How To Successfully Stop Overthinking
The word “overthinking” pretty much explains itself. It means thinking excessively which leads to dead-end thoughts. These thoughts mostly bring tension and do not solve anything because they consist of endless analyzing and worrying.
You want to be a steady, balanced thinker and not an overthinker. To become one, there are certain steps that have to be undertaken.
Defining yourself as an overthinker
The bottom line of overthinking is fear and mostly it happens subconsciously. So, to have a good result on solving overthinking, you will want to get in touch with your feelings and see yourself from a neutral point.
What are you afraid of? Do you crave perfectionism and fear people will judge you if you make mistakes? Do you fear losing a job? Are you afraid your partner will leave you? Or is your mind filled with “what if” questions?
There are many reasons why a person can drown in excessive thoughts. If it is easier, take a pen and piece of paper and start putting your thoughts out so that you can define what really is going on inside your head.
Belief and daily commitment to changing thought patterns
Nothing ever changes in our lives without believing it can be changed and doing a daily commitment to take all actions required to make it happen. This applies to stopping overthinking as well.
Although your first instinct will say “But this is in my mind and I can’t change it because it is what I am”, believe scientists who say that changing your thought pattern IS possible (read more about neuroplasticity). If you convince yourself you can’t change, of course you will not be able to succeed.
Once you start believing in yourself, you can commit to change but it must be done on a daily basis.
Exercise in changing thought patterns
Now we come to the most challenging part – how to stop overthinking.
Here are few exercises you must undertake every time your thoughts become excessive:
- Acknowledge your excessive thoughts
When overthinking starts, many people just give into it completely unaware of it. Practice alertness so that you can always take appropriate actions immediately when you recognize it happening. That is why mindfulness comes in handy at any kind of problem, including this one. Read more about mindful living here.
- Make an immediate action to stop it by implementing a replacement action
This is a crucial step in solving overthinking pattern. When you start overthinking, it basically consists of useless, never ending circle of thoughts where you do not come to a solution of what seems to be a problem but only dig yourself deeper in it. That is why overthinking must be stopped deliberately. To be able to do that you can use a replacement method: use a set of thoughts that will oppose current thoughts and replace them.
Concentrating on your breathing (a.k.a. mindful breathing) is one of many replacement actions that work well on overthinking.
Remember that exercise of counting sheep? This method has a similar effect. The bottom point of all similar exercises is to input an action that will produce calm state of mind. Your mind needs a tranquilizer and thinking about something “boring” and mentally unchallenging will calm your mind down.
When you concentrate on your breath, you decide with each in and out breath to let go of excessive thoughts and just enjoy your breath. Overthinking won’t stop immediately of course. That is why constant mental reminder is required. For example, you inhale and exhale few times and some of your excessive thoughts come back and pull you away from your breath. At that moment use your awareness that it is happening and simply return your focus on breathing. What might happen is that your thoughts will take over again and again. Keep always in mind, even if it happens one hundred times, willingly return your attention to breath and follow it one hundred and first time. Keep repeating it until you feel your overthinking has stopped.
- Changing your mindset about overthinking
This step is as important as number two. It is so because having a right mindset will completely make your overthinking pattern stop.
Try to remember: What can be changed should be changed. What cannot be changed, one simply must accept it. This is a whole philosophy behind stopping overthinking.
Why is your mind flooded with too many thoughts? Are you afraid of something? If it is, for example, that you will lose your job, are you obsessing about what will happen if you get fired? Does it make you frightened and then you just can’t relax and your thoughts keep racing in fear?
This is a perfect example where people give into excessive thinking. Now when you acknowledged racing thoughts (having a fear of losing a job), ask yourself can this situation be changed? If you can directly influence to keep your job than do whatever it takes to keep it. Make a plan how to be more productive, add an extra work hour a day if you can’t finish your deadlines in time and devote yourself 110%.
If all this is completely worthless because you know you are most probably losing your job anyway, then will your worry about it actually help keeping the job at this moment? No. What can help is to make a plan how to take immediate actions to find a new job. Then, when your plan is done, lay to rest and make a positive decision to continue working on your plan tomorrow as now is the time to rest and stop thinking about it.
Acceptance and overthinking
As previously said, what can be changed should be changed, and what cannot be changed should be accepted. If we all accepted our lives the way they are at the moment, we would never have overthinking as a problem. Acceptance is a very powerful tool. You can read more about acceptance here.