What is overthinking?
Basically, overthinking is thinking over something too much for too long a time.
Now, it is part of human nature to think things over before making a decision or taking a step in a situation, but it can spill into overthinking when you get trapped in your thoughts and can’t get out of your head. It is this condition that births stress, worry, and it happens to every one of us. But in some extreme cases, the grip on the mind can be so firm that some persons find it hard coming out of overthinking. Perhaps its worry about the future, or regurgitating and reliving past experiences, by dwelling on the “should-haves” and the “I wishes”. Some persons even fret over the impressions other people have of them and fall in the loop of overthinking.
There are some severe repercussions of overthinking. For example, in high-stress situations where a high-stakes decision is necessary, overthinking can come in the way of logical and sensible reasoning, and the resulting choices could be catastrophic. This could apply to your business, where overthinking can cost you a great deal of profit if you choose investment in the wrong area because you did overthink things.
Many of us suffer from “paralysis by analysis.”
Overthinking can also paralyze you mentally, making you incapable of deciding as you fear making the wrong decision. This can make you take no action at all, and that could be worse, in some cases, than taking the wrong decision.
So, whether you’re caught up in severe overthinking or just occasionally, restlessness becomes inevitable, and you could even slip into depression, elevate your stress levels, and cloud your judgment.
In this article, we will explore the various tricks and hacks you can employ to stop overthinking.
In most cases, overthinking comes as a result of depression or anxiety, and addressing these two elements may address your problem of overthinking. If overthinking isn’t as a result of some underlying emotional conditions, then some though hacks could be useful to manage and stop overthinking. So, how do you stop overthinking? Let’s find out.
How to stop overthinking
Let go of some past events
Overthinkers often regurgitate and relive past experiences, as they sometimes may find themselves recounting a one-time activity, adventure, or transaction and are imagining “what if”, or “I could have…”. Though this may seem harmless, it is sipping out energy from the present to the past.
It would help if you had this resolved in the depths of your mind: you can’t change the past – but you can choose to learn from it, adapting lessons from those perspectives and reshaping your view of the past. When you can bring yourself to accept the past is already done and can’t be changed, you free yourself from any unnecessary burdens, regrets, or grudges and stop your mind from overthinking. Redirecting energy from the past to the present moment is a great way to stop overthinking.
Practice taking authority over your thoughts
As a way to stop thinking, you must know that you can be in control of your thoughts – you can choose what to think about. As you realize you’re overthinking, you can choose to consciously divert your thoughts onto the present and not give in to overthinking. You can bring your mind back from a cesspool of overthinking to the here and now. How can you do that? Start by breathing. Then ask yourself some questions to diagnose the epicenter of your overthinking: “what am I thinking on? When is that? What is stressing me out?” etc.
You can journal how you feel and what you’re thinking about. That helps you keep track of your thoughts. As overthinking sets in, take up your journal and note down how you feel, what you’re thinking on, the mood you’re set into because of what you feel, and your concentration level in that mood. All these strategies help you follow up your thought patterns, to identify and stop overthinking.
Thinking about your thinking
This is the underlying concept behind metacognition – thinking about your thinking, being aware of your thoughts. Being aware of the thoughts you’re having and how they affect you can help you consciously overcome and stop overthinking.
Remember, the goal here isn’t to simply try to forget about specific experiences, but to become more aware of, and remove yourself from the core “being” of your thoughts. It is about observing your thoughts, what and how they make you feel, all in a bid to stop overthinking.
Zero-in on what you can control
One of the critical causes of overthinking is panic, anxiety or fear in a stressful scenario. When things start to go wrong, overthinking may seem inevitable. But in that, you can breathe, slow things down, and ask yourself, “what things can I control?”
Acknowledge what is on your mind, what you’re thinking about. Then, slow it down and expand your perspective to see what is within your power to change or control. When you focus on what is within your ability to control, you indirectly magnify your power to change things.
This also applies to businesses. When things seem to be crumbling or failing, don’t amplify what is beyond your control or what you wish you could control; instead, carefully assess the situation and see what logical steps you can take towards achieving your set goals. Maybe you’re running bankrupt, or the profits are dwindling; carefully consider what steps you can take towards reducing expenditures or strategies to revamp sales, rather than focusing on the state of the economy.
Acknowledge your fears
More often than we may realize, it is fear that spurs in the mind and results in overthinking. This could be fear of what others would say, how others perceive us, the error of making mistakes, of not being good enough to prevail, or the fear of losing. Such worries have the potential to keep you in indecision and cause you to overthink.
Our imagination can easily paint images of suffering more than we are experiencing. The fantasy of what things may turn out to be can birth fear and cause overthinking. How do you overcome this?
