Y’all, I’m a huge overthinker – have been for years – for as long as I can remember, actually. There’s never been a time in my life where overthinking has been a positive experience for me. Typically, something negative happens in my life, and I think ways I could have gone about it differently. Or, something hasn’t even happened yet, and I’m already over-thinking and getting anxiety about different ways it will play out. Sometimes my overthinking is so paralyzing that it totally consumes me.
How to Stop Overthinking: 6 Ways to Limit or stop obsessive thought Cycles
Since overthinking always seems to get me in a negative headspace, I’ve been trying to find ways to stop myself from getting sucked in. It’s one of those habits that you’ve got to be proactive in fighting or else you’ll find yourself worrying about things that truly don’t deserve your energy or attention. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been prone to overthinking things and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become passionate in learning ways to combat obsessive thoughts (especially overanalyzing) that don’t really get me anywhere. Here are 6 ways I’ve been helping to prevent it, or stopping it as soon as possible.
1. Be mindful of your thoughts
If you’re an overthinker like me, it’s not totally your fault – it’s a natural tendency of the mind to overthink. But it’s something totally controllable through practicing mindfulness, doing meditation, and just taking an overall step back to really gain perspective. It took me awhile to understand how to do this, but with some practice and dedication, you can actually observe and control your thoughts rather than getting caught up in them within your own mind. If I’m having an overthinking moment, it’s really helpful for me to listen to the way I’m spiraling with my own self-talk. In these moments, I try to take a step back, and even actually talk back to myself (in my head if other people are around!), to challenge those thoughts. I talk more about that in this article. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of the time, the things that stress us out the most are the unrealistic expectations and pressure we put on ourselves.
2. Use a journal to self-reflect
It’s so much easier to assess and digest your thoughts when you actually write them down – something about that pen hitting the paper forces your mind to slow down and process your thoughts better. This is why I recommend journaling when you’re taking time to self-reflect. When you keep thoughts just in your head, you’re prone to overthinking and spiraling into that negative headspace. Lingering thoughts swimming around in my mind usually also cause me to over-analyze and make a bigger deal out of something than it really is. Or, enter the brain dump.
3. Find a distraction
I’ve come to terms with that fact that I’m going to worry, stress, and over-think – it’s never going to escape me completely, nor any of us (or if so, I’m freakin’ jealous). But finding a distraction always helps me with over-thinking, because when I’m busy and engulfed in what I’m doing, I simply don’t have time to overthink things. But I’ve found that I also have to have time where I let my mind go crazy. The trick here is limiting that time so I don’t overdo it. When I’m self-reflecting for 20 minutes each night, I let myself feel all the feels – I worry, I stress, and I mull over whatever is stuck in my mind. Then, when my self-reflection time is up, I move onto something more productive – usually sleep! When you notice yourself overthinking things during the day, remind yourself that you can deal with those thoughts later on. This trick has really seemed to help with my overthinking.
4. Focus on the now
We’ve all heard the phrase “it is what it is” – it’s true, there are some things you just aren’t going to be able to change. Instead of focusing on what just happened a few minutes ago, what you could have done differently, or even what you can do in the future, just focus on the now. What can you do in this very moment, however big or small? You have control over the present moment, not the past or future. By living in the present and focusing more on the “now,” you’ll halt your overthinking muscle – which usually turns on when you’re dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
5. Trust and be true to yourself
Sometimes I wonder if the reason I overthink so much has to do with a deep-seeded fear that maybe I don’t trust myself. Am I fair for thinking what I’m thinking? Right for feeling what I’m feeling? Is my opinion going to be valued and respected? These are all things I ask myself when I’m overthinking. I’ve had to learn to accept my thoughts and feelings for what they are, regardless of how I think others will perceive me. Staying true to yourself and trusting your instincts will prevent you from over-thinking things as often.
6. Don’t worry about making a bad decision
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the choices we have to make on a daily basis. You can (literally) spend an entire day worrying if you made the wrong choice, and don’t get me wrong, making bad decisions and realizing it later is never fun. If you find that you’ve made a wrong decision, just know that mistakes are also opportunities for growth. Making a “wrong” decision is like steering a boat in the wrong direction but learning how to sail – it might not be where you wanted to go, but the journey is going to teach you a lot, and eventually you’ll end up back on track exactly where you’re meant to be. Being comfortable with being wrong, or making bad decisions from time to time, brings me peace in a weird way. I know that in the end, I was supposed to make that decision and be where I am for a reason.
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