We have all fallen victim to worrying too much at some point in our lives. After all, we can’t just turn off our brains. Often, it’s not a problem. But sometimes it can get pretty extreme. If you’ve been stressing too much lately and wondering how to stop thinking about something then you’re in the right place.
To stop overthinking about something, you’ll need to look at things positively, let go of things a little, not beat yourself up too hard, and practice acceptance of uncontrollable situations of your life, among other things.
I’ve prepared an ultimate guide on how to stop thinking about something that bothers you and also explained why it’s necessary to stop overthinking. You might want to try these strategies out to overcome thinking too much and put your mind at ease.
How to Stop Overthinking: 10 Strategies to Try
Fortunately, there are several ways to stop overthinking. I’ve talked about ten strategies you can adopt in your daily life and practice till you don’t overthink anymore. These strategies are what experts advise you to do to keep unwanted thoughts at bay.
Keeping Busy and Active
If you want to keep your mind off something, the best way to do that is to stay active or busy. Engage in physical activities like workouts and sports. Focus on mind and muscle movements, which is an excellent way of clearing your mind.
Besides, exercising will secrete “happy hormones” and endorphins, which improves mood. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make us feel good. You could also watch your favorite movies or read your favorite books, which will help you focus anywhere other than those negative thoughts.
If you have a dog, walk him in the park. If you don’t, then go out of yourself and have a mental conversation with nature. Studies have shown that nature’s presence and body movements soothe our nerves. It becomes easier to focus on other productive things rather than things that bother you.
Additionally, it also raises your emotional frequency, and that will help you get some insights on a different perspective of a situation you don’t want to think about. Positive emotions from moving around and engaging in fun activities will keep the negative ones at bay.
Being Mindful and Aware
You can try to stop overthinking about something by beginning to be aware. Sometimes, we end up thinking the most about things we don’t want to think about. So you can count the times you keep thinking about these unwanted thoughts.
Once you’re aware you’re spending so much time thinking about things you can hardly ever change the outcome of, you’ll also notice a decrease in time spent like this. Doing this will also take away the importance of the situation that’s bothering you.
When you’re using your focus to identify the problem, you can cut off the source and wield your mind to keep the unwanted thoughts away. Additionally, you can replace these thoughts with a happy replacement thought or things that you can do something about.
Gradually, this replacement thought process will become automatic, and you’ll do it without investing any effort. To combat unwelcome thoughts, you’ll have to practice mindfulness, identifying that thought, and letting it be. Acknowledging it, you will eventually remove it as well after it’s done lingering for a bit.
Having a Problem-Solving Attitude
Having a problem-solving attitude is undoubtedly beneficial in every aspect of your life. It’ll be the most useful if you’re having trouble thinking too much about negative things. After you’ve practiced mindfulness, you can try to think about the solutions to your problems.
People say that starting is half the journey. If you take one step towards solving your problems, you can gradually move on from worrying too much. If it’s something you can’t do anything about, there’s no use dwelling on it. You can instead focus on coping strategies or let someone in on your thoughts.
If you can do something about your worries, like struggling with self-acceptance, work efficiency, or other situations, you can try to come up with a solution. Approach the concerns with a problem-solving attitude and invest effort in the answers.
Train Your Brain and Boost Your Willpower
“When there’s a will, there’s away.” As I’ve already mentioned before, training your brain to be mindful is an act of mental exercise. You’ll also need to exercise your willpower to keep it strong.
You can start by incorporating a new habit every month. Find something you love and commit to it. Track your progress and get creative with your skills. Plan for the next thirty days and stick to your habit. It’ll slowly become natural for you.
Cultivate your ability to focus strongly. Train your brain to give yourself a time out when you need it. Your ultimate goal should be progress rather than perfection, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you can’t do it correctly.
Besides, practice concentration exercises to sharpen your mind. You can also try self-discipline techniques. Don’t be a product of your mind. You’re in control here, not your mind. So don’t let it trick you into overthinking.
