Overthinking is definitely one of my flaws. I know from first-hand experience how hard it can be to halt that cycle of going over and over something in your mind.
I’ve found though that, with some practice, it is possible to break this cycle.
I have some powerful ideas for you to try in order to stop overthinking. The first thing I will say is that none of these are quick fixes. They all take practise but are useful things to have in your ‘toolbox’.
If one thing on the list doesn’t work, you may well find that something else does. Change might also not be immediate, these tips become more powerful the more you do them, so stick with them.
1. Change Your Environment
Simply getting up off your chair and going into a different room can help.
If possible, go outside.
In particular, try to take a brief walk amongst trees. I love this research about ‘forest bathing’ and how good this is for your health.
2. Write It Down
Set yourself a timer for ten minutes and write down everything about the situation which is concerning you.
I find it also helps to write down some positives alongside the bits that are worrying me.
There are a couple of particularly powerful meditations I find help when I’m stuck in the overthinking ‘loop’.
The first one is to focus on my breathing. (Check out this beginner’s guide to this type of meditation).
The second way is to focus on sounds and thoughts. Here’s a quick overview of how to do this.
- Focus your attention on what you can hear
- Try not to name the sounds
- If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to focusing on sounds
- Don’t judge yourself if your mind does wander
- After a few minutes, shift your attention to your thoughts
- Try not to get caught up in your thoughts, just notice them
- You can imagine them as images which come and go on a screen
- Notice how both sounds and thoughts arise, stay for a little while and then disperse
4. Create Different Identities
Another idea, from Justin Brown at Ideapod, which resonates with me is the notion of creating different identities.
Justin says that this might ‘ sound a little crazy’ but that it does work. He explains that we need to create different identities in our mind and then fully embrace them.
What Justin says to then do is to listen to those different identities and hear them out. Don’t try to block out what they are saying. Doing this can help us to feel more separated from that identity and for us to realise we are not our thoughts.
5. Take Action
Identify one small thing that you can do right now and then do it! This can help you feel more in control of the situation.
For example, writing the problem and your options down could be your first action. Then maybe you have identified that you need to make a phone call – so, do it there and then, don’t put it off.
Overthinking can lead to anxiety and puts us in a ‘fight or flight’ mode.
This fight or flight reaction leaves us with pent-up energy which has to go somewhere. If we don’t do something to release this, it will stay in the body and mind as tension.
A gentle walk outside for half an hour can be enough to help release pent-up energy. Ideally, if you can, try and do something that raises your heart rate a little. I guarantee you will feel better.
7. Distract yourself
Think about the tactic we often use with children if they are fractious. We distract them! This works equally well with adults.
I find that doing mundane household tasks such as washing the dishes, a spot of decluttering or folding the laundry can help break the overthinking cycle.
Something physical that doesn’t require much thought is an ideal way to distract yourself.
The ideas above can be powerful in breaking the cycle of overthinking.
In order to not become overwhelmed, choose one or two of the ideas listed above to start with.
For example, try changing your environment the next time you catch yourself overthinking. Or get your journal out and write it down.
Bit by bit, the overthinking habit can be broken. You’ve got this.