How To Stop Overthinking And Overcome Anxiety Now
Overthinking is as debilitating as it is common. It can stop you from enjoying social events, disturb your sleep, undermine your job performance and even ruin your vacations. Typically, it also comes with all the physical discomforts of anxiety. This means that overthinking leaves you not only mentally distressed but also exhausted. If this picture sounds familiar, you’re probably desperate to work out how to stop overthinking your life and start living. However, you may have already tried to change and found it an insurmountable hurdle.
It’s important to know that learning how to overcome anxiety is possible. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to stop overthinking in a relationship, how to stop obsessive thinking about your health or how to enjoy socializing without panicking, there are powerful techniques you can learn. Let’s explore how to stop overthinking, first by defining the problem and then by looking at the most effective solutions.
What Is Overthinking Disorder?
So, what exactly is overthinking disorder? We all get sucked into obsessive thoughts sometimes, but when this starts to consume our lives it turns into a serious, chronic problem. Some people are more likely than others to suffer this problem. For example, those with a history of anxiety disorder. After all, scientists know that overthinking activates the same parts of the brain that are involved in fear and anxiety.
However, even if you don’t have a history of mental health difficulties, you might be prone to overthinking if you consider yourself a “problem-solver”. Your greatest asset, an analytical mind, can easily become an enemy when you get stuck in a loop of unproductive thoughts. In addition, high levels of uncertainty can trigger overthinking disorder. For example, if something dramatic has changed in your life or you have experienced a major loss, your mind may start to spiral in the direction of unproductive obsessiveness.
Overthinking Symptoms And Signs Of Anxiety
It’s useful to have a definitive list of overthinking disorder symptoms. This allows you to identify when you are really getting into dangerous territory for your mental health. Looking at the following symptoms can help you conduct an overthinking disorder test:
- You can’t sleep. When you try, you just can’t turn off your mind, and you begin to feel agitated by worries or doubts.
- You self-medicate. Studies on overthinking disorder suggest you might turn to drugs, alcohol, food or other external ways of regulating your emotions. This is because you don’t feel able to calm down using our internal resources.
- You’re always tired. This may be from insomnia, or just from the constant loop of your agitated thoughts.
- You want to control everything. You try to plan every aspect of your life, down to the last detail. This is the only way you feel safe, but it never quite works (because it’s impossible to control everything).
- You obsess about failure. You tend to be a perfectionist and often imagine how awful it would be to fail in any way. This fear of failure often paralyzes you, preventing you from learning from any mistakes.
- You fear the future. Instead of being excited by all you’ve yet to accomplish and experience, you are trapped in your own anxiety about what could go wrong.
- You don’t trust your own judgment. You second-guess yourself on everything from what you’re wearing to where you’re going, what you’re saying and how you come across to others. You may rely on others to reassure you that your judgment is sound.
- You get tension headaches. These feel like a tight band around your temples, and you might also notice pain or stiffness in your neck. Chronic tension headaches are a sign that you desperately need a rest.
5 Ways To Stop Overthinking Now
Overcoming obsessive thoughts requires an action plan. If you want to stop overthinking, you need to find straightforward techniques that work, and repeat them until they become second nature. You may also benefit from therapy or medical interventions if your anxiety is especially debilitating, but you can use practical exercises in conjunction with these treatments.
Here are five of the best ways to overcome anxiety and put a stop to your relentless loop of thoughts. As you get used to them, you can adapt and adjust them to suit you.
1. Be Aware Of Your Thought Process And Anxiety Triggers
Obsessive overthinking is different for everyone, so it’s vital to know your unique triggers. It helps to cultivate a deeper level of awareness of your overthinking, asking questions about why and when it occurs.
Start paying closer attention to your thought processes, and notice when you’re thinking in an unproductive way. Note down what you’re thinking, and the form it takes. For example, are you replaying a previous conversation on a loop, analyzing it for your failures? Alternatively, are you picturing future disaster scenarios in your imagination? In addition, write what you think instigated the overthinking. Was it something to do with a social interaction? Uncertainty? Going to a new environment?
