Last week in Dear Overthinker I shared about my struggles with overthinking and many of you told me how much you identified with the post.
If you constantly ruminate over past events and about how you could have done things differently or if you’re always obsessing over something that hasn’t even happened yet, working yourself into a state of anxiety… then continue reading. I will share strategies, some of which I’ve used, to manage my overthinking.
I hope that by being transparent about my journey, I can perhaps make yours a little easier.
How to Stop Overthinking: 6 Ways to Break Free from Constant Worry
1. Be aware of your thoughts
Be aware of when you’re thinking too much and are lost in your head. Start paying attention to when you feel overwhelmed. What are the triggers? What are you saying to yourself? We have the ability to take a step back and actually think about our own thoughts. Acknowledge that the overthinking isn’t productive and challenge the negative self-talk. Once you catch yourself early you can stop it from happening as often.
2. Practice Mindfulness
What exactly is mindfulness?
I like the definition given in Mindful – ‘Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’
In essence when we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. One way I do this is by guided meditation. The mornings when I do this, I can definitely notice a difference in my mood and thoughts during my day.
Meditation decreases anxiety and depression but also increases pain tolerance, memory, self awareness and motivation. A simple 5-10 minute exercise on deep breathing or body scanning (paying attention to what’s going on in your body) can help with overthinking. There are apps out there, many of them free, that can guide you through these exercises. I use the Simple Habit app. Check it out!
3. Schedule time for reflection
Allow yourself 20 minutes each day to think about, mull over and worry about your problems. When the time is up, move on to something else.
I usually do this by journaling. Writing your thoughts down on paper forces your mind to slow down, gets you out of your head and allows you to manage your thoughts better.
4. Go do something else
It usually backfires when you tell yourself to stop thinking about something. You usually think about it more!! So a strategy is to distract yourself by becoming immersed in another activity. You can talk to a friend about a different topic; work on the project you’ve been putting off or you can exercise. Hiking in the outdoors has been especially helpful whenever I need to calm my mind.
5. Let go of the need for control
I have had to get comfortable with uncertainty or at least less uncomfortable with it. Look, we can’t control the future and no amount of analysis or planning can change that. Trust yourself enough to know that you can handle whatever comes your way. Let go of the need to be perfect. You are only human and you will learn and grow from your mistakes. Give yourself the freedom to fail sometimes. Just live!
6. Seek professional help
Sometimes situations occur that really trigger worry and anxiety such as a major loss, stressful job or financial problems. It’s OK to reach out for help and speak to a trained therapist. Or maybe you just want to get to the root of your anxiety. Don’t suffer in silence, help is available.