21 Simple Ways to Stop Yourself From Overthinking
Thinking is one of the characteristics that sets humans apart from other animals. Without the ability to think, humans could not have achieved all the social, political, economic and technological advancement that defines the 21st century.
Without the ability to think, we would even have a hard time surviving in this world. With all the advantages that come with thinking, you would assume that overthinking is a positive habit.
However, overthinking is a very detrimental habit that can cause serious problems. Overthinking prevents you from living your best life.
It clouds your judgment and prevents you from taking action, creates non-existent obstacles, fills you with doubt, turns positive things into negativity, and even sucks joy and happiness from your life.
According to this study, overthinking can even lead to chronic anxiety and depression.
Most of us will find ourselves overthinking in some situations, and that is perfectly normal. However, if overthinking becomes more than an occasional occurrence, this might turn out to be a problem.
Luckily, there are some active steps that you can take to stop overthinking from taking control over your life.
Below, we take a look at two simple ways you can use to stop yourself from overthinking.
1. CHANGE YOUR APPROACH TO DECISION MAKING
Anytime you find yourself overthinking, take a step back and try to find out why you are overthinking. In most cases, you will find that your overthinking is brought about by the fear of making the wrong decision.
You are afraid that the decision you want to make might lead to failure, embarrassment or some other negative outcome.
Unfortunately, overthinking does not help you make the right decision. Instead, it gets you stuck in a state of inaction, which is worse than the negative outcome you are afraid of.
To help you overcome the fear of making the wrong decision, you should view it not as an ultimatum where you have to get it right or all is lost, but instead as an opportunity for learning.
If you make the right decision, well and good. If your decision turns out to be the wrong, you’ll have learnt what is required if a similar situation presents itself in future.
2. EMBRACE POSITIVITY
We have all been in this situation: you are about to do something, but you are scared that things will not go as you planned. Your mind starts thinking of all things that could go wrong.
Whatever you want to do starts to look like an impossible mission, what with all the things that could go wrong.
This kicks in a cycle of overthinking that fills you with doubt and you end up not doing anything.
Instead of letting such overthinking fill you with doubt, why not think of all the things that might go well?
Tell yourself that everything will go as planned and keep these thoughts at the forefront of your mind.
This does not mean that you should not consider possible setbacks. Instead, you should notice when your mind starts picturing things that are unlikely to happen.
For instance, if you are going on a journey, it is good to consider that you might get a puncture, hence the need for you to carry a spare tire.
However, thinking that you might get an accident or that the bridge might collapse as you go over it is a sign of overthinking.
3. BECOME ACTION-ORIENTED
A story is told of a military general who was asked to make a choice between two attacking strategies. The army had been analyzing the two strategies for months but could not decide which strategy guaranteed best results.
Upon being presented with the two strategies, the general did not take more than a minute to make his decision.
When asked how he made the decision, he pointed out that if for months the army had analyzed different information and could not make a decision, no further analysis on his part could help make the right decision. Instead, action is what was needed. If the chosen plan did not work as expected, the soldiers would improvise.
The point here is that, sometimes, overthinking and overanalyzing situations leads to something known as analysis paralysis.
Any further analysis does not help with decision making. Instead, it holds you back from taking action. If you find yourself overthinking and procrastinating things, just go ahead and take action. If things do not work out as expected, you can always improvise.
4. CONSIDER THE BIGGER PICTURE
Overthinking results to us giving more significance to things that are not really that important. When you overthink, a small problem seems like the end of the world.
If you find yourself overthinking, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Will this thing that is giving you so much trouble matter a month from now? Five months? A year? Five or ten years?
In most cases, it won’t.
Once you realize that whatever is worrying you does not matter in the grand scheme of things, you will stop giving it undue significance.
5. STOP WAITING FOR THE PERFECT MOMENT
Overthinking leads to the illusion that there is a perfect time for doing something, which in turn leads to procrastination.
For instance, if you want to start a business, overthinking can create the following scenarios in your mind: what if I don’t have enough time? What if capital runs out? What if I do not get enough customers? Am I really ready to start a business?
Eventually, you might just end up not starting your business.
However, it is good to note that there is never a perfect time for anything.
There is never a perfect time to start a business, to get married, to have kids, to start writing a book, or to do anything else. If you start overthinking, you will never get anything done.
Therefore, if you find yourself overthinking about all the things that are not in place for you to do whatever you want, remind yourself that there is never a perfect moment and start doing it right now.
6. SET TIME LIMITS FOR MAKING DECISIONS
The desire to make the right decision and an unlimited time frame for making the decision is the perfect recipe for overthinking. As you try to think about all the possibilities and anything you might have left out, overthinking can easily kick in.