Practice being Kind to Yourself
Self-compassion is the most challenging activity. It’s easy to act out of love for others rather than yourself. Often, we beat ourselves up for beings a certain way. And these thoughts keep you up at night. Eventually, overthinking becomes a part of your daily life.
So you can see how one thought sets off a whole chain of events—our self-criticism fuels ruminations. You will find yourself taking the blame for your actions and decisions, which will make you worry more and more.
Treat yourself how you’d treat your best friend in need. You need to be friendly with yourself and give yourself support. Being a human means making mistakes, and you aren’t going to be above it most of the time. So tell yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes instead of scrutinizing yourself for everything.
Smiling and laughing hard, alleviates stressful thoughts. It can take your mind off worrying thoughts. Our brain engages in laughter and instructs our body to make gestures and sounds.
Laughter is a perfect medicine for depressive and stressful thoughts. Scientific studies also back this up. Laughing a lot can reduce hormones that cause us to feel stressed. Additionally, it triggers the release of endorphins. As I’ve mentioned before, endorphins are good chemicals for our body and also temporarily relieve pain.
It’ll also lighten anger and conflict and boost your immunity. The best thing about laughter is that there are several ways to engage in it. Watching a movie, going out with friends who make you laugh or even laughter therapy will reduce stressful worries. It’ll make you feel relaxed and soothe tension.
Meditation is an excellent technique to reduce and manage stress. These days, it has become one of the most popular methods of self-focus and stress relief. Incorporating meditation into your daily schedule will gradually make you resilient to stress and other worrying thoughts.
Additionally, meditation will clear your mind and help you think with clarity. It’ll set your perspective right and help you overcome your negative thoughts. You can start by meditation for fifteen minutes per day.
Find a quiet and undisturbed corner of your home. Focus on your breathing, and clear your mind. Try not to think of anything else other than your breathing. Play some calm music in the background.
You can gradually increase the time you meditate. It’s known to help many people to break out of the vicious cycle of overthinking. It broadens your mental horizon and declutters your mind. You’ll also sleep better once you start meditating regularly.
Talk It Out with Someone
Often, a fresh perspective from another individual will help us see things in a different light. It’s also one of the best ways to get out of your head. If things get chaotic up there, consider turning to your friends or family for a little help, and talk it out with them.
If you’re bothered by someone in particular and have the opportunity to ask them about it, consider choosing to talk with them. Most times, our mind exaggerates reality and makes us think about the worst-case scenarios.
It’s usually just in our heads. The reality is not that complex, and a few words can undoubtedly solve conflicts. Don’t be scared to approach someone for your worries and let people help you. You’ll have to challenge your thoughts and find the truth out before losing hair for it.
Write Your Worries Down
Therapists say that writing things down is an excellent way of getting the worries out of your head. They advise keeping a notebook and a pen by your nightstand and using it when you end up ruminating.
Doing so will clear your head and acknowledge the worries for you. And as I’ve mentioned previously, owning the issues will eventually make them go away. Once you’ve written whatever is making you worry down, you’ll also have to engage in a more significant activity: action.
People want to be in control, and when Things are spiraling beyond it, writing things down will give you that stability over the pile of to-do things. Additionally, if you’re feeling negative about something, writing those down and throwing it away will positively impact you.
A study published in Psychological Science reported that when people wrote bothersome thoughts down and discarded the paper, they mentally discarded those thoughts.
Sometimes, therapists encourage us to keep a jar of thoughts or a diary to control this. When you’re done overcoming the negative feelings, you can look back and feel even better.
Read about Inspirational Stories
Inspiration from strangers can do a lot when it comes to hope. Overthinking strips you of all hope and would make you feel devastated. This is where inspirational stories come in.
You’ll likely have something in common with some of the seven billion people existing on this planet. Maybe you’ll find people who are going through similar circumstances as you. But they beat the odds while you’re still on the path to overcome it.
Don’t lose hope because there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Learn more about these individuals and get inspired by their stories. Inspirational stories are said to give people a lot of hope to go forward and do something about their lives. Your story could be an inspiration to someone else too.