Your notes will quickly help you pick out specific triggers for your anxiety. This gives you ammunition to challenge the underlying limiting beliefs through reflection or journal work. In time, you will be able to preempt triggers before they cause a serious episode of overthinking, intervening with some of the further techniques listed below. Eventually, the hope is that the triggers will also become less powerful because you’ll understand their origins and know how to fight back in your mind.
2. Stop Overthinking With These Organization Tips
One of the best ways to stop overthinking is to harness new practical ways of dealing with life’s challenges. In particular:
- Adopt a wider perspective. When something is bothering you, ask yourself: will this matter in a year? How about a month? How about a few weeks? Often, you’ll find it won’t matter even a month down the line. This can help you relax.
- Make time-limited decisions. For example, you might give yourself five minutes to decide about something minor (e.g. whether you’re going to some housework or whether you’ll go to the gym today). Meanwhile, you might take at most half an hour to decide on a bigger issue like whether to give a presentation or attend a big social event.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Reduced overall anxiety levels by taking regular breaks to do calming things (e.g. 10 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of reading a fiction book or 20 minutes of walking in the park).
- Minimize overwhelming input. It’s also helpful to set time limits on things like working with emails, reading social media etc. If one of your triggers is this type of sensory overload, you might give yourself 15 minutes four times a day for these tasks, but no more.
3. Use Positive Daily Affirmations For Anxiety
Affirmations are statements that help you overcome negative thoughts. They are particularly useful if you want to learn how to stop overthinking at night or want to set yourself up for a great day first thing in the morning.
Here are some good affirmations for anxiety:
- “I have the power to decide what I will think about. My thoughts do not control me.”
- “I release my obsessive thoughts and let them go.”
- “I refuse to allow my imagination to show me disastrous futures.”
- “I live in the present moment and appreciate the beauty of what’s happening now.”
- “I am more than my negative thoughts. I can and will be happy.”
You can also design your own positive daily affirmations. There are no set rules for the form they must take. In addition, try saying them into the mirror, looking straight into your own eyes. And smile, if it feels natural.
4. Get Active! Retrain Your Brain To Think Positively
Learning how to stop overthinking, anxiety and restlessness also has a lot to do with building better connections with your physical body. Both physical and mental forms of positive stimulation help to rewrite problematic, negative thought processes. For example:
- Exercise can work wonders for the over-thinker. It focuses the mind on something straightforward, structured and rewarding, turning pent-up energy into something you can use. It also floods the body with feel-good endorphins that make you more positive in general. Find something you genuinely love, whether it’s a team sport, running in a beautiful place, cycling with friends or swimming laps after work.
- Engage your brain with learning something new. Pick up a new language, try something creative you’ve never attempted before, figure out how to play a new problem-solving game (e.g. chess, Sudoku or Scrabble), or take up some form of crafting.
- You can practice meditation for overthinking. Simple, 10-minute body scanning exercises work well here. Breathe deeply for a few minutes, then consider the sensations in each part of your body, working from head to do. Notice tension, and release it. Alternatively, deep breathing also works well on its own. Breathe in through the nose for two seconds, and out through the mouth for four. This pattern is proven to be the most relaxing.
5. Be Patient And Live In The Now
Learning how to stop overthinking and worrying also involves cultivating ways of better living in the present moment. Firstly, don’t allow yourself to be held hostage by vague fears about what might happen to you. Instead, confront the toughest question: What is the worst that could happen? Often, it won’t be as bad as you think.
In addition, you’ll typically discover you actually have the resources to deal with the worst-case scenario. Secondly, use techniques that anchor you in the present moment. When you’re overthinking, slow down physically. Try to notice every movement of your muscles and everything around you. Your brain will slow in response. You can also try narrating the present in your head (e.g. “Now I am taking a walk. Now I am getting dressed”) to pull yourself back to the present.
Finally, work to accept that you cannot control everything. This is the aim of your overthinking, and it’s ultimately holding you back. To grow and develop as a person, you need to willingly move out of your comfort zone into places where the unexpected can happen. You also need to be able to learn from mistakes and see them as opportunities for improvement rather than as failures.