You can start to take action
Take a bold step towards what you fear. Action enables you to stop overthinking, as you transcend from imagination to tangible results. Even if you fail, you will have overcome your fears in that aspect and in so doing, subdued overthinking.
It will help if you internalize that no matter what may happen, you’re going to be ok. Be confident to take a step towards achieving your goals. That may be in your business; overcome your fears and insecurities by taking action, even a small one, in the direction of your goals. Being action-oriented enables you to overcome and stop overthinking.
See solutions, not problems
To stop overthinking, see the solution, not the problem. It would help if you amplified the solutions to problems rather than the problems themselves. Redirect your efforts, thoughts and energy towards solutions to problems rather than the issues.
The problems you may have cause anxiety and stress, breeding grounds for fear to set in, and thus, to overthink. To overcome this, you can write down those problems or share them with someone. Then, critically brainstorm on ways to solve those problems, rather than dwelling on the gravity and severity of the problems.
What if you hit a wall in your business?
Perhaps in your business, you hit a wall in sales, or the work schedule is stressing you out. You can start by writing it down clearly or sharing with someone like a friend. Then, get to brainstorming on how to get out of that challenge. Don’t keep going on and on about how problematic the situation is. No amount of complaining about a problem can solve it, but careful strategizing could.
Being open about your fears, problems or thoughts to a friend can open you up to a new perspective of things. This will give you just what you need to stop overthinking.
This applies in two folds: making the decision, then act. It will help if you practice making decisions and sticking to them. Indecision is a breeding ground for overthinking and to overcome it, you must be action-oriented, adding action to your choices.
Decide to do something, get on your feet and actually do it. And it starts with the small decisions. As you practice being decisive, you quickly become action-oriented. The action stems from the decision, and the decision comes from you. if you must stop overthinking, be a person of action.
Manage your stress
Develop ways to manage your stress levels. Stress exacerbates overthinking, so keep it in check. This may involve altering your work schedule, taking breaks, prayer or meditation, or simply engaging nature, away from your smart devices and the modern world entirely for a while. Even taking a few minutes’ walks can go a long way to ease your mind of stress and help manage overthinking.
When you feel your thoughts are overwhelming and you’re caught up in overthinking, you can do these things to clear your head:
- Take a walk. Merely engaging a walk in nature like a part for a few minutes can ease the congestion of thoughts and get you out of overthinking.
- Do some exercise. Sweating out your thoughts helps you think better and eases you out of overthinking.
- Go “dark” for a while. Simply disengaging from your digital devices for 30 minutes or multiple hours can really get the pressure off and ease your mind, thus, helping to stop overthinking.
Live in the moment
To stop overthinking, you should learn to live in the present, not the past. For some, this can be as easy as flipping a switch. But for others, you may have to redirect your thought patterns to the present consciously.
It is possible to take control of and alter the thoughts you are having. Before overthinking takes hold of you, you can smell it a mile away and reset your thoughts in time. Be it a high-stress environment, where all seems to crumble down, or perhaps worry is setting in or regret of the past; do this. Breathe and focus on the present; what do you see? What do you hear?
You can achieve this by taking on daily activities like prayer or meditation to stop your brain from reliving these moments. As time progresses, you’ll find it more natural to plug and unplug your mind from overthinking.
Control your emotions
To stop overthinking, you must take control of your emotions. That doesn’t mean you simply ignore and bury them, but to master them. It will help if you acknowledge your feelings. What you’re feeling right now and identify the reason why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. If you feel anxiety, don’t just ignore that emotion. Search deeper to unravel the causes of that emotion and seek to understand it. Knowing is half the battle. When you see the source of specific emotions, you can better take steps to address those situations and stop overthinking in a preemptive manner.
Know the difference between fear and intuition
Fear and intuition aren’t the same, and a proper understanding of this will help stop overthinking in its tracks. The fear of making mistakes is often the cause of overthinking. That helps to foster indecision and gives a feeling something is not right. Being able to identify whether or not you’re driven by fear or intuition can help you stop overthinking and get to the action. By carefully scrutinizing your thoughts, you can better make decisions. Then deploy those decisions to action towards achieving your goals.
Ask yourself the right questions
The right questions can help diagnose overthinking and guide you out of it. Simply asking yourself why you overthink isn’t going to stop overthinking. Instead, that will lead to more overthinking. Rather, ask yourself questions that will bring about solutions to your worries. Ask questions that can help you make changes in certain areas rather than questions that will keep you in regret, fear or anxiety. In so doing, you’ll stop overthinking in its tracks and press on the path to success.
