9 Easy Ways You Can Stop Overthinking

It’s easy to overthink things. We often face problems, which are usually associated with uncertainty, and overthinking is a way to handle that uncertainty.

When overthinking becomes problematic, it means that over time our thoughts become negative or cause anxiety. People who overthink tend to focus on the past, dwell on the future, and over-analyze everything around them.

People who overthink might find themselves engaging in one of these types of behaviors: worrying about common events far more than they should (such as an upcoming job interview), analyzing how others perceive you or what they would say about your appearance, behavior, etc., dwelling on small details about why you failed at something in the past instead of focusing on how you can improve, constantly replaying events over and over in your head or agonizing over what you could’ve done differently.

Common overthinking themes include:

  • Worrying about falling ill.
  • Losing a loved one.
  • Not knowing what they want to do with their life.
  • Regretting past decisions.
  • Romantic misunderstandings, all-consuming fears of failure, and criticism.

Typical scenarios for people who overthink: overanalyzing past events and coming up with the perfect scenario (for example, how you would have acted if something bad had been done to you); dwelling on how others perceive you or your mistakes from the past that will never change.

How overthinking affects people: In the short term, over might seem harmless – it lets us overthink things over and over again, driving ourselves crazy in the process. It might seem like it’s helping us to avoid making mistakes or experiencing unpleasant situations, but overthinking serves to undermine us at every turn.

Over time, overthinking can start harming your life. Overthinking can affect relationships because you overanalyze what people mean when they say something; it can be hard for them to keep up with your mind-reading abilities! You become easily distracted by the thoughts you’re creating inside your head (even if they are negative), which hinders your ability to take action and make progress towards achieving goals.

We Overthink Everything

The past, the present, and what we think will happen in the future. We overthink even when we already have a plan to deal with whatever we’re overthinking about. When overthinking goes on for extended periods, it can lead to stress or anxiety, which will cause you to overthink even more as you worry about how much overthinking is affecting your health.

Anxiety causes overthinking as part of its general spread of intrusive thoughts. If left unchecked, those thoughts may take over your mind and form obsessive loops that reinforce themselves through anxiety-related physical responses such as increased breathing or heart rate. Rather than pick apart why you’re anxious and make your head swim with more negative possibilities, focus on getting your heart rate down and breathing deeply.

When overthinking impacts sleep, it can be difficult to stop the cycle because being overstimulated from overthinking makes it even harder to wind down. You overthink everything that happened during the day, how much you have to do tomorrow, and why you can’t fall asleep. See a pattern? The best way to break this overthinking cycle is through practice – practice going to bed earlier, so your body gets used to falling asleep without overthinking; practice relaxing before going into situations where you fear overthinking may happen; and for those who overthink about their overthinking as a result of over-engagement of their brains, try using meditation as a way to break that overthinking cycle.

If overthinking has become a very serious problem, it’s best to look for professional help and talk about it with others who may also overthink – they’ve likely experienced the same things you have and can sympathize.

How Overthinking Can Affect Mental and Physical Health

If you’re overthinking, it might be time for a break.

Research shows that overthinking is not a medical term, but overthinking can have real impacts on our well-being.

Often overthinking involves focusing on the negative — rehashing the past, dwelling on bad experiences, or worrying about the future. These thoughts can snowball into bigger, more extreme negative thinking over time.

According to Ashley Carroll, a psychologist with Parkland Memorial Hospital, overthinking becomes a problem when it starts to affect everyday life. “When those thoughts impact their ability to function from day-to-day, and they just feel as though they’re overwhelmed by them,” she said.

Overcoming overthinking can help increase happiness and lead to a healthier mindset, but stepping away from overthinking can be a tough task. If overthinking is something you struggle with, a few techniques might help ease the process.

Read More: How Does Memory Work and How to Forget Things On Purpose?

First, realize overthinking isn’t necessarily bad on its own. “In certain circumstances overthinking can be beneficial,” Carroll said. Sometimes overthinking about a decision helps us conclude we’re more comfortable within the long run instead of jumping into action without considering all of our options first. Engaging in critical thinking and problem-solving skills also makes for an effective leader or manager at work or home.