I should also mention that these aren’t the only things you can try to overcome thinking too much. You could also schedule some time of the day to think but not allow yourself to exceed that limit. It would help if you also give yourself some time to process a significant life event.
Accept these thoughts. You don’t have to like them. You can even disagree with them, but try to face them head-on and accept them as your current reality. With time, it’ll lose its importance, and you won’t be thinking about it again.
Try to take away important lessons from what you think about and practice self-acceptance. Every individual is wired to react differently. So embrace your uniqueness and don’t give in to the obsessive nature of overthinking.
What Happens When You Overthink?
Overthinking about things that you don’t have control over can be dangerous to our overall well-being, mentally and physically. It’s a pesky habit that leaves people in a state of constant misery and can be very debilitating.
Everyone overthinks once in a while. But if you are genuinely an over thinker, you’ll be plagued with negative thoughts all the time and hardly find anything relaxing. Science says that women overthink more as blood flow is higher in their brains, meaning they empathize more and are more focused.
Over thinkers are also at a higher risk of developing anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, and depression. Studies show that it takes a severe toll on the individual suffering from this condition. It comes with several dangers you should be aware of.
Your Brain Works Over-Time
You’ll find it very difficult to stop thinking about a situation, a person, or an experience. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to turn these thoughts off and work your brain over-time.
Besides, instead of engaging in a problem-solving initiative, you will probably keep on thinking about how you could have done things differently and how you can react if the situation presented itself before you once again.
Plus, you might also weigh the outcome and over analyze the situation much more than necessary, lose sleep, and face other physiological dysfunctions. Studies have also shown that your appetite will take the hit if your brain works over-time.
Paralysis by analysis is not a myth and is backed up by scientific evidence. You go through it when overanalyzing a situation can paralyze you when you try to make a decision. It means that you won’t reach a decisive conclusion about that particular situation and it will interfere with problem-solving processes.
An individual who overthinks will keep thinking about the best situation and stop making decisions in fear of making a mistake. In both of these circumstances, you’ll outweigh the realistic expectation or miss the correct timing to make the right decision. Ironically, overthinking will not help you arrive at a “perfect solution.”
This phenomenon can occur for simple or complex problems. The individuals feel very unsure of what decision to make and will be unsuccessful in identifying an outcome. Luckily, all hope isn’t lost, and you’ll find several available options to overcome this.
Risk of Developing Mental Illness
Overthinking is not a diagnosable disorder, but it could turn into one that is diagnosable. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2013 shows that overthinking past experiences, mistakes, and insecurities increases the chances of developing mental illness.
For instance, your appetite will take a hit because your brain is overactive. This could either boost your appetite or reduce it. In both cases, you’ll be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Additionally, you’ll face sleep disturbances that could lead to insomnia. Patients have often described to therapists, ‘It is worse at night. I stay up thinking about what I could have done differently.” Insomnia is also known to shorten an individual’s life span.
Besides, over-thinkers are also more prone to developing depressive disorders. You’ll dwell more on your shortcomings and insecurities and lose your willpower to do the things you love.
Being Unproductive and Procrastinating Heavily
Productivity amplifies a good mood ten-fold. Overthinking individuals will often lose themselves in a cycle of procrastinating and being unproductive. Overanalyzing situations will lead you to delay your work.
Even when you do get to work, you will be unable to focus and produce dissatisfactory work, which will, in turn, again, enable your overanalyzing tendency. Additionally, the unproductive behavior will also make your energy levels fall as your brain isn’t engaging in constructive work and thoughts.
You’ll be mentally spent, and it’ll make you feel very tired because of spending so much time inside your head. David Spiegel, the director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford Health Care, says that when you stress yourself out from thinking too much, your body will produce cortisol, which can cause burnout.
If you aren’t familiar with burnout, it’s a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion because of severe and continuous stress.
When you’re overthinking, you might be subtracting years off of your life. A study from Harvard University says that overactive neurons lower your lifetime. Neural excitation takes up insulin, which is what your brain functions on.
These findings are backed up by biological evidence. A protein called REST regulates genes and is activated when the neuron is excited and suppresses it. People who live longer showed higher proportions of REST in their brains.
