5 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Get the Best Out of Your Day

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Be Stress Smart with this useful guide for beating a frazzled mind

What is overthinking?

Do you hear this a lot when you’re agonising over a decision: ‘You’re overthinking it’?

Firstly, know that overthinking is something we all do from time to time when the pressure mounts. You may find yourself replaying events and conversations in your head or try to ‘solve’ an issue which is beyond your control. If you are overthinking everything, you might:

  • Wish you had said or done something differently
  • Find it difficult to interpret a situation
  • Agonise about decisions, even small ones
  • Procrastinate and put off acting
  • Fear what others are going to say or think

You may not always be conscious of overthinking, but if you are a chronic overthinker, it will be using up your time, mental energy, and emotional resources. Think of all that time you could better spend doing something more rewarding (but don’t overthink it!)!

So, what is overthinking a symptom of? Overthinking everything can be a symptom of anxiety and is a sign of your brain focusing on a particular thought to the exclusion of all else. Therefore, if left unchecked, the distress caused by overthinking can lead to other psychological problems such as OCD, depression, and insomnia. Overthinking can also be a symptom of these conditions too.

Overthinking has two main components:

Ruminating: repetitive thoughts about a past situation, which often involve feelings of guilt, regret and self-loathing

Worrying: cycle of negative thoughts trying to predict the future

Overthinking isn’t a solution

Although it may seem obvious, overthinking doesn’t help. It may seem to your brain that it is solving a problem, but if the same thought keeps recurring, then you need to step in to take control.

So how do you deal with overthinking? Follow these simple stress relief tips to stop worrying and put an end to repetitive thoughts.

5 Ways to Stop Overthinking

  • Stop! Technique. When you catch yourself about to start another thought spiral, say ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ out loud. You can even wear a hair band around your wrist to flick it to reinforce the message. Add emphasis by smiling, taking a deep breath and dropping your shoulders. Practise this regularly to instil the message into your subconscious.
  • Be mindful. Become aware of your thoughts and notice them, as if they belonged to someone else. Don’t judge them, simply observe them, as if they were a movie playing on a screen. Practise detaching yourself from them. You can be the narrator of this movie rather than the actor. Say to yourself ‘there is that X thought again.’ Imagine drawing away from the thought, as if it were on a screen getting further and further away.
  • Body scan. This is a good one to practise at night in bed. When you mind wanders and begins to worry, draw your attention to your body and what you can feel and touch. Starting from the top of your head, guide your awareness down your body. Your attention will repeatedly wander—this is normal—all you need to do is gently guide it back to your physical body.
  • Relaxation is important. Having a laugh with a friend, a long soak in a relaxing Epsom salts bath, watching a comedy or getting immersed in a great book are all great stress relief tips, because these help to distract the mind.
  • Dial down stress with herbs and adaptogens. If you have a troubled, unclear mind with racing thoughts, traditional herbs can support better focus and emotional balance. Holy basil and gotu kola have been used for hundreds of years in prayer and meditation to clear the mind, and in combination with lion’s mane mushroom and green tea, these nootropics can help you feel more centred. See Living Nutrition’s Wisdom.

Finally…

If you’re a chronic overthinker, you can’t expect to stop worrying overnight, but by making small lifestyle changes you can gradually dial down the intensity of your overthinking. Overall, the most important takeaway in how to deal with overthinking is to be more mindful and more present in your thoughts.

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