We all overthink at times. And some of us overthink all of the time. There is certainly a link between stress and anxiety and overthinking, but it has not been established whether they are the cause or purely a symptom of a chronically overactive mind. So how to stop overthinking everything? Wherever this vicious circle begins, the key is to stop the cycle and find ways to allow yourself to be more objective, confident and relaxed.
Luckily finding ways to slow down or overcome overthinking is actually fairly easy and straightforward. Using some simple techniques can quickly lower stress and anxiety and help you get a better night’s sleep, therefore helping you each day to be calmer and more relaxed than the day before. In this way, you will feel gradually more refreshed, less anxious and more able to continue installing new habits that will help you make overthinking a thing of the past.
The tips below will build habits that allow you to calm your mind and feel more in control of your life. They are ways that have helped me to relax and take my overactive brain from a chronic state of stress to a calmer place:
How To Stop Overthinking
1. Switch off
In this case, we’re not talking about the mind, we’re talking about screens and technology. Blue light from screens, a barrage of news and information, too much stress from work and even messages from family and friends all come mostly from our phones, tablets, computers and televisions. Make a habit of switching everything off for a few hours of the day, especially in the evening, and find more relaxing ways to spend some free time. This allows your brain to have regular breaks with less input and, over time, this will allow you to relax and slow the pace of your mind.
Your body becomes tense when you work long hours or spend a lot of time sitting, watching videos or reading on the Internet. When your muscles are tense, your brain interprets this as a situation needing stress hormones. These stress hormones tell your mind that you’re in crisis and that it needs to work