How to Stop Overthinking Everything
Updated on 31 Jan 2024 • 6 min read • posted by Maria H
Have you ever felt like your mind is running in circles, constantly analyzing every situation and decision?
It's easy to get caught up in your own head, replaying past mistakes and worrying about the future. Dwelling on negative thoughts can take a toll on mental health and rob us of the joy of living in the present moment.
If you wonder how to stop overthinking and relax finally, this article is for you. We explore the main causes of overthinking and provide practical tips for breaking free from this harmful pattern of thinking.
What is Overthinking
Overthinking is when your mind gets stuck on a certain thought or problem and you can't stop thinking about it. It’s totally normal to overthink at times. It can be a way for our brains to try to process and make sense of complex situations, and can even be a helpful tool in some cases. However, when overthinking becomes persistent and starts to negatively impact your daily life, it may be time to seek help. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and even physical symptoms like headaches and trouble sleeping.
Robin McGill highlights 2 main types of overthinking:
Ruminating. It’s about repeatedly going over past events or mistakes, analyzing them from every angle, and trying to figure out what you could have done differently. This type of overthinking can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and regret, and it can be difficult to break free from this cycle of negative thoughts.
Worrying. Another common type of overthinking where a person becomes preoccupied with thoughts and concerns about possible future events, even if they are unlikely to happen. This can lead to excessive anxiety and stress and can make it difficult to focus on the present moment. Worrying can take many forms, such as worrying about a job interview, a relationship, health issues, or financial problems.
Signs of Overthinking
If you're wondering whether you're thinking too much about what happened or what might be in the future, there are a few things you can look for. The following are common signs of overthinking:
- Worry too much. You often feel stressed about what might happen in the future or think too much about things you can't change.
- Negative thinking. You tend to be hard on yourself or others and often think about your mistakes or embarrassing moments.
- Decision-making issues. You find it difficult to make choices because you are afraid of making mistakes. Even after you have made a decision, you may wonder if you made the wrong choice.
- The feeling of mental fatigue. Your brain feels tired because it is always busy thinking and feeling. You may find it hard to relax or sleep well.
- Focusing on one thing. You may become fixated on a particular topic, conversation, or event and keep thinking about it, trying to figure out what it really means.
- Living in the past or (possible) future. You may be so caught up in thinking about the past or the future that you don't pay attention to what is happening now.
Overthinking can happen to anyone, but it's important to learn why it happens and how to break the cycle so that you can feel more relaxed and in control.
What Causes Overthinking
People overthink for a variety of reasons. Here are five main points to consider:
Anxiety could be a part of overthinking. It can cause people to become overly worried about the future or excessively concerned about past mistakes.
People who have a perfectionist mindset often overthink because they want everything to be perfect. They can become consumed with the details, constantly analyzing and evaluating their actions, and decisions.
Lack of Control
People tend to think too much to try to regain control when they feel like they don't have control over a situation or outcome. They may obsess over every little detail, trying to anticipate every possible outcome and how they can influence it.
Sometimes, people simply have too much on their plate, and their brain becomes overloaded. They may overthink as a way to try and sort through all of the information and tasks they have to handle.
People's past experiences can also influence their tendency to overthink. Traumatic events or negative past experiences can lead people to constantly replay situations in their head, trying to make sense of them and figure out how to prevent them from happening again.
Overall, it's easy to get caught up in the spiral of negative thoughts, but it's important to recognize when overthinking is becoming a problem. If you have two or more reasons that coincide with you, it's time to take action and work on overcoming this complex issue.
How to Stop Overthinking
Overthinking can have a detrimental impact on our mental health and overall well-being. It's a difficult habit to break, but fortunately, there are practical ways to stop overthinking and regain control of our thoughts and emotions.
Spot Thinking Pattern
Become aware of when you're stuck in your head. Overthinking often has specific triggers. These can be certain situations, emotional states, or certain times of day. Keep a small notebook or use a note-taking app. Every time you catch yourself thinking too much, jot down your worry. Then, draw two columns and for each thought write down: evidence supporting the thought and evidence against it. It will help you to reflect on your thoughts and see them from a more balanced perspective.
Break the cycle of overthinking by giving your mind something else to focus on. Use distractors in a healthy way to take control of your thoughts and emotions and improve your overall well-being. Shift your focus on:
- Go out for a walk
- Cook something new
- Try new hobby
- Read a book
- Watch a movie
It can help release endorphins, reduce stress and provide a healthy distraction from overthinking, allowing you to focus on something positive and enjoyable.
Breathing exercises help relax, reduce stress, and calm your mind, which can help break the cycle of overthinking. As your mind becomes calmer and more focused, it becomes easier to manage and reduce overthinking. Here are two techniques to try:
- The “physiological sigh” is a bottom-up stress management technique. Inhale, and before you get to the top, take one more inhale. Then, do one deep exhale.
- 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe quietly through the nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. And gradually let it go slowly through the mouth for 8 seconds.
To regain control of your thoughts and emotions, practice mindfulness. It's a technique that involves being fully present in the moment without any judgment. Take a few minutes each day to meditate, and focus on your breath and emotions. As consistent practicing mindfulness can improve your mental health and well-being.
When we overthink, our minds tend to get caught up in a never-ending loop of negative thoughts and worries. Practicing self-reflection can help you develop strategies to cope with these triggers and change the way you think about them. And the key here is to plan and prepare for such sessions:
- Find a comfortable and private place.
- Turn off notifications.
- Take a notebook and a pen, or a voice recorder (use the app on your phone) to capture your thoughts.
- Decide what aspect of your life or feelings you want to reflect on.
- Choose the method to practice: Gibbs’ cycle, Wheel of Life, 5R framework, etc.
- Reflect honestly on your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- Finish by acknowledging your insights and considering any small, positive steps forward.
Compare Yourself Only with Yourself in the Past
Comparing yourself to others can make you feel like you're not good enough and can seriously harm your self-esteem. But there's a simple way to escape from this toxic mindset: start comparing yourself only to your past self.
It's important to take a moment to introspect and reflect on yourself. Think about the goals you set for yourself in the past and how you've accomplished them. Consider how you've changed and developed as a person. By focusing on your own progress and accomplishments, you can see how far you've come and feel proud of your journey.
Live in the Present
As we mentioned earlier – overthinking involves worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Living now involves being fully engaged in the task at hand and paying attention to your surroundings. Another way to live in the moment is to practice gratitude for what you have now (not only materially but also morally). So let go of the past and focus on what you can control in the present.
Pay attention: If you find that your overthinking is interfering with your daily life, it's important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you understand if your overthinking is a symptom of an underlying mental health condition like anxiety or depression.
Overthinking is a normal part of the human experience and can be helpful in some situations. However, when it becomes persistent and starts to negatively impact your daily life, it’s time to seek ways to stop overthinking or even help from a mental health professional.
Remember, taking care of your mental health is a sign of strength and can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.