Overthinking happens to all of us. It can be a torturous experience to overthink, kind of like a train that leaves the station and is rocketing down the tracks in the wrong direction.
The train’s going by, headed down to a place that’s like Miserable Town. And what you want to do is you want to grab the brakes, pull the brakes and stop that train before it drags you down to a miserable place so you can get ahold of your thoughts and emotions again.
Thinking too much about something, or anticipating an event that causes us anxiety. It takes many forms. We can get so much anxiety just thinking about an important event that is about to happen.
Instead of being in the moment and letting it go, we can obsess over it adding new meaning that was never even there.
Overthinking and worrying is generally the source of many people’s problems. It can cause the individual so much stress and anxiety and contribute to depression and many other things.
But, why do we do overthink?
Well, it’s usually something negative. Thinking about something in a negative way. Thinking about the worst possible outcome for an event. Negativity speaks louder to us since we don’t like to be criticized and hurt, we don’t like to make ourselves appear inferior by exposing ourselves and showing people our weaknesses.
This is something we all fear, but showing our weaknesses only makes us stronger. But, in our minds, things don’t always seem that way.
Here are 11 tips on how to do that right now and stop overthinking
1) Notice when it’s happening
Step number one Notice that you’re on this spiral overthinking thought train. Just noticing when it’s happening, actually puts you in a position of power.
Now you can choose whether or not you want to allow that train to pick up speed and momentum by linking all these negative thoughts together, or you want to stop that train in its tracks and point it in a new direction.
2) Hit the pause button and breathe
You want to de-charge yourself a little bit. You can meditate, you can journal, but what you don’t want to do is start venting to a friend before you even know the outcome of the scenario.
And here’s why.
There’s a bunch of research now that shows that neurons that fire together wire together. In other words, when you call a friend and you start venting, “What if this and what if that and what if this?” it ends up firing those same neurological pathways which reinforces a negative belief about your man.
Imagine this Facebook scenario: if you are describing him with this other woman, then you’re reinforcing a belief about him that you’re later going to have to undo when you figure out that what you worried about wasn’t even correct in the first place.
Remember, 95% of the stuff we worry about never happens in the first place. So hit the Pause button and breathe.
3) Make a date with your worry
Step number three is, whether you want to make a date with your worry or make a date with your doubt. You know, I was taught early on when I was young, growing up, that you don’t have to worry just because worry comes upon you.
You can actually schedule that and say, “No, I’m not going to worry about you now. I’m going to worry about you later.” You can either schedule it for a random time like a Friday at 4:00, or you can schedule it based on a particular event that’s going to happen, like, “I’m going to worry after I talk to my boyfriend or after I talk to my man about this particular event, but I’m going to talk to him first before I allow worry to overtake me.”
4) Vision of the best
Step number four is the vision the best, but know that you can handle the worst. In other words, redirect the train from imagining the worst-case scenario to what would be the best-case scenario.
So what if you lose a job? “Well, what good could come of you losing your job?
What if you got a job that paid better, that had better hours, that was closer, that was something you actually enjoyed more?”
So when you start this, when you feel yourself overthinking, ask yourself the question, “Hmm.
What good could come of this?
What would be a positive outcome?”
And know that even if it is the worst-case scenario, even if it is the worst outcome, you’ll handle it. You have handled every worst-case scenario that’s been thrown your way your entire life and here you are stronger, smarter, and more capable than ever before.
Anything that comes your way, you know that you and your higher power, you’re going to be able to handle that together.
5) Learn by taking actions
And step number five is to learn more by taking action.
So what conversations do you need to have in order to learn more?
What action do you need to take in order to remedy the situation?
There’s always one step that you could take to either become clearer about the situation so that your mind doesn’t build a bunch of imaginary monsters about what possibly might go wrong or might not happen or what have you, but what action can you take, what can you learn?
And as you do, you’ll get more clarity on the situation at hand. And here’s the key: you want to take the action from this place of positive expectancy rather than expecting the worst.
So for example, in the case of the boyfriend who had his picture with his female coworker, the action you could take would be to have a conversation with him. But you don’t want to have that conversation from this place of negative expectancy, like,
“So where were you?
Why did you end up having your picture taken with her?
So does she like to look better in jeans than I do?
Like what is it?
What’s going on?
What’s going on with the two of you?”
Like that conversation from a place of negative expectancy is very different than a place of believing the best, visioning for the best outcome, knowing that you can handle the worst but giving the best outcome the attention
in your mind.
