While everyone tends to worry or overthink situations from time to time, constant overthinking can take a toll on our mental health. When you ruminate or replay scenarios over and over in your head, such as conversations you had the day before or past decisions you’ve made, it can lead to stress and anxiety. Overthinking can also increase your risk of certain mental health conditions.
Thankfully, recognizing destructive thought patterns within yourself is the first step toward overcoming them. Continue reading to learn more about this habit and how to stop overthinking and regain control of your mental health.
What Is Overthinking?
Overthinking involves over-analyzing and obsessing over thoughts to the point that it harms your mental well-being. Instead of problem-solving, it can cause you to ruminate on negative events, dwell on the past or worry about the future. For example, a person might start worrying about a specific incident at work and then worry about their finances, which causes them to worry about losing their job.
But why do we overthink? Overthinking can be a symptom of anxiety, stress or depression. While not a mental condition in itself, it can be linked to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which can cause symptoms like:
- Worrying excessively about unrelated things for at least six months.
- Difficulty controlling the worry.
- Anxiety that interrupts your ability to function.
- Difficulty concentrating.
Other causes of overthinking can include stressful life events like financial problems, work-related stress and relationship issues. Additionally, environmental factors like news and social media can contribute to overthinking. When we get caught in the vicious cycle of overthinking, we’re more likely to experience elevated stress. It can also make it more challenging to be productive and get things done.
10 Tips to Help You Stop Overthinking
Overthinking can be a difficult habit to break, but there are many approaches you can use to help you stop. Be patient with yourself and try out these different overthinking tips to see what works best for you.
1. Notice When You’re Stuck in Your Head
The first step toward preventing overthinking is becoming aware of the triggers that cause you to get stuck in your head. Ask yourself why you might be overthinking everything — is there a person or situation that causes destructive thought patterns to arise? Or maybe it’s outside stressors like negative news stories. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can begin the process of developing coping mechanisms to help you deal with them.
2. Focus on the Present
Overthinking often stems from worries about the future or regrets about the past. To help you stop overthinking, try to focus on the present moment. Pay attention to what is happening around you and try to engage your senses by focusing on what you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste.
Mindfulness is another technique to help you become aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness can help you observe your thoughts without judgment and let them go. Studies show people that who accept their negative emotions rather than fighting them also have less anxiety and depression symptoms. Practices like meditation, deep breathing and yoga can help you become more mindful.
3. Challenge Thought Patterns
Overthinking often involves destructive thought patterns. To help you stop overthinking, try to challenge your negative thoughts. Ask yourself if your thoughts are based on reality or assumptions. Try to challenge your assumptions by asking yourself if there is any evidence to support them.
4. Concentrate on Problem-Solving
Dwelling on issues isn’t helpful, but looking for solutions is. If you’ve identified the source of your overthinking as something you have control over, consider ways to prevent the problem or challenge yourself to devise three solutions. If it’s something you have no control over, like a natural disaster, think about strategies you can use to cope with it. Focus on what you can control, like your effort and attitude.
5. Look at the Big Picture
It can help to put your overthinking into perspective by looking at the big picture — how will the problems in your mind affect you five to 10 years from now? Don’t let minor concerns turn into significant hurdles. Recognize that the issues you may be facing now might not even impact you and are most likely not impacting anyone around you.
6. Practice Self-Compassion
Dwelling on past mistakes can prevent you from letting go. If you’re criticizing yourself for something you did last week, shift your thoughts to self-compassion. You might take note of your stressful thought, acknowledge that your feelings are real and then adopt a phrase that speaks to you, such as “I am enough.”
Expressing gratitude can also increase your well-being, as it helps you contextualize your frustrations and connect to something larger than yourself. Try making a list of all you’re grateful for, whether it’s your family and friends, your successes or even something as simple as a neighbor saying hello. Whatever it is, being grateful can help you stay focused on the here and now rather than overthinking general abstractions.
7. Embrace Your Fears
It can be helpful to recognize that some things will always be out of our control. Learning to accept this can go a long way in helping you stop overthinking. While it’s easier said than done, looking for small opportunities to confront the fears you constantly worry about can help. That might include standing up to an overbearing co-worker or asking for a raise at work.
8. Set Aside Time for Reflection
Rather than allowing your thoughts to consume you throughout the day, set aside time to reflect on them. You might try journaling, talking to a friend or working with a therapist. By setting aside a few minutes a day to reflect on and highlight your worries, you can problem-solve the things you have control over. Quick reflection can also help you develop better control over your worrying and prevent thoughts from taking over your entire day.
9. Engage in a Distracting Activity
Sometimes the best way to stop overthinking is to distract yourself with a favorite hobby or activity. Exercises to do when you’re overthinking include taking a walk, doing a puzzle or reading a book. Engaging in something that requires your complete attention can help give your mind a break from ruminating.
10. Seek Professional Support
If overthinking is affecting your mental health and quality of life, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms to deal with your overthinking and help you address any underlying mental health issues.
Conquer Overthinking With Professional Mental Health Support
Overthinking can be a symptom of mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, but it can also occur as a result of daily stressors. It can cause us to avoid decisions based on the fear that we might make a mistake. It can also lead to constant turmoil in our minds and increase stress and anxiety.
Luckily, there are ways to conquer overthinking and improve your mental health. Consider seeking professional support at Taylor Counseling Group. Our compassionate mental health care professionals can provide you with the help you need to manage your thoughts and live a fuller and more productive life. To get started, schedule an appointment today.