It’s common to overthink things going on in your life. For example, you may wonder about a conversation or mull over a problem at work that hasn’t resolved itself. But if you obsess to the point of overthinking things, it can be unhealthy. This ruminating won’t solve a problem but stirs up worry, so you feel insecure about your life. Whatever you’re finding hard to let go of right now, here are eight steps to help you stop overthinking.
When you overthink, your mind goes on overdrive. You may go over the same situations or conversation repeatedly, analyzing and evaluating what you said and did. It can be compulsive for some people. Overthinking is different than brainstorming or problem-solving. When you overthink, it can make you feel paralyzed and rarely leads to action. Obvious solutions get pushed aside as you think about all the possibilities without ever resolving anything. It steals your confidence causing you stress and anxiety.
What are the signs you’re overthinking?
If you wonder whether you overthink things, here are some signs you’re overthinking things in your life.
You can’t stop worrying
You keep reminding yourself about your mistakes
Worrying about things you can’t control.
You relive your embarrassing moments repeatedly.
When you think about people, you think about things you wish you hadn’t said to them.
You struggle with insomnia because you’re thinking too much
You spend time thinking about what someone meant when they said that to you
When someone makes a comment you don’t like, you mull over it repeatedly
You spend time thinking about your past, worrying about what will happen in the future
Psychologists Explain Eight Habits to Stop Overthinking
If the signs of an overthinker point to you, here are eight steps to stop overthinking.
1. Get comfortable with the negative stuff in life
Life is full of adverse situations. You get sick, deal with unkind co-workers, or feel discouraged about your finances. Being comfortable with the negative things in your life can help you stop overthinking. Interestingly, studies show that individuals who accept the negativity have more excellent psychological health. They’re better able to respond to stress.
It’s important to understand there isn’t a solution for every problem you’ll have in life. Your life may be full of mystery and unanswered questions. Mulling over what you should have done or said only leads to stress. When you face a negative situation, try to do these things:
Accept it as a negative: Don’t try to be overly optimistic about a negative situation. That feels fake. It’s a negative part of life, and that’s okay.
Express your feelings: When faced with negative things, express your fear, doubt, confusion, or sadness. Don’t put on a happy face.
Control is overrated: Many things in life will be out of your control. That’s okay.
Solve what you can: If there is something within your power to solve, do it. Otherwise, let go of it.
Tall your mind to stop: Talk to yourself. Tell yourself to stop overthinking. Don’t let negative thoughts control you, causing you to slip into overthinking.
2. Avoid rehearsing your conversations
Overthinking is often rehashing old conversations. You may think about a conversation you had years ago, rethinking what you said and what the other person said. Overthinking can become obsessive to the point of anxiety. When you catch yourself doing this, try these things:
Try a grounding exercise: Bring your mind into the present. Focus on how your legs feel, your arms, or your head.
Name something: Take a moment to name one thing you see, smell, feel or hear right now. Getting into the present pulls you out of your ruminating and into the present.
3. Exercise to let go of negativity
Physical exercise boosts your energy and improves your moods. Brain chemicals called endorphins are released when you exercise, causing you to feel more positive. Of course, you don’t need a gym membership to exercise. Walking for fifteen minutes helps rid your mind of negative thoughts. Step outside in the sunshine. Breathe in the fresh air. Enjoy the flora and fauna around you. Before you know it, you will let go of worry and concern. If you don’t enjoy walking, there are lots of other types of exercise you can do to overcome your tendency to overanalyze, such as these healthful activities:
4. Pay attention to your triggers
If your brain is in overdrive all the time, you need to take a moment to figure out what is triggering these mental gyrations. What triggers your negative thoughts may differ from someone else’s overthinking, but most people worry and overthink about the same things. Try asking yourself questions to understand better what’s triggering your anxious thoughts.
Did anyone say or do something that’s making me feel anxious?
Did I say or do something that’s a concern? Why?
Am I afraid of what people will think of me?
Understanding your triggers can help you avoid them the next time, or if you need to face them, you can prepare yourself to resist overthinking. Some of the most common stress-related situations people overthink include:
5. Resolve outstanding problems
Studies show that people who struggle with overthinking feel better when they resolve the underlying causes of their anxiety. Of course, you can’t solve every problem by thinking about it. Sometimes you need to take action. For example, resolving a conflict, finding another job, or getting better health care helps you let go of your negative thoughts. The traits of a good problem solver include:
Know what the problem is
Don’t assume you understand the problem completely
View the problem as an opportunity to learn and grow
Think outside the typical ideas
Be ready to be wrong sometimes….it’s okay.
6. Stay busy
If you have too much time on your hands, it’s tempting to let your mind run wild. Stay busy interacting with friends and family or participating in events in your area. When you stay busy helping others, it helps you. Staying active keeps the focus off yourself and all the negative thoughts crowding your mind. Ways to keep busy helping others include:
Volunteer at your local library
Tutor kids at an elementary school
Volunteer at a pet shelter
Visit an elderly neighbor
Take food to a food pantry
Other ways to keep yourself busy include these:
Join a book club
Audit classes at a local university
Join a gardening club
Take kayaking class
Learn a new language
7. Find a trusted friend
A trusted friend who knows you well enough to listen while you talk about everything on your mind is golden. Ask them to point out when you’re overthinking things. Of course, they probably already know this. Researchers say that a ten-minute chat on a social topic boosts your mental agility and helps you solve problems. Plus, your close friend can help you laugh at yourself and your overactive thoughts.
An ancient proverb says A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17: 22) Laughter and joy reduce stress, boost your immune system, and improve your mood.
What are the benefits of friendships?
Good friends are good for you. They help you celebrate during the good times and support you in the bad times. Friends also,
Improve your self-worth
Boost your confidence
Improve your happiness
Help you cope better with trauma
Encourage you to change where you need
Help you change bad habits like excessive drinking or lack of exercise.
Adults who have strong social connections lower their risk of
High blood pressure
8. Schedule time to ruminate
Of course, you need time to reflect on the different situations in your life. But endless hours of ruminating won’t help your soul. Instead, schedule time daily to reflect on the things you’re concerned about. Keep this reflection time to twenty minutes of thinking time. You may want to journal your thoughts or use the time to pray, asking God for help to resolve a problem. Or you may need to let go of the worry associated with whatever you’re thinking about.
Be consistent with these reflection times. You might want to spend time reflecting the first thing in the morning or the last thing in the evening. Sit outside on your deck with a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Allow your thoughts to wander. Reflect on your cares and concerns. Be sure to also reflect on what’s good in your life. Explore what you’re grateful for in your life.
Final Thoughts on Knowing Its Time to Let Go of Your Overthinking Habit
Overthinking is familiar to everyone, but if you constantly mull over old conversations and feel anxious about them, you could fall into unhealthy habits. Overthinking can lead to anxiety disorders and physical problems. If this sounds like you, try these eight steps to let go of your negative thoughts. Remember, you control your thoughts; your ideas don’t control you. Hopefully, these steps will encourage you that you can stop your brain’s overload of thoughts. Enjoy your newfound freedom as you let go of worry and concerns in your life.
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