4 Ways to stop overthinking everything
Are you a chronic over-thinker? If you are, I’m sure you didn’t need to take very long to answer that question. Overthinking, or constantly dissecting and scrutinizing every thought in your head, every move that you’ve made or will make in the future, can leave you frozen and unwilling or unable to take any action in your life at all.
Overthinking glues you to a certain mental state, reworking in your brain something that’s already happened, something over which you have no power to change at all, or, leaves you stuck worrying about a future decision. But all hope is not lost!
There are a few simple changes you can make, right now, to help relax and stop overthinking everything. Read on for all the details!
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Overthinking isn’t always bad
But, why do I overthink everything? If you are wondering why you are constantly overthinking, I want to quickly note that overthinking isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, rehashing past actions and decisions can be a powerful tool when it comes to learning and growing from our mistakes. It can be a form of self-reflection that might help you see a past situation from a new point of view.
Overthinking can also aid in problem-solving and even lend support to the decision making process. The issue arises, however, when thinking about a situation devolves into dwelling on it, or taking the time to process some healthy self-reflections regresses into obsessing about things now fully beyond your control.
Overthinking becomes an issue when it lends no real purpose to your life. When overthinking is no longer serving you in any way, it’s time to give it up.
What causes overthinking?
Overthinking is a very common issue, especially among young to middle-aged adults, and even more so in women. Overthinking may have its roots in self-doubt or a lack of healthy self-esteem, it may be tied to stress and anxiety, or it may even be the result of past trauma or negative early life experiences.
Sometimes identifying the cause can help put an end to the behavior, and toward that end, it’s worth putting in some time to do the inner work to figure out the source of your overthinking. No matter the cause, however, overthinking puts a damper on enjoying everyday life, can affect sleep cycles and sleep quality, and, when left unchecked, can even develop into depression. Here’s how to relax and stop overthinking everything.
How to break the circle of overthinking
Overthinking can be an annoying and a downright problematic habit that can lead to major stress, anxiety and even mental illness issues down the line. And while overthinking things isn’t a pattern you can turn off all at once, the good news is that there are definite steps you can take to stop being an overthinker, and you can get started today.
Try a few suggestions from this list and see what feels best for you, your personality and your situation.
Recognize when you’re overthinking
This might sound simple, especially if it feels like you’re always overthinking things, but hear me out. Taking the time to acknowledge that you’re doing something, no matter if it’s overthinking, overeating or oversleeping, is the first step to making real change.
You must be acutely aware of when you lapse into the habit of overthinking. Look at the situation around you that has put you in this mental state and make a note of it. Don’t get angry or frustrated with yourself, simply acknowledge when you’re overthinking and let the thought go. Knowing what triggers your overthinking will help you as you take steps to pull yourself out of it.
Practice being mindful
Being mindful is the ability to practice the power of being fully present. It is being in control of your own experience. Being mindful is like a superpower that allows you to be fully aware of your present situation, to focus your attention and step away from your experience in order to fully understand your feelings, thoughts and emotions. Sounds pretty powerful, hey?
Incorporating mindfulness is easy when there are so many opportunities each day to step back and bring your attention to your present moment, all you need to do is make the effort to get it done.
Don’t think of it as one more thing on your to-do list, rather, think of being mindful as a way to help understand your own feelings and emotions in a non-judgemental way, to process information and become more present in your own life.
Try relaxation techniques
Deep breathing in itself is a powerful relaxation technique, so immediately following your mindful intervention, you can continue with some deep belly breaths. Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, uses the diaphragm to fully fill your lungs with oxygen. Inhale through your nose, allowing your belly to inflate, and exhale through your mouth while tightening your abdominals.
This is a powerful exercise to help you relax, de-stress and get out of your own head. Take some time to sit with your thoughts or meditate while actively trying to quiet your thoughts- both of these techniques can help you be more in the moment and relieve stress.
If sitting still doesn’t quite do it for you, think about some purposeful movement to help curb your overthinking. Take up a yoga practice – you can do it alone in your own home, or hit a local studio and get the added benefit of some social time as well. It’s not just yoga though- you can also try tai-chi, some relaxing stretching, or just go for a walk – it’s the movement that counts.
Stress-management and relaxation techniques can be powerful tools when it comes to dealing with chronic overthinking. Incorporating these practices daily can help you balance your mind and body. Try to do something that relaxes you every day to effectively combat the stress and anxiety that triggers overthinking.
Do a brain dump
There’s something very cathartic about putting a pen to paper and letting your worries flow through you. Maybe you’re not a pen and paper person but you’d rather type them out- whatever works!
Writing down your concerns and feelings not only helps you let go of those negative thoughts, but also literally frees up valuable space in your brain for, well, more productive things. This one is a good option to try right before bed, if you tend to be an all-night, can’t fall asleep type of overthinker. Write out whatever it is keeping you up- your to-do list, your grocery list, the kid’s pick up schedule, anything!
Lastly- make sure you keep it up! Long-term solutions to relax and stop overthinking everything are about persistence and patience.