Popcorn checked. Lights turned off, yes. You are all set and excited to watch a movie today after finishing your work. And it’s the weekend. So, why not? You then skim through every film genre on Netflix and Amazon Prime. There’s comedy, romance, mystery, and action to choose from, but it turns out to be the most challenging task ever. Your excitement dies, and you fall asleep.
Do you have a tendency to overthink even the most minor details? And then regret wasting your time because you didn’t make any progress? If that’s the case, here are 8 things you can do to stop overthinking.
Disclaimer: This article is for the purpose of education. It is also meant to be a self-improvement guide for anyone who has been feeling a little stuck.
Talking about overthinking, I confess that I was overthinking while writing this article. Hehe!
1. Notice when you are overthinking
Do you feel stuck making a decision, or are you second-guessing a decision you’ve already made, wondering if it’s right for you? Do you feel so anxious and stressed that you can’t sleep? This could mean you have fallen into the trap of overthinking. Because overthinking is a sneaky habit, it may be difficult to notice when you start obsessing over a single thought. The key to breaking this habit is awareness. The sooner you realise you’re overthinking, the sooner you can control your thoughts.
2. Book an appointment with yourself just to overthink
You don’t need a reason or a specific time to overthink; you can do it whenever you want. You may not have the energy to complete your projects, but your brain appears to have the energy to overthink. Does that sound like you?
Overthinking can negatively impact your productivity and concentration. If you believe it will be difficult for you to stop overthinking entirely, you can begin by allocating some time each day just to overthink and worry. A study published by a Pennsylvania State University professor in 1983 found that setting aside a specific time each day to overthink can reduce worrisome thoughts. So, whenever your mind begins to overthink, you can remind yourself to focus on those thoughts during your “thinking hour” and finish your work for the time being.
3. Try to distract yourself
Telling your brain to stop overthinking can sometimes backfire, making those thoughts more likely to resurface. It works like a spring. The more you compress it, the more forcefully it returns to its original shape. So, what can be done? Distracting yourself with happy, positive alternatives can help you replace negative thoughts. Dancing, painting, cooking, playing video games or even just calling up your best friend can help you shut down overthinking.
4. Live in the present moment
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present”. Recognise the character who said this and the movie. Comment your answers below.
Ruminating over your past mistakes and failures, or worrying about what might go wrong in the future, will only keep you from taking action right now. To break free from overthinking, try returning your attention to the present moment. If you find yourself overthinking during lunch, try focusing on how the food looks, tastes, and smells. It will require you to consciously pay attention to your activities at first, but it will become automatic over time. Don’t let what has gone or what is yet to arrive stop you from living in the one and the only moment you have now.
5. Focus on what you can control
Apart from realising when you are overthinking, it is also important to know what you are overthinking about. Perhaps you’re nervous about your exam results or replaying an old conversation in your head, imagining how it could have gone better. Just like that, you quickly lose sight of the variables under your control. You can’t change what happened to you in the past, and you can’t predict what will happen in future. Instead, how about examining what’s within your control and can be changed with your efforts?
6. Aim to be solution-focused
Do you go back and forth over the same options before you decide? And when you’re stuck, you google it and weigh the pros and cons of both options, only to end up with no-decision. Is that you? If yes, comment below. While it can be difficult to shift your attention from obsessing in your head to creating an action plan for yourself and start implementing it, doing so is the best way to ensure you set free from overthinking and make progress.
7. Try to relax yourself
Relaxation can also help you manage your stress and worries by reducing overthinking. So, whenever you catch yourself overthinking, take a few deep breaths and simply observe how you breathe. A study mentioned in the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman found that practising relaxation on a daily basis can reduce overthinking in the long run. Unfortunately, it cannot entirely silence your thoughts. And that brings me to my next point.
8. Challenge your thoughts
Are you overthinking again? Then try asking yourself these questions. Are these worrying thoughts going to help me solve my problem? How likely is it that the worst-case scenarios in my head will come true in the future? What could be the best-case scenario? By challenging your thoughts in this manner, you can prevent yourself from believing that your negative thoughts are true and instead see the bright side of life. Researcher Borkovec in the book Emotional Intelligence suggests how a combination of relaxation and a critical stance against your negative thoughts can put an end to overthinking.
Overthinking can affect how you interact with others and mentally exhaust you, blocking you from being productive. You may feel as if you have lost control of your life. So, the next time you catch yourself overthinking, try one of the methods to get back in the driver’s seat.
If you find any of these tips helpful, let us know in the comment section.
Truly appreciate you taking some time off your busy schedule to read this article. See you soon with more mental health content. Stay tuned until next time. Goodbye!
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