6) Be in the moment
Many times when we are anxious about something and overthinking, we are anticipating something that is more than likely not going to happen. Being ‘in the moment’ and ‘going with the flow,’ letting go of those attachments, can help one realize that we live in the here and now and plan our own future.
So, if you are worrying too much about doing something wrong, then you are filling yourself with self-doubt and anticipating the worse. And, because of your negative frame of mind, you can have a hard time. By being positive, having confidence, seeing things positively, and living in the here and now, you will see that stressing over future events is irrelevant and unimportant.
It’s all about letting go of those negative attachments. Learning to let it go is natural, similar to relaxing your body. For example, your body is only tense when you make it so. When you are asleep your body is relaxed because you
are not stressed. When you are awake and you are stressed, learning to relax is as simple as letting go.
Letting go of the stress and anxiety of not only your body but also your mind. Thoughts can make your body tense. This is the same exact principle applied to worrying and overthinking things. You are stressing yourself out and need to learn to relax by letting it go, for it is natural to do so.
7) Find a positive outlet for your stress and overthinking
Compulsions are a way for you to reduce your anxiety. That is your coping mechanism. The best thing then is to find a better way to reduce that anxiety. Letting it out in a different way that doesn’t cause you even more distress, would be positive.
It’s about learning to recognize the behavior, wanting to change it, and making an effort to change it by channeling it into something constructive. But, the effort should be simple, and not cause you more stress. It should be natural.
8) Focus on what’s going right
The reason we want to focus on what’s right is that most people overthink things. They focus on what is wrong or what can go wrong.
Start focusing on what can go well. When you start focusing on what’s right even though you still may be kind of thinking about things too much it’s less paralyzing than thinking about things when they’re wrong.
So things going right is a good mental shift from things going wrong because overthinking when you’re in that negative loop can get really debilitating and just totally destroy any motivation or anything that you have in anything that you’re trying to do.
9) Start doing
Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Don’t get fooled. Multitasking is a myth. Studies show that during multitasking we rapidly shift our attention from one thing to another.
So when you’re thinking about something that’s where you’re focused on your focus on your mind. So if you start doing something your focus will shift to the action and thus offer your thoughts. Look at your to-do list look at the things you have to do and just start doing them.
When you do them non-stop when you take action non-stop for 20 minutes your brain shuts off and you go into what it’s called the flow state. This state is when we’re so engrossed in an activity that time flies by. It dilates because when you’re out of your mind and into your body that’s what happens.
10) Accept the thoughts you were having
Has this ever happened to you before?
Oh my god, I need to get a report on what’s gonna happen if I don’t do it so don’t do it.
What happens is that we start with one thought and we don’t like it. So we fight it. Whenever you fight it that negative downward spiral occurs till you get to a point where you’re in this utter grief that leads to nowhere good and paradoxically you get what you don’t want.
Now if you look at this the other way when you have that first thought to sit back and accept it just watch it go by and just notice if you don’t have to cling to it.
View it as a passing cloud or a passing car. You don’t have to attach and identify with every thought you have.
11) Challenge your thoughts
Once you are aware of your thoughts you can control them. Now you can’t control your thoughts as they arise but once they arise you can challenge them. Get a piece of paper and a pencil and for the next five minutes sit there and notice the thoughts that are coming up.
Write them all down as soon as the five minutes are up. Look at that paper and see all the thoughts you have within just a five-minute span. You can notice that some of those thoughts aren’t actually true all the time.
So if there are some damaging thoughts or some negative thoughts about yourself what can happen is that you can think of a time when that thought wasn’t true because nothing is true all the time. What happens is the more you challenge that thought the more you change it the more you can change your actions around that thought as well.
Over time you’ll stop overthinking because you can challenge those times when those negative self-destructive behaviors, and maladaptive beliefs are not true and from there you’ll have more control over your life.
So there you have it
Those steps will help you when you feel yourself overthinking when you feel yourself riding this thought train to a place that’s dragging your emotional state downward.
You’ll be able to pause it, break it, point it in a more positive direction, and ultimately create a more positive outcome for you.
So, in the end, overthinking, overanalyzing, obsessing, and worrying are something we all do to various degrees. If one can learn to let those intrusive thoughts go, live in the moment, and find a better outlet for the anxiety that these cause, then you can significantly reduce how much you worry, realizing it’s not relevant or important to anticipate such things.