Can’t Get Your Mind To Still? Here’s How To Stop Overthinking

By Siew Ching

Easy steps you can take alleviate the stress of overthinking.

You have a quiet moment – no work, no calls, no nothing. But somehow, instead of relaxing and enjoying that peace and quiet, your brain starts thinking about the email you were supposed to write, the birthday present you have to buy, the insurance package you need to check out before the promotion ends, why you’re not getting a promotion, whether you’re making enough money, are you broke… the list of worries really go on and on!

Guilty? We are all – after all, worrying is part of the human experience. The problem is when you can’t stop thinking of these worries, causing you unnecessary anxiety that can take a toll on your wellbeing. We don’t have to tell you again but overthinking and dwelling on the same worry again and again will increase your risk of certain mental health conditions, as outlined in this research.

What should an overthinker do? Try these tips to calm your mind!

#1 Find a distraction
Quiet moments mean your mind wandering off to one worry after another. A quick way to fix this is to shut down with an activity you enjoy. It could be going to a favourite workout session like spin and Pilates, trying out a new recipe from that cookbook you recently bought, gardening, or maybe even trying something completely new like painting.

#2 Notice when you’re overthinking
Knowing exactly when you are overthinking will help you become more aware of this problem and do your best to stop it. If you’re replaying events or worries in your mind over and over again, acknowledge that it is not going to get you anymore. Instead, maybe just focus your mind to one worry and think of the solutions around that one worry only. Tell yourself that you’ll come back to your other worries once you’ve settled that.

#3 Focus on the solution, not the anxiety
You overthink because you want to solve something, right? Well, overthinking isn’t going to be helpful but coming up with ideas and solutions is. A worry is something you might not have a lot of control over but how to prevent the problem or resolve it is something you have full control over. Focus your attention on that instead.

#4 Don’t think of the negative; think of the positive instead
Overthinking is often caused by one single emotion: Fear. When you are overthinking, you are focusing on all the things that might go wrong, making you completely desolate. Next time you find yourself spiralling in that direction, stop. Visualise instead the things that can go right and the things that you can do to make everything right to keep positive and in control.

#5 Set a timer
If you really must overthink and worry, give yourself a moment to do all that. Set a timer for 10 minutes and during that time, you can think, worry and analyse all you want. Once the timer goes off, set it for another 10 minutes. Sit down with a pen and paper (or use your phone to type!) all the things that are worrying you. Then either tear the paper or delete your note, and move on to life!

EXPERT TIP! Try this exercise by psychotherapist Jenny Maenpaa on how to stop overthinking: Practise specific gratitude. She says, “In psychology, we know that expressing gratitude can increase our happiness. It can help us contextualise our frustrations against what we love and help us connect to something larger than ourselves – whether that’s other people, animals, nature or a higher power.”

Specific gratitude, according to Maenpaa, is being really specific about what you’re grateful for. Don’t say things like I am grateful for my health; instead say things like I am grateful I am healthy enough to go for my morning runs every morning and I woke up today without feeling the usual pain I have in my back. You can read more of Maenpaa’s expert tips here!

Got a tip to share on how to stop overthinking? Share it with us at @Graduan.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash.

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