We all hate overthinking. But sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Even when it’s something incredibly silly like wondering about someone not replying to a text message.
And this has to stop.
You see, there’s a distinct line between introspection and overthinking. Introspection is a healthy process that promotes growth through self-reflection, observation, and exploration. On the other hand, overthinking is a repetitive process that encourages negativity and unproductivity.
The biggest issue with overthinking is that it deceives us into believing that we are working on our problems – when we really aren’t!
Not only does overthinking not solve your problems, it escalates them. Because when we overthink, we are obsessing over something that upsets or disturbs us without actually taking any action.
And that solves absolutely nothing!
What’s worse is that we aren’t only wasting time when we overthink. Overthinking can also become habitual and eventually rewire our thought process. Studies have also shown that overthinking can lead to anxiety, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, binge-eating, self-harm, and insomnia.
It makes sense since overthinking is an exhausting process – both mentally and physically. And the harder we try to stop overthinking, the worse it becomes. Your judgement becomes clouded and it can become difficult to act.
Then, what can you do to stop yourself from overthinking? Here are some strategies that will help you free yourself from the perils of overthinking.
8 Simple Ways to Stop Yourself from Overthinking
1. Be aware.
The very first step to stopping yourself from overthinking is to be aware of when you are doing and what causes it.
Obsessive overthinking works differently from person to person. So, it is important to be aware of what triggers it in you. Write them down if you have to and investigate what you normally overthink about.
Are you replaying conversations you have had in your head on a loop? Or maybe you are obsessing over future scenarios that may never occur? Take notes and also analyze what triggered the line of thought in the first place. Maybe it was a conversation. Or a person. Or a setting.
Awareness is the first step you can take to put an end to your overthinking. And being aware of what your triggers are will allow you to take precautions against them.
2. Broaden your perspective.
Whenever you find yourself overthinking, stop and ask yourself, “Does this matter in the long run?”
Not only is a wider perspective a very good deterrent to overthinking, it is also an invaluable leadership skill. Being able to see the bigger picture helps you organize better and strategically remove the unproductive and harmful things from your life.
Remember that even unimportant things can consume you if you let them. But once you realize their insignificance in the long term, it will become much easier for you to put these issues out of your mind and where they belong – in the trash can.
3. Unplug yourself.
With continuous improvements in technology, we have now become flooded with information. Emails, smartphones, the internet – they’ve all driven human beings to spend more time at work than they did a few decades ago. In light of this, it has become difficult for us to keep from being overwhelmed.
Being overwhelmed is a surefire way to overthinking.
Sensory overload is a pretty common trigger for overthinking in most people. And this is especially true due to the advent of the internet. Even if we do not take internet trolls and cyberbullying into account, exposing ourselves to millions of people every day can make us feel vulnerable.
Try to limit the time you spend on social media or makes you feel overexposed. Also take notes of the websites you visit. Do your best to avoid the ones that tend to trigger your overthinking the most.
4. Accept things as they are.
The more you try to control your thoughts, the more they control you.
It is like trying to put out a fire with petroleum. Because when we try to put every aspect of our lives in our thoughts, it never works out. Instead of safety, we only find ourselves becoming paralyzed with unfounded fears.
Instead of overthinking on your life too much, try to detach yourself from your thought process as if you were a casual observer. Step away from your mind and observe the patterns of your thought and your responses objectively.
Remember that overthinking is grounded in fears of inadequacy. Give whatever you do your best but realize that, even if things don’t work out, you are good enough. Success and failure depend on outside circumstances as well and there is nothing wrong with failing from time to time. It does not make you any lesser.
Accept yourself as well as the results of your actions for what they are. Do not judge yourself or your choices for what could be. And whenever you find yourself obsessing within your thoughts, accept that you are overthinking things and remind yourself that your mind is being unproductive. Once you do that, you can free yourself from the chains of overthinking.
5. Be mindful.
Simply being mindful can help keep overthinking at bay quite effectively.
Mindfulness is any process that brings our attention to the present. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness techniques can reduce overthinking and anxiety.
There are a lot of techniques that can help us achieve it. An easy technique to induce mindfulness, which you can complete in a matter of minutes, is a simplified version of the body scan method.
Simply, close your eyes and allow your body to relax. Try to be as still as you can. Then, slowly focus your mind on the rhythm of your breath while filtering out any other thought. Don’t try to change your breathing patterns – just let it occur naturally. Then gently divert your attention to your body part, starting from your toes and gradually moving up. Pay attention on how the external acts upon your skin – feel the breeze, the texture of your clothes, and the temperature on every individual body part. End the exercise by bringing your attention back to your breath.
Like any skill, mindfulness takes time and practice to perfect. But once you commit yourself to becoming more aware of the present, you will find yourself overthinking less.
6. Take action.
If you think a problem is realistically solvable, just jump into it and do it. If it isn’t, drop it and move on.
Overthinkers tend to get stuck in the analysis phase of a problem. When you are very proactive and respond swiftly to your thoughts, you will be quicker to drop unproductive rumination. Focusing on our thoughts alone can lead to stress – especially when we only consider the outcomes in our mind.
But instantly and actively working on a solution, puts us in a position of control, which in turn relaxes our thoughts regardless of the outcome.
Remember that dwelling on our problems is never healthy; but focusing on finding solutions is.
Or you could just switch to another activity.
It’s quite simple really. Whenever you find yourself focusing too much on an issue you cannot control, make your mind switch focus to a simpler pending task. For example, when you find yourself worrying needlessly about the future, stop and do your laundry instead.
Completing simple tasks stimulate the brain. They give you a sense of accomplishment while distracting you from overthinking stuff. It also unclutters your more negative thoughts and helps you return to your complex problems with a fresher mind.
8. Accept imperfection.
This is probably one of the most important things to do if you want to stop overthinking. You have got to stop trying to be perfect.
It’s understandable why this could be a problem with a lot of people. Most of us have been influenced into believing that we must strive for perfection at all times. Mass media also holds perfectionists like Stanley Kubrick as exemplary examples for us to follow. That maybe true when you are making a movie. But we can all agree that there is nothing wrong with a slice of toast for breakfast being a tiny bit burnt.
Things rarely turn out as planned, but that is just something we should learn to be okay with. Ambition is great and all that but being hung up over perfection for everything is impractical and extremely exhausting. Not only do you rarely get what you want, you also end up constantly beating yourself up over it.
Protect yourself from aiming for unrealistic perfection. All it does is throw you into a loop of self-loathing and disappointment. Instead, try to find satisfaction in progress rather than perfection. It really helps keep your mind from wandering into the dark realm of the overthinker.
Like all things that deal with self-improvement, these tips take time and a lot of patience for them to show result. Do not give up on yourself just because you stumble a few times along the way. Be confident and keep pushing forward.
Also, overthinking might seem harmless on the surface but it could be a telltale sign of serious underlying issues. It is always a good idea to consult a psychotherapist if you feel that your overthinking might be seriously debilitating you or someone you care about. Never gamble with matters pertaining your health – mental or physical.
And as always, good luck!
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