all the negativity in the first place. You can make a list of things mentally or physically that you wish to let go of and write it down on a slip of paper, hurl it up and toss it into the fireplace, or tear it up and scatter it in the wind. Take a warm bath, and let all your negative thoughts, feelings and emotions drain away with the water.
Time and tide wait for none. So, all you can do is move forward with your clean, refreshed self and put things far away that don’t have any productive outcome.
The key here is in believing the healing process and remaining consistent with them. Practice different techniques, and give them time to work, and gradually you will notice how things fall back right into place, where they should be.
5. Don’t think of things beyond your control –
The slave-turned-stoic ‘Epictetus’ argues about this and says that there is very little that we control, and the only thing that we have control over is our mind, thoughts, actions, and emotions.
We must acknowledge that there are some things in our hands; likewise, there are things that are not under our control. Thus, it is pointless to worry about things that we don’t have immediate authority over.
As the legendary Japanese Ronin, Miyamoto Musashi, in his famous book of 21 life principles, “The Book of Five Rings,” stated – “Do not regret what you have done.”
Living in the moment is the greatest antidote and the key to learning how to stop overthinking. Detach your mind from things that have already happened – that cannot be changed. You can’t, I can’t, nor can the universe!
Take lessons, learn from them, and come clean about what you could have done and how you can stop yourself from repeating anything that will further strain your mind. Living in the moment doesn’t mean burying your negative emotions or leaving them unanswered, but understanding and coming to peace with the fact that there are things that can be done finely if we immerse ourselves in this present moment.
When you’re feeling anxious, dig deeper, face your larger fears, beat them, become aware of their existence and take control.
Overthinking is a beatable habit, which can, in its retreat, teach you how powerful your faculties are over your own self. However, if these steps are not helpful at all, you must, without any further delay, seek professional help; controlling overthinking or treatment of overthinking can save you from different mental health issues.
By controlling overthinking, you are helping yourself and saving your precious time, energy and mind from stressing out. It is something you can control and change; therefore, start changing yourself and your life.