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How to Stop Overthinking

I used to struggle a lot with how to stop overthinking. Sometimes I’d look around and just wonder why everyone else wasn’t thinking about the millions of things that could go wrong. It could be a simple Zoom call. I’d have notes to hand, I’d checked there was enough charge on my laptop, and I’d have a spare pen just in case the one I had stopped working, and I’d dial in a little early to make sure the right number is on the invite.

Or it could be after a conversation wondering if I gave the right impression, what did they think of me, or when I should reach out to them again.

Overthinking is a common issue that many people struggle with, and it can have a real impact on your mental health. It’s an idea that goes beyond the usual problem-solving and daydreaming.

woman in bed wondering how to stop overthinking

When we talk about overthinking, we’re referring to the act of dwelling excessively on our thoughts, replaying past events in our minds, or worrying excessively about the future. This can lead to a cycle of negative thinking that’s hard to break free from.

Overthinking can be a significant barrier to a positive outlook and well-being. It can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. It can keep us stuck in negative thought patterns and prevent us from taking action to change our situation. Overthinking can also lead to negative self-talk, which can further exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression.

So in this article, we look at how to stop thinking and stop negative self-talk.

What Exactly Is Overthinking?

Overthinking is when we dwell on our problems, replay negative events in our minds, and become obsessed with possible outcomes. It’s thinking “too much” about a problem, rather than taking steps to solve it. Overthinking can be a part of chronic pain, as it can keep us stuck in negative thought patterns and prevent us from moving forward.

The Difference Between Thinking and Overthinking

The difference between thinking and overthinking lies in the outcome. Thinking leads to solutions while overthinking leads to further stress and anxiety. Overthinking can lead to a negative outlook on life, causing us to focus more on our problems than on finding solutions.

Symptoms of overthinking

Symptoms of overthinking include:

  • Constant worry

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Feelings of restlessness

  • Often, a sense of dread

  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach problems

It’s a part of our mental health that needs attention and coping skills to manage effectively. By understanding the nature of overthinking, we can start to take steps to reduce stress and promote a more positive outlook on life.

Causes of Overthinking

Overthinking isn’t just something that happens out of the blue. There are some pretty significant factors at play here.

Chronic Stress

First, anxiety and depression have an active part in breaking down our positive psychology. These two are like the evil twins of mental health, and they love to fuel the fire of overthinking. When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, your mind can start to spin out of control, leading you down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts.

Related: Mindfulness and Stress: Does it Help?

Your Past

Next, let’s not forget about life experiences and behavioral patterns. Our past experiences, especially the tough ones, can shape how we think and react to situations. When you were young you probably had reasons to feel afraid a lot of the time. As you grow you try to constantly look for threats, never stopping, never having a break. By trying to think of everything that can happen, it gives us a false sense of security. So your brain might have developed a habit of overthinking as a kind of defense mechanism.

Temporary stress

And lastly, stress and insecurities can also play a big role. When we’re stressed out or feeling insecure, our minds can go into overdrive, causing us to overthink and worry about every little thing.

The Consequences of Overthinking

Suppressed Appetite: Overthinking can lead to a loss of appetite as it keeps your brain busy and doesn’t let the signal pass to the brain that you’re hungry or it’s time to eat. Don’t take this as an effective way to lose weight, you actually lose all the good parts of your body and hold on to the fuel as a way of preparing for the constant danger you think you’re in.

Sleep Problems: Overthinking can cause difficulties in sleeping, leaving you feeling groggy, cranky, and fatigued the next morning.

High Blood Pressure: Constant overthinking can invite stress that can raise your blood pressure and make you susceptible to heart problems.

Brain Impact: Overthinking changes the structure and connectivity of the brain, leading to mood disorders and affecting your problem-solving and decision-making power.

Digestive System Issues: Stress due to overthinking can take a toll on your digestive health, resulting in gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Weakened Immune System: Overthinking can lead to the release of the hormone cortisol in the body, which in turn weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, infections, and diseases.

