We’re all familiar with the notion of worrying. Whether it’s about work, family and loved ones, financial situations, or the uncertainty of the future, we’ve all experienced varying amounts of preoccupation about things that are important to us. Sometimes we stress about the small details, second-guess every decision, or even brace ourselves for the “worst-case” scenario. Overthinking is a habit that develops over time and is often associated with the idea that we may be able to better anticipate outcomes if we try to analyze a situation from all possible angles. It can often manifest when facing tough decisions in life or dealing with existing insecurities. However, fixating on an issue well past the point of problem-solving can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. It can drain your time and energy, create more stress and anxiety, and get in the way of you enjoying the present moment.
As with any habit, it can be difficult to change, especially when we do it subconsciously. Identifying your own negative thought patterns and being aware of your triggers, especially during times of stress and conflict, is the first step towards curbing the spiral of overthinking. Below are a few helpful strategies to stop yourself from overthinking.
- Distract yourself. Break the cycle of negative thoughts by engaging in a healthy distraction. Meditating, practicing mindfulness, taking a walk, or reading can take your mind off your worries and help reduce stress and anxiety that may make you prone to overthinking. Expressing your worries either through journaling or confiding in someone you trust may provide some welcome relief, allow you to process your thoughts and even offer a different perspective into your situation that may help dispel your fears.
- Schedule your worry time. If you find yourself unable to reel in your worries, try to at least give yourself a finite amount of time each day to delve into your thoughts and fears. Schedule a thirty-minute time slot for yourself during the day (preferably not close to bedtime!) when you allow yourself to reflect on your worries. This way, you will ensure that your worries are not left unchecked throughout the day and distract you from opportunities for enjoyment.
- Make peace with things beyond your control. Coming to accept that worrying about things excessively may not change the outcome can liberate you from the burden of overthinking. Things will not always be in your control and may not always play out the way you envisioned – but that is okay! More importantly, your worries and fears may not even materialize the way you had dreaded, which means that all that stress and anxiety would have been for nothing.
- Check your negative monologue. Whenever you find yourself ruminating on an issue or experience worrying thoughts, take the opportunity to check that inner monologue. Pause and ask yourself if your worries are realistic, whether they are worth consuming your present time and energy, or if they will have any meaningful impact in the long run. Replacing negativity with positive thoughts and actions can help reframe a healthier way to deal with stress and conflict.
- Practice confidence and self-compassion. Overthinking often stems as a coping mechanism to traumatic events in childhood, or to an overwhelming fear of disappointment and failure. Be kind to yourself and reassure yourself that all will be okay even if things don’t go as planned. Have your faith in yourself and your abilities and prioritize your peace of mind – over time, you’ll notice that you have a more optimistic and healthier outlook on life.