My Best Strategies To Stop Overthinking & Enjoy Your Life
Worrying and overthinking are part of the human experience, but when left unchecked, they can take a toll on your well-being. Today, I’m going to share with you my best strategies to stop overthinking so that you enjoy your life at its fullest.
Our ability to think about things that are not directly in front of our faces is incredible.
But it can come to be harmful when we are constantly worrying, planning, predicting the future, rehashing the past, and stuck in our heads. Overthinking is also known as ‘analysis paralysis’ because by thinking too much you’re getting stuck in your thoughts and stopping yourself from taking action.
While everyone overthinks situations once in a while, some people are plagued with a constant barrage of thoughts all the time.
Thinking too much about something often involves more than words — people who overthink conjure up disastrous images, too. Their minds resemble a movie where they imagine their car going off the road or replay distressing events over and over again.
Thinking too much prevents you from getting anything done.
When you overthink, your judgments get cloudy and your stress gets elevated. You spend too much time in the negative. It can become difficult to act. You start blaming yourself for things you didn’t do and worrying about scenarios that may or may not happen.
Let’s look at ways to combat overthinking that can get out of control quickly.
What is holding people back from the life that they truly want to live? Overthinking can trap the brain in a worry cycle. When you find yourself going round-and-round over an issue, try using some of my following strategies and enjoy your life!
Strategy #1 : Take a Deep Breath
The goal of escaping ruminating thoughts is to disrupt our thought flow. One of the most effective ways to do this is to take a walk, preferably in a natural setting. Studies have shown that walking in nature shows a significant decline in ruminating thoughts.
By taking ourselves out of the house, we force our brain to focus on external stimuli, which allows the default network to rest.
Further, when we walk in nature versus urban areas, we also force our brain to pay attention to small details in the environment, taking us out of a big picture mentality, further disrupting the rumination. If leaving the house isn’t an option, go into a different room and engage in some focused exercise. It doesn’t have to be a complicated routine; simply jogging in place can get the blood flowing and get our brain into a different mode of thinking.
When in doubt, meditate it out.
Meditation can be an opportunity to focus your mind and watch thoughts float by without attaching to them. When practiced regularly, meditation can help you notice when you start to get caught up in overthinking and help you refocus on the present moment. Meditating literally changes your brain for the better.
Getting out of your head is the number-one antidote to overthinking.
Whatever it takes to get out of your head, do it. This may be vigorous exercise that takes you into your body, a brisk walk in the park, or an activity that doesn’t require you to think too much. This could be cooking, painting, doing DIY, completing a jigsaw — whatever puts you ‘in flow’ and keeps you relaxed.
The best practice is to see thoughts only as thinking material not a constant flow of emotions.
Our mind is open, clear and free. Anything can appear in our awareness. The problem is that we identify thoughts and get attached to its appearance. When you realize your mind is going out of control, try to see what you’re thinking, be a live witness, the moment you step inside your mind, it calms down. You find there is no thought. This way, you and your thoughts will become separate, it will come but it will go away naturally. Soon, appearance and witness will merge.
Strategy #2 : Challenge Your Thoughts
It’s easy to get carried away with negative thoughts. So, before you conclude that calling in sick is going to get you fired, or that forgetting one deadline will cause you to become homeless, acknowledge that your thoughts may be exaggeratedly negative.
It’s always easy to make things bigger and more negative than they need to be.
The next time you catch yourself making a mountain out of a molehill, ask yourself how much it will matter in five years. Or, for that matter, next month. Just this simple question, changing up the time frame, can help shut down overthinking. How will all the issues floating around in your mind affect you 5 or 10 years from now? Don’t let minor issues turn into significant hurdles.
Mindfulness techniques can help you reframe your thoughts as just that: thoughts rather than facts.
They can help you slow down your thinking and let thoughts pass through your mind like clouds on a breezy day. Mindfulness can also help you to be more present in what’s happening now, rather than projecting into the future. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, even if we aren’t experiencing ruminating thoughts, mindfulness will ground us to the present, ensuring that overthinking doesn’t hijack our brain.
What you repeatedly say to yourself — and how you repeatedly describe yourself — is what you come to believe and be.
Everything we do and experience stems from our identity and underlying set of beliefs. The question is then, does the story you tell yourself empower you or hold you back? Identify those limiting beliefs and make it a conscious effort to stop yourself whenever you catch yourself voicing them. Immediately replace those negative narratives with positive, empowering thoughts. This is how you change your self-perception and begin to win back your power.
Some things will always be out of your control. Learning how to accept this can go a long way toward curbing overthinking.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and it won’t happen overnight. Very often, it’s the irrational fears that arise in our minds that lead to overthinking. But look for small opportunities where you can confront the situations you frequently worry about. Maybe it’s standing up to a bossy co-worker or taking that solo day trip you’ve been dreaming of.
Strategy #3 : Seek Help
Sometimes, quieting your thoughts requires stepping outside of your usual perspective. How you see the world is shaped by your life experiences, values, and assumptions. Imagining things from a different point of view can help you work through some of the noise.
Your social environment plays a big part. And not just the people and groups close to you in real life.
But also what you read, listen to and watch. The blogs, books, forums, movies, podcasts and music in your life. So think about if there are any sources in your life — close by or further away — that encourages and tends create more overthinking in your mind. And think about what people or sources that has the opposite effect on you.
Overthinking can sometimes be too much for us to handle on our own.
