It is normal to think things through when you are faced with any type of situation. Thinking about the possible outcomes, the advantages, disadvantages, the risks and rewards are all good things.
But, there is a fine line between thinking things through and overthinking too much. The most basic definition of overthinking is focusing on one particular thing for too long, or letting it take over every aspect of your thought process.
Overthinking can cause you to make different decisions than you might otherwise have made. Essentially, you can end up talking yourself out of something good by “making up” worst case scenarios in your head. As a result, it can be hard to turn off your thoughts. This can lead to everything from sleepless nights to excessive worry and stress. In some cases, overthinking can even cause anxiety or depression.
So, what can you do to stop overthinking, and to let go of the worries that might be plaguing your thoughts?
1. Acknowledge Your Worries
It might sound easy to acknowledge the fact that you are an overthinker. But, what is not easy is admitting that all of that overthinking has also caused you to become a worrier. You cannot stop overthinking unless you acknowledge the fact that you do it, in the first place.
It can be a hard habit to get into, but the next time you catch yourself overthinking something, hit “pause” Stop, and acknowledge the fact that you are thinking too much about a particular subject. Even that simple pause can help you to come back to reality and realize that the situation does not call for so much stress and worrying.
2. Don’t Believe the Lies
One of the big problems with overthinking is that it allows your mind to wander. You might start to make up things that simply are not true or things that are unrealistic.
Simply put, your mind can lie to you. It is your choice on whether you choose to believe those lies or not. You don’t have to accept everything your brain chooses to think. Differentiate between falsehoods and the truth, and it will be easier to stop overthinking when you let go of those negative lies.
3. Distract Yourself
Did you know you can distract yourself from your own thoughts? When you start to overthink, it is like a wheel that spins out of control. As it gains momentum, it can become even harder to slow it down.
So, once you start to recognize your overthinking, you can take active steps to distract yourself from it and focus on healthier practices. These can include listening to your favorite music, writing in a journal, calling a friend, or simply doing 50 jumping jacks in a row. Anything you can do to immediately pause the narrative in your head can help those thoughts to slow down and fall back under your control again.
4. Recognize What You Can and Can’t Control
This is a step that everyone should take, because most people are at least somewhat prone to ‘sweating the small stuff’. But, the sooner you let go of worrying about things out of your control, the easier it will be to stop overthinking.
Chances are, if something is in your control, you won’t spend so much time thinking and worrying about it. If it is not a life-altering decision and there is really nothing you can do to change it, then don’t allow your wheels to keep spinning.
5. Don’t Expect Perfection
People who tend to overthink also tend to have high expectations of themselves. Unfortunately, that can cause a vicious cycle, because no one is perfect. When you expect perfection, you will start thinking about what you need to do perfectly, and ways you might mess things up. As a result, you are more likely to become anxious and not live up to your own high expectations.
While it is never a bad idea to try to do your best, understand that you are only human and you have flaws. Give yourself room to make mistakes, and you will be more likely to learn and grow, rather than get stuck in a negative pattern of overthinking.
6. Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
Almost everyone thinks they know what meditation is, but that is not always a good thing. Unfortunately, it has been stereotyped and mislabeled for years, so many people stay away from it. The reality is, you don’t need to go through any specific ritual in order to practice meditation or mindfulness. You don’t need to perform chants or sit a certain way.
Something as simple as giving yourself five minutes of silence each morning can make a big difference. Sit with your thoughts and focus just on your breathing. Practice mindfulness by letting your thoughts freely come and go. Don’t hang onto them and allow yourself to become anxious over them.
When you let your thoughts pass by like clouds, you are not giving yourself the chance to overthink. As a result, you won’t have to worry as much. It’s a form of self-care that only takes a few minutes each day. Or, you can choose to be mindful at any given moment when you start to notice that you are overthinking things. Let go of those thoughts and focus on the present, instead.
If you do tend to overthink things on a regular basis, breaking this habit is not always easy. But, these steps can help you to let those thoughts go, so you can worry less, accomplish more, and understand the value of letting thoughts pass freely.