To avoid this, the best option is to give yourself a time limit for making decisions. The length of time assigned to a decision should depend on the significance of the decision.
Once the time is over, you should stop any further analysis of the situation, make the decision and move forward to act on what you have decided.
7. REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE FUTURE
We all want to have a better future, and sometimes, we spend a lot of time worrying and overthinking about how things will turn out in future. You might be worried that you might lose your job, that your business might fail, that your spouse might leave you, and so on.
However, worrying does not help in any way.
Actually, it stops you from enjoying the present. Instead of spending your time overthinking about what might happen in future, you should realize that you have no control over the future.
Why worry over something you cannot control?
Accept that things in the future will happen as they were destined to, and focus your energy on doing things that bring you joy and happiness.
8. GIVE YOUR BEST AND FORGET THE REST
Whenever you find ourselves in new situations, sometimes you might to worry that you are not well equipped or good enough to handle these situations.
You might feel that you are not dedicated enough, rich enough, hardworking enough or smart enough to do what is required of you.
This worrying and overthinking can hinder your ability to face such situations, even if you were initially well equipped to handle them.
Once you find yourself in such a situation, you should focus on giving your best effort without worrying about the outcome.
Sometimes, the outcome might depend on things outside your control.
Therefore, instead of killing yourself with worry, simply do what you can to the best of your ability and forget about the rest.
9. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Overthinking is usually a result of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. To prevent this from happening, you should practice mindfulness in your day to day life.
Mindfulness is about being totally aware of the present moment and therefore taking your thoughts away from the past or the future. If you find yourself starting to overthink, focus on the present moment.
Think about what is going on right now. If you are eating, don’t just eat mindlessly as your thoughts run amok in your mind. Instead, focus on the food, feel the taste of the food as you chew it in your mouth. If you are in the shower, focus on the water. Feel its temperature. Focus on the feeling of the water running down your body.
Mindfulness is about focusing fully on whatever is happening at the moment and taking in everything with all the five senses. Listen to the sounds around you. Take in the sights and smells around you in detail.
If you are working on something with your hands, take in its texture and how it feels on your hands.
Practicing mindfulness anchors you to the present and keeps you from constantly worrying about the past or the future.
10. LEARN TO RECOGNIZE AND STOP THE EXTRA THOUGHTS
Overthinking is usually characterized by thoughts that are not really helpful in the grand scheme of things. For instance, worrying that you might get an accident before you set out on a drive is not helpful.
Worrying that you will fail your interview is not helpful. When you find yourself overthinking, take a moment and ask yourself if the thoughts are helpful. If they are not, tell yourself a mental “Stop!”
If you are alone, you can even say it aloud.
Once you tell yourself to stop, refocus your attention to whatever you are doing. For instance, if you find yourself worrying that you will fail your interview, recognize that these thoughts are not helpful, give yourself a mental order to stop these thoughts and then direct your focus on preparing for the interview.
Working out is a great way of keeping overthinking at bay and relieving the worries and tensions within your mind.
An intense workout needs a lot of mental concentration, which means that you will be more focused on the workout than on the multiple possible scenarios running through your head.
In addition, working out leads to the release of endorphins in your brain, which infuses you with good feelings and positivity. This minimizes your likelihood of engaging in negative or worrying thoughts.
12. CREATE A TO-DO LIST
Your mind may be your greatest asset, but if left to its own devices, your mind can also deter you from achieving your goals. Sometimes, your mind tends to blow things out of proportion, to make them seem bigger than they appear.
For instance, if you have a number of tasks to complete within a day, your mind might make it seem like there is no way that all these tasks can be completed within a single day.
It creates a multitude of reasons why you will not be able to complete the tasks. The key to prevent this kind of overthinking is to come up with a to-do list.
For instance, if you have to meet a client, create a presentation, finish up a report and pick up your brother in law from the airport, your mind might make it appear like it is impossible to do all these things within a single day.
However, if you create a to-do list and allocate a specific duration for each task, it will become easier to handle them all.
Meditation is a great way of stopping overthinking dead in its tracks. Sit down in a calm place, focus on your breathing and try to clear your mind of all thoughts. If a thought pops into your head, look at it with a sense of detachment, being aware of the thought but not allowing it to affect you.
Meditating for just 10 minutes every single day can help you overcome the habit of overthinking totally.
Additionally, meditation has several other benefits, such as decreased risk of developing chronic anxiety and depression, increased self-awareness, increased memory and learning ability and enhanced immune function within your body.
14. GET A HOBBY
This is another great way of putting a stop to your overthinking tendencies. Get a consistent creative outlet that you enjoy doing. This could be anything such as drawing, playing a sport, writing, designing, painting, coding, singing, and so on.