But overthinking becomes problematic when it starts to interfere with everyday life — making it hard to concentrate on work or school or making it difficult to be present at the moment. Overthinking also becomes problematic when overthinking turns negative, Carroll said. Negative overthinking can often spiral into other types of negative thoughts, like worry or anxiety over something that hasn’t happened yet.

Carroll says overthinking can sometimes be a reaction to an event or situation you’re uncertain about, and by overthinking, we try to make sense of it.

“A lot of times if somebody’s overthinking, part of (the concern) is trying to make sure they understand why this has occurred — what do they think might happen next,” she said. “Rather than maybe go with their initial gut reaction as soon as they get that first impression.”

Overcoming overthinking might not be easy, but there are a few tricks that can help ease overthinking over time.

Here are 9 steps you can take to stop overthinking and move forward:

1) Focus on what’s in your control right now.

While it may be tempting to concern yourself with what might happen next or obsess about a decision you made in the past, doing so only feeds anxiety and prevents you from being productive today. Taking action is step number one when learning to stop overthinking; no amount of thought will change anything if it isn’t practiced.

2) Deal with problems as they arise rather than wasting time worrying about them.

When you think about all the bad things that could happen, you are either dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Neither of these is productive thoughts; they stop you from living life at the moment. Instead, deal with problems when they occur and stop worrying about them before they even happen.

3) Don’t dwell on your mistakes.

We have all made mistakes in our lives, but dwelling on them will not change anything. Making a mistake is not the end of the world- it does not define you as a person, nor does it signify failure. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and this gives you no reason to stop trying because doing so only means that others have won at life! Learn from your mistakes instead of being stuck in regretful thoughts.

4) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

It’s important to stop overthinking all of the little things that may be tripping you up in life, but often this is easier said than done. Stop worrying about what others are thinking or if you sent that email yet, stop dwelling on smaller issues and get on with your day. Avoid these thoughts by developing a greater appreciation for yourself and your life while simultaneously not expecting others to behave in certain ways.

5) Talk it out.

If something is bothering you, make an effort to talk it out rather than ruminating on it alone. Just talking to another person can help ease feelings of stress, frustration, or guilt- especially if they are someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

Read More: Amygdala Hijack: Everything You Should Know About it

6) Take a break and distract yourself.

Sometimes the best way to stop overthinking is to stop thinking altogether! Distracting yourself can also be helpful; whether this means taking time to relax (e.g., listening to music), exercising (which boosts endorphins and decreases stress), spending quality time with friends/family, or even planning something fun for yourself- doing so will stop you from dwelling on negative thoughts and allow you enjoy what’s important in your life! Taking a break from it all can help you stop worrying about certain problems or decisions, which in turn will make your life easier.

7) Avoid other people who think negatively and dwell on their problems.

If someone you know tends to stop overthinking, avoid spending time with them if possible. Although it can be fun to vent about problems and get advice from friends, the constant flow of negativity could make your problems seem worse than they are, leading you to stop overthinking for nothing! Instead, spend time around people who have a positive outlook on life and refrain from dwelling on their problems. Also, consider setting boundaries when speaking with certain people in your life so that you don’t become too comfortable sharing things that may cause you pain or trouble in the future.

8) Show yourself self-compassion.

Particularly when trying to stop overthinking, it is important to show yourself kindness when confronting mistakes from the past or stop overthinking things at the moment. Try not to let your inner critic stop you from doing what needs to be done or beating yourself up when you don’t live up to your standards! If you are too hard on yourself, stopping overthinking can become even more difficult.

9) Practice mindfulness and meditation.

As mentioned earlier, stopping overthinking can be easier once you stop focusing so much on the past and future- which is exactly what mindfulness is all about. Meditation also helps with both of these things; it helps us stop worrying about the past by keeping us focused on the present moment while letting us let go of frustrations toward others by letting us know that everyone has their own journey in life. Lastly, mindfulness helps stop overthinking because it strengthens our powers of concentration to stop focusing on negative thoughts and re-focus on the present moment.

There are several things you can do to stop overthinking. You can stop being so self-critical, stop dwelling on the past, stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking/doing/saying, stop feeling guilty about past decisions and mistakes, stop letting other people’s negativity drag you down, stop worrying about what will happen in the future by living fully in the present moment.

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