In my professional experience, one of the main concerns clients often express is overthinking and if there are ways to stop overthinking. Most of the time, it is something to do with the past or about the unpredictable future. For example, if someone is feeling uneasy, they may start thinking about what might happen to them in the next moment, causing anxiety. By looking up such queries online, people may get in a loop regarding various health conditions they may not be suffering from.
Overthinking, also called ‘rumination‘, is a cognitive error or a form of thinking that is unhealthy. It is rooted in uncertainty. People who overthink could suffer from anxiety but not always. It can also contribute to depression and other mental disorders. It occurs when an individual dwells or worries about that same topic repeatedly. They get stuck and unable to move forward, making matters worse for their mental well-being.
Overthinking is one of the most common things an individual can struggle with. Here are some ways of combating and overtime stop overthinking:
When you recognize that you are overthinking, try to distract yourself from the situation. The most helpful way of doing so is by playing focus-centric games such as sudoku or crossword. Exercising or walking can be extremely helpful as it increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the body, making one feel better and stop overthinking while performing the activity.
- Challenge worse-case scenarios
Many times, overthinking occurs while thinking of worst-case scenarios. Instead, take a pen and a piece of paper – write down the worst-case scenario, then the best-case scenario followed by three other most likely scenarios. Doing such an exercise helps the mind learn that the possibility of the worst-case scenario is quite low as several other scenarios could also occur. This automatically calms the mind and individual down, reduces anxiety, and helps us move forward in the journey to stop overthinking.
- ‘All or nothing’ thinking
When overthinking, we see any situation as all or nothing; it is either 0 or 100. But in all fairness, there are a lot of things that fall in between too. It is always helpful to see life situations or problems on a spectrum. If we start practicing seeing things this way, it automatically helps us stay calmer, not get overwhelmed, and reduces anxiety.
- ‘What if’ thoughts
One of the biggest hurdles to stop overthinking is constantly thinking of what-if situations. These are extremely unhealthy and not helpful at all. It is very important that as soon as one realizes that they are getting into the loop of what-if thoughts, we stop overthinking right there and instead remind ourselves of the situation in the moment. One helpful way of doing so is to tell yourself five things regarding that topic that is true now – remind yourself of the current reality!
- Mindfulness and breathing practices
Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises help an individual stay in the present rather than constantly overthinking about the past or the future. If an individual regularly practices these exercises, the chances of anxiety due to overthinking are lesser. Furthermore, one can try doing so with the help of apps created to keep you calm.
- Speak to a professional
If you find yourself unable to break the pattern of overthinking or challenge those thoughts on your own, you must reach out to a professional. They will not only help you break this pattern and stop overthinking over time but also uncover any underlying conditions, if any!
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To know more about mental health, read Ishita Pateria’s articles right here.