It could even be playing a video game. Whenever you find thoughts running wild in your mind, get into your hobby and immerse yourself into it fully. Stay at it until your mind feels refreshed.
Immersing yourself in a hobby does two things.
First, it redirects your focus from overthinking into the activity at hand.
Second, it helps you express your creativity and improves your cognitive function and coordination.
15. PRACTICE INTROSPECTION
If you find your thoughts overwhelming you, sit down in a quiet place with a notepad and a pen. Think of all the things you are worrying about – failure in business, being left by your spouse, family problems, failing an interview, getting laid off from work, and anything else that might be troubling you.
List all these things down on your notepad.
Create another column across from this list and think of what you can do to about each thing that is troubling you. If there is something you can do, write it down and create a schedule of when to do it. If there’s nothing you can do about, remind yourself that there is no point worrying about it.
Doing this kind of introspection will help you realize that these things are not worth the mental anguish you are going through overthinking about them.
16. CONSIDER THE WORST CASE SCENARIO
Many times, overthinking about a situation creates vague imaginary fears that are unlikely to happen in real life. You start thinking about the disaster scenarios that might play out once you do something. If unchecked, this can keep you from attempting anything new in your life.
Whenever you find yourself overthinking a situation, think about the worst possible thing might happen.
For instance, what’s the worst possible thing that will happen if you fail an interview? You won’t die.
You will just apply for more jobs.
Thinking about the worst case scenario helps you realize that the worst possible thing that might happen is a lot less scary than the disaster scenarios your mind is imagining. Realizing this can save you a lot of mental anguish.
17. TAKE A WALK
There is something about taking a walk in nature that refreshes us, helps us calm down and relieves our minds from stress and worry.
Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts running wild inside your mind, go out for a walk in the park, by the river or down the beach.
The idea is to connect with nature. You want to feel the fresh air and the sun on your skin. Play some music on your iPod as you walk.
Focus on the sights, sounds and smells of the environment around you. Taking a nature walk will distract your mind from your worries, sooth you and calm down your mind.
18. DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF
Most of the time, you tend to overthink because you are too hard on yourself. You crave success so bad that you are ready to beat yourself up if things do not go as you envisioned. You have not forgiven yourself for the last time you failed.
It’s impossible to kill your overthinking habit when you are always being so hard on yourself. The truth of the matter is that life will not always go as you envision.
Sometimes things will go bad, and that’s okay. Be ready to forgive yourself if things do not go as you wished. In most cases, it’s not even your fault.
Once you stop being too hard on yourself, you will be less afraid of failure, which in turn means that you will be less prone to overthinking.
19. THINK USEFULLY
Most of the things we tend to overthink about are usually things we have no control over, and therefore, worrying about such things is useless thinking. What you want to do is to think usefully.
For instance, if you want a promotion at work, useful thinking would be “what do I need to do in order to get a promotion?” From there, you can then work on your skills or get some further education in order to gain a promotion.
However, worrying about whether or not your boss will promote you is useless thinking. Even after you have gotten further education or improved your skills, it is up to the boss to decide whether they will promote you or not.
Whenever you find yourself overthinking, focus your thoughts so that you think usefully and ignore any useless thinking.
20. LOVE EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS
This is derived from one of the teachings of stoic philosophy. The point here is that we should embrace whatever happens, whether good or bad, and understand that it is for our greater good, even if it might not seem this way at the moment.
Sometimes, overthinking is caused by ruminating over things that happened in the past. We try to imagine how life would be if things did not happen as they did. We overanalyze and repeat the situation in our minds, often leading to depression.
However, like this stoic principle teaches, it’s no use worrying over things that have already happened, since we cannot change them.
Instead of beating yourself up for something that has happened, embrace it and believe that it happened for your greater good.
21. TRUST YOURSELF
Overthinking about the future usually occurs because you feel insecure about yourself. You are not confident in your ability to handle certain situations. You feel inadequate and doubt yourself, which in turn leads to overthinking.
Fortunately, you are well equipped to handle most of the situations you face in life. You only need to start believing and trusting yourself.
Have confidence in yourself, believe that you can handle whatever is in front of you and that you can make the right decisions. Once you learn to trust in yourself, it will be easier for you to make decisions and you will be less likely to overthink situations.
In life, most of us will sometimes overthink and overanalyze situations in our minds, and that is okay. However, if overthinking becomes a frequent occurrence, it might be time to take some action to prevent it from taking over your life.
By following the 21 simple ways discussed in this article, anyone can stop the habit of overthinking in its tracks. Ultimately, you also need to understand and accept that there are a lot of things that are outside of your control.
The aim of overthinking is usually to try and have everything under control, which is impossible.
Once you accept that it is impossible to have everything under control, you are halfway to solving your overthinking problem.