Here’s the truth – thinking is good until you overdo it.
Because just like anything else, everything in excess is alarming.
You might say that overthinking doesn’t sound so bad on the surface. But wait until the endless cycle of rumination exhausts your mental energy.
What is overthinking?
It is what it exactly means – thinking too much.
Some of the symptoms are analyzing, commenting, and repeating the same thoughts over and over instead of acting. In fact, it prevents you from taking action and finding the solution.
The thing is, overthinking is different from problem-solving. The former is just repetitive thinking without mentally moving to a solution.
It consumes your energy, disables your decision-making skills, and puts you in a loop of thinking and thinking over and over again.
In short, you’re stuck in an aggravating endless circle of stressful thoughts. And let me tell you, it’s not great.
Overthinking things can hold you back from living a full life. Fortunately for us, overthinking doesn’t have to be a permanent part of our existence.
Now if you’re ready to confront this problem, here are 13 ways to free yourself from overthinking:
1. Be aware of your thoughts
To address your habit of overthinking, you need to learn to be aware of your thoughts.
Being aware will let you know when you’re starting to ruminate. Then you can step back and look at the situation.
Awareness is the first step to stop yourself from overthinking.
(Do you want to live a more mindful life, but don’t know where to start? Check out my new down-to-earth eBook on mindful living here).
2. Don’t think a lot about what if’s.
Most of the time, overthinking is caused by fear of the future. When you focus on what could happen, you become paralyzed.
3. Distract yourself.
Every time you find yourself overthinking, distract your mind with happy, positive, and healthy alternatives.
For example, you can meditate, dance, travel, learn how to play an instrument, knit, draw, or paint instead of brooding over negative thoughts.
To shut down the overanalysis, redirect your attention to something else that requires focus. You can even use a puzzle, memory task, or any game that requires concentration.
All of them can be enough to break the compelling pull of ruminative thought. By distracting your mind, you will find that the frequency of overthinking will diminish.
4. Be realistic
Overthinking makes things bigger and more negative than they really are. However, being realistic prevents the issue to be blown out of proportions.
Try to not make a mountain out of a molehill. When you catch yourself doing so, think if the situation will matter in five years.
If your answer is no, then stop. Asking this simple question can help shut down overthinking.
5. Stop being a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist brings frustration in your life. Why? Because nothing and no one is perfect.
Stop waiting for perfection because it will never happen. It is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating.
When you find yourself thinking “This needs to be perfect,” realize that waiting for perfection is never as smart as making progress.
6. Stop being fearful.
When you failed in the past, it doesn’t mean that you will fail now too. One cause of overthinking is the fear of failure.
Remember that just because things did not work out before, it doesn’t mean it won’t work out again.
Your fear is paralyzing you from living a full life. Always think that every situation is a new beginning.
7. Time your worries.
Give yourself time to think. For example, you can set a timer for five minutes and give yourself that time to think, worry, and analyze.
But once the timer goes off, you can either write down all the things that are worrying you and then move on.
Make it a habit to not spend too much thinking about thoughts that are making you anxious.
To dive deep into Buddhist teachings and techniques to let go of worrying and live more in the present moment, check out Hack Spirit’s most popular eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Eastern Philosophy and Buddhism for a Better Life.
8. You can’t control the future.
Overthinking comes from wanting to control everything. But know that nobody can predict what will happen in the future.
No matter how you prepare for what’s going to happen, some things just happen unplanned. If you spend the present moment worrying about it, you are robbing yourself of your time now.
Why not spend your precious time enjoying the present moment?
9. You are good enough.
Do not think that you are not good enough. You are!
When you’ve done your best, pat your back and recognize your efforts. Accept the fact that while success may depend in part on some things you can’t control, you’ve done what you can do.
10. Get plenty of good quality sleep.
A positive mindset starts as soon as you wake up. Getting good quality sleep will help stop overthinking.
The opposite happens when you haven’t slept enough because it makes you more vulnerable to irritability, pessimism, and bad moods.
11. Work out.
Working out can help let go of your inner tensions and worries.
Most people take a walk to clear their heads or change their headspace into a more constructive one.
12. Remind your brain that you are the one in charge.
When you find yourself overthinking, you have the power to interrupt your unneeded thoughts and plan for a positive thought to switch to.
You can focus on other things like the task you’re currently doing instead of letting your brain control your thoughts.
13. Stop it before it starts.
They say prevention is better than cure. When it comes to overthinking, one way to stop it before it starts is to have a stockpile of positive statements ready.
A simple statement like “I did my best” can block the beginning of rumination.
The thing is that overthinking is something that happens to anyone. What you need is a system for dealing with it.
That way you can ward off the negative, anxious, stressful thinking and turn it into something useful, productive, and effective.
What is overthinking a symptom of?
Sad to say, overthinking is the evil twin of anxiety. Any type of anxiety disorder is characterized by hypervigilance.
An anxious person tends to overthink everything – always on the lookout for anything that it perceives to be dangerous or worrisome.
If you’ve been making problems where there aren’t any, then you’re an overthinker.
Yes, we become whatever we think about. That’s how powerful our thoughts are.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius
However, we can decide what thoughts to ignore in our mind. While our thoughts can shape us, we are still its master, and we have the power to change or stop it when it’s becoming too much.
Decide to live in the present moment through experience because your mistakes in the past and your worries about tomorrow don’t matter.
What matters is that you truly live and enjoy the present moment – NOW.
Adopting a daily habit of mindfulness is one of the most effective ways to stop overthinking.
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Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.