How to Stop Overthinking

Alright, let’s dive into some strategies to stop overthinking. It’s not always easy, but with a little practice and patience, you can start to shift your mindset and break free from the cycle of overthinking.

Identifying Destructive Thought Patterns

First things first, we need to identify those destructive thought patterns. The ones that keep you up at night replaying conversations in your head or worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. These patterns can be tricky to spot at first, but once you start to recognize them, you can begin to challenge and change them.

Managing Your Personal Narrative

Next up, let’s talk about managing your personal narrative. We all have a story we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’re capable of. Sometimes, this story can be a bit of a downer, especially if it’s filled with negative self-talk. By learning to manage your personal narrative, you can start to replace those negative thoughts with positive thinking.

Letting Go of the Past

Now, this one can be tough, but it’s so important. Letting go of the past means forgiving yourself for past mistakes and letting go of regrets. It means accepting that the past is the past and focusing instead on the present and the future. It’s not about forgetting the past, but rather about not letting it control your present.

Living in the Present Moment

Speaking of the present, let’s focus on that for a moment. Living in the present means letting go of worries about the future and regrets about the past. It means focusing on what’s happening right now, in this moment. This can be a powerful way to reduce overthinking and promote a more positive outlook.

Being in the present moment is the foundation of all meditations. For me, this has had the biggest impact on my overall well-being. As little as 13 minutes of meditation every morning has helped me develop a more positive attitude, and I’ve noticed that I use more positive self-talk throughout the day.

Taking Control of Your Emotions

Your emotions play a big role in overthinking. When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, it’s easy to slip into a cycle of negative thoughts. But by learning to take control of your emotions, you can start to break this cycle. This might involve techniques like mindfulness, meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Focusing on Solutions Rather Than Problems

Overthinking often involves focusing on problems rather than solutions. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of worrying about what’s going wrong, rather than thinking about how to make things right. By shifting your focus to solutions, you can start to break free from overthinking and move forward.

Distinguishing Between Fear and Intuition

Fear and intuition can often feel similar, but they’re not the same thing. Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat, while intuition is a gut feeling that something is right or wrong. Learning to distinguish between these two can help you make better decisions and reduce overthinking.

Asking the Right Questions

Sometimes, overthinking is a result of asking ourselves the wrong questions. Instead of asking “What if?” try asking “What’s the best thing that could happen?” This simple shift in questioning can help you focus on positive outcomes rather than dwelling on negative possibilities.

Using the Right Tools for Mental Health Management

Finally, it’s important to have the right tools in your mental health management toolbox. This might include things like stress management techniques, physical exercise to reduce stress, and coping skills to deal with difficult emotions.

It could also involve seeking professional help, like a therapist or counselor, to help you navigate your mental health journey.

Overcoming overthinking isn’t about never having a negative thought again. It’s about learning to manage your thoughts so they don’t control you. With these strategies, you can start to take control of your overthinking and cultivate a more positive mental attitude.

The Takeaway

So there you have it, overthinking can be a real challenge, but it’s not insurmountable. Remember, it’s all about recognizing those negative thought patterns, managing your personal narrative, and focusing on the present moment. And don’t forget to take control of your emotions and focus on solutions, not just problems. It’s a journey, but with these strategies, you can start to manage your overthinking and cultivate a more positive outlook. So why not give it a shot?

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

FAQs

Overthinking itself isn’t classified as a mental disorder, but it can be a symptom or characteristic of other mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression. If overthinking is causing significant distress or interfering with your daily life, it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional.

Yes, overthinking can actually make you physically sick. Chronic stress and anxiety, which are often linked to overthinking, can lead to a range of physical health problems, including headaches, stomach issues, and even heart disease. It’s another reason why managing overthinking is so important for your overall well-being.

There’s some evidence to suggest that certain personality traits, like being prone to worry or anxiety, might have a genetic component. However, overthinking is also heavily influenced by environmental factors and learned behaviors. So while your genes might make you more susceptible to overthinking, they’re not the whole story.

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