Often, ruminating thoughts are associated with loneliness and can become difficult to handle when combined with severe anxiety or depressive disorders. If these thoughts become overwhelming, it’s important to remember that there’s help. Reach out to a friend or family member who you know has your best interests in mind, yet can also be upfront and honest with you. Let it all out and get their feedback. It can be helpful to get another person’s perspective, especially because we are usually blind to important things when it comes to a personal situation.
Another tactic to try is to redirect your focus to doing something positive for another person.
Maybe you want to start volunteering at a nonprofit, visit a parent or friend, or cook a surprise dinner for your partner. Not only does this allow you to focus on something other than yourself and your thoughts, it also fosters positive feelings that can help you build more self-confidence and satisfaction. Realizing you have the power to make someone’s day better can keep negative thoughts from taking over. It also gives you something productive to focus on instead of your never-ending stream of thoughts.
One big caveat: Steer clear of “worry buddies,” friends who tend to overthink things just as you do.
One Harvard study that spanned nearly 80 years found found that good relationships keep people happy and healthy. Reaching out to a positive thinker will help you think positively, too. People often start to overthink because they’re scared and they worry about all of the possible things that could go wrong. Instead, start to picture all of the things that could go right, and keep those thoughts in the front of your mind.
Strategy #4 : Look for Distractions
Shut down overthinking by involving yourself in an activity you enjoy. Change the channel in your brain by changing your activity. Exercise, engage in conversation on a completely different subject, or work on a project that distracts you.
Doing something different will put an end to the barrage of negative thoughts.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a way to distract yourself with happy, positive, healthy alternatives. Things like mediation, dancing, exercise, learning an instrument, knitting, drawing, and painting can distance you from the issues enough to shut down the analysis paralysis.
Sometimes, the more you try to avoid thinking about something, the more it’ll keep popping up in your brain.
But consciously switching gears and channeling your energy into another activity can halt overthinking. Find ways to attune to your senses, with nice things to look at, your favorite tunes to listen to, some scented candles to soothe you, cooking yourself your favorite food, or having a warm bath. Take care of your body and give your mind some time off.
Taking up a hobby or activity that requires your undivided attention can also accomplish this.
Gardening, exercising, creating art, cooking, knitting, dancing, or going for a walk can help us stay focused on something. Watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to a podcast helps us to focus on other things when we find ourselves overthinking, approaching that downward spiral we want to avoid.
Stop, slow down, and be grateful for the memories you are making right now.
Explore the different parts of your life that bring you joy. This can help build your self-esteem and lead to less rumination. If you feel you are getting lost in overthinking then disrupt that thought by — in your mind — shouting this to yourself : STOP! Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just 1-2 minutes to focus fully on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, hear it, smell it, see it and sense it on your skin.
Strategy #5 : Take Action
Sometimes, you might go over the same thoughts repeatedly because you aren’t taking any concrete actions about a certain situation. Can’t stop thinking about someone you envy? Instead of having it ruin your day, let your feelings help you make better choices.
Dwelling on your problems isn’t helpful — but looking for solutions is.
If it’s something you have some control over, consider how you can prevent the problem, or challenge yourself to identify five potential solutions. If it’s something you have no control over — like a natural disaster — think about the strategies you can use to cope with it. Focus on the things you can control, like your attitude and effort.
One of the challenges of overthinking is that you get lost in the circus inside your head — which then leads you to inaction.
For all of us who are waiting for perfection, we can stop waiting right now. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating. The moment you start thinking “This needs to be perfect” is the moment you need to remind yourself, “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”
When you know how to get started with taking action consistently each day then you’ll procrastinate less by overthinking.
Setting deadlines and a good tone for the day are two things that have helped me to become much more of person of action. Taking small steps forward and only focusing on getting one small step done at a time is another habit that have worked really well. It works so well because you do not feel overwhelmed and so you do not want flee into procrastination or lazy inaction. And even though you may be afraid, taking just a step is such a small thing that you do not get paralyzed in fear.
Other ways to not overthink can be to have deadlines at work or to create goals for yourself.
Stop trying to control everything. Trying to do so simply doesn’t work because no one can see all possible scenarios in advance. Overthinking is the result of having a little too much time on our hands to think about things. A deadline on a project can help us to focus on getting a task completed, which is usually a way to avoid thinking too much. Problem-solving is a great way to activate and occupy the brain in a more satisfying way.
Our brains are complicated mechanisms, and overthinking is a natural stress reaction. But it’s important to remember that continued thought fixation is unhealthy and can be damaging to both our body and mind. Once we know how to recognize stress triggers, we can actively practice healthy techniques to disrupt ruminating thoughts, leading to a happier, more productive life.
When thinking is incessant, pointless, and does not change what you do, how you do it, or the world around you — then it is overthinking.
Paying attention to the way you think can help you become more aware of your bad mental habits. With practice, you can train your brain to think differently. Over time, building healthier habits will help you build the mental muscle you need to become mentally stronger.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to handle overthinking.
These don’t happen overnight — some will take time to develop and some can be implemented immediately. But all of them require conscious work from your side.
Overthinking is exhausting. Learn to manage your stress rather than have it manage you.
Overthinking is something that can happen to anyone. But if you have a great system for dealing with it you can at least ward off some of the negative, anxious, stressful thinking and turn it into something useful, productive, and effective.
Changing your destructive thought patterns can be a challenge. But, with consistent practice, you can train your brain to think differently.
Getting lost in a sort of overthinking disorder can result in becoming someone who stands still in life. In becoming someone who self-sabotages the good things that happen in life. I swear you to refuse to be that kind of person! Are you ready to embrace this challenge? Let me know in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.