When the neural activity is inhibited, a specific group of proteins is activated, and they are responsible for increasing our lifespan. When we overthink, neural activities increase and take up more insulin. This is essentially brain food, so you’ll end up being exhausted, spent, and tired.
So, researchers have advised people to meditate because it decreases neural activity and engages in mind training. You will enjoy longer and happier lives without stressing.
Decline in Creativity
Certain parts of our brain are responsible for creative processes. These parts are quiet, meaning they’re less excited. A study done in the UK reports that overthinking might make you feel stuck and get fewer ideas about projects.
Some overthinking could lead to more creative ideas. But it could also backfire and cease creative control. Additionally, it will also make it difficult for you to think outside the box and cause a mental block.
A study from Stanford University also had the same conclusion. The participants had to draw a series of simple and complex drawings for this experiment. Readings from MRIs participants showed that the more complex a picture became, the more thinking is required, and the less creative their drawings were.
Physiological Dysfunctions and Social Disruptions
We are what we believe, and we believe what we think. As your thoughts shape your reality, overthinking might have physical symptoms too. Overthinking causes stress, and stress can lead to stiff joints and muscle pains, which could also develop into musculoskeletal disorders.
Additionally, you’ll also feel headaches and have stressful hair loss. Our body is always prepared to respond to threats, and the same applies to stressful situations that occur in our heads rather than in the external environment.
Besides, overthinking will also ultimately control your activities and take over your social relationships. You’ll feel doubtful of significant people in your life, and that will make your relationships fall apart.
Overanalyzing every situation and taking every detail apart will also exhaust the people around you and make it challenging for them to put up with you. Plus, it will cause more arguments because you might keep weighing the “what ifs” all the time.
It will also be troublesome to live in the moment because you’ll be anxious overthinking about everything. Additionally, the people you value will feel misunderstood. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll lose the connection with them because of obsessing over every detail, denting your self-esteem, and spoiling your mood.
Moreover, it will taint your social relationship and produce more risk factors for depressive disorders. Overthinking triggers a chain of events that will ultimately harm you.
Is Overthinking a Sign of Anxiety?
Overthinking can be a symptom of psychological problems like depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. Overthinking is not a disorder, but it is seen in the early stages of different anxiety disorders.
People who have suffered from PTSD, agoraphobia, trauma, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, OCD, and other disorders are more people to overthink. The brain can’t turn the anxious thoughts off. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders that impact the US population of which overthinking is a sign.
But overthinking is not uncommon. Several people suffer from overthinking. It doesn’t mean that you’re in the early stages of a kind of anxiety disorder. It’s in human nature, and we all overthink about some things sometimes. You might overthink about grades, your homework, what you said to someone, or what someone said to you.
You shouldn’t confuse overthinking with nervousness. Sometimes we’re just nervous about a situation. Regular overthinking passes after a short while. You won’t be losing sleep day after day because of it.
If thinking too much disrupts your regular life, it could be a sign of anxiety. When overthinking becomes an anxiety disorder, excessive thoughts will invade your head that might induce stress, anxiety, or panic.
Besides, if you’re unsure about having chronic overthinking, I suggest going to a professional and checking if you are indeed suffering from it. Since this isn’t a diagnosable disorder, you won’t find a designated treatment for it, but you can try the strategies I’ve mentioned above.
If you’re dealing with a friend who’s going through this, remember to be patient with them and be there for them while trying to combat their problems. Mental health therapy, like CBT or group therapy, will help them overcome this problem. If nothing from the strategy, as mentioned above, works, consider leaving it to the professionals.
It’s challenging to have control over our thoughts and will ourselves to stop thinking about something. If you are successful in doing that, it won’t happen overnight, and it’ll take days or even years to master.
It’s very easy to get carried away in the imaginative scenarios of our heads. It’s best to try to help yourself and adopt strategies to overcome it before it gets worse. I hope this article has shed some light on how to stop thinking about something. Don’t stress about it.
Always try to remain calm and tackle this situation confidently. Hope this article was of help to you. Thanks for stopping by and good luck.