Don’t focus on what can go wrong, but what can go right
There are indeed situations in which the very thing that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. But often, all those negative possibilities play out in our minds and feed off of our fear, giving room for overthinking. Our fear of the outcome keeps us paralyzed, even above the actual manifestation of the outcome itself. So, don’t focus on the negative; look to what is going right. When thoughts of fear and failure set in, remind yourself of all that is going right. Subdue those negative thoughts. With that, you’ll have stopped overthinking in its tracks.
Learn to distract yourself
To stop overthinking, it is always good to have some happy and fun activities that you could engage in and distract yourself from overthinking. You could take up activities like playing an instrument, knitting, gardening, dancing, prayer or meditation, drawing, etc. All these distractions to distance yourself from worries enough to hamper the overthinking process.
Put things into perspective
It can seem easy to put things out of proportion and make situations bigger and much worse than they actually are. When we let thoughts of fear in, what appears as a bad situation can easily be exaggerated and magnified, and that’ll cause you to start overthinking things. There are some things you may just be pressuring yourself to accomplish within an unrealistic time frame. Thus, pushing yourself to overthink. Merely changing up such time frames or properly prioritizing tasks can go a long way to relieve some pressure from your mind and help manage overthinking.
Perfection is the enemy of progress.
Stop waiting to attain perfection
Many at times, we hold out of progress because we’re seeking perfection in every single thing we do. While excellence is essential; perfection can be impractical and unrealistic. This takes up more resources than necessary.
So, when you have the thought, “this must be perfect”, remember that perfection isn’t a smart move compared to progress. When you see improvement and choose to settle for excellence, overthinking will seemingly fade out.
Internalize the fact that you can’t predict the future
We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We can only plan and hope for what it’ll bring, but we don’t know what the future will bring. All you have to work with is now, this present moment. If you waste it in overthinking, then you’ll destroy the only chance you have at preparing for an uncertain future in worrying and overthinking things.
When you can fully internalize this fact, then when you find yourself overthinking, you can pull yourself out. The you can enjoy the present. And you can better plan for the approach and logically and sensibly anticipate and invest now for the future.
Accept your limits
To stop overthinking, you must know your limits – acknowledge what is your best and be content.
Too often, overthinking is birthed from a feeling of unsatisfaction with our best. We see that we aren’t good enough or our best isn’t sufficient. Once you’ve given your best in a task, you should accept the results as the product of your best and be ok with it. Tell yourself, “I did what I could; I put in my utmost best”. Of course, this works when you actually invested your best.
You can’t be ungrateful and grateful at the same time; so, be positive. The power of positivity is a great tool to help you overcome overthinking. Every day find things to be grateful for. You could make a list of things you’re thankful for, and daily acknowledge those things. Such a positive attitude towards life and your challenges will keep you from overthinking.
Relax and breathe
As easy as this may sound, it has the potential to get you out of overthinking. The next time you find yourself overthinking, simply take a deep breath and relax.
Here’s a simple exercise to achieve this:
- Get a comfortable seat and relax your next and shoulders
- Place your hands on your body, one across your belly and one on your heart
- Breathe in and out through your nose slowly
Try meditation or prayer
I know we’ve mentioned this before, but the emphasis here should show just how helpful this is. Engage in regular meditation or prayer if you find yourself overthinking regularly. There are tons of resources on the internet to get you started on how prayer or meditation works and what conditions are optimum to achieve maximum results.
Tackle automatic negative thinking
Automated negative thoughts (ANTs) are negative thoughts often initiated from, and involve anger, fear, anxiety and often involuntarily trigger a reaction to a situation.
A great way to tackle ANTs is to keep track of your thoughts by recording them and consciously working towards changing them. Here’s how you could achieve this:
- Use a notebook to record and monitor your thoughts, how they affect your mood and your reactions to situations
- Explore the possible reasons why you’re having the thoughts you’re having
- Identify and explicitly denote the emotions you’re experiencing. Also, note what you’re telling yourself amid the situation.
- Consciously replace negative thoughts. Instead of amplifying the negative, look to the positive aspects of the situation and zero-in on those.
Acknowledge your successes
When you find yourself overthinking, take a pause and note down some things you did right in the past day or week. Reminding yourself of your successes and achievements can help calm you and stop overthinking.
And these achievements don’t necessarily need to be huge; merely being on time for an activity or completing a planned assignment would do. These little wins will add up and have a significant impact on how you view yourself and enable you to stop overthinking.
Have compassion for yourself. Too often we find it easier to let go of the shortcoming of others than those of ourselves.
Overthinking can happen to just about anyone, and its management is critical if we are to enjoy happy lives and make sensible and unclouded decisions. With these tips, you can be well on the way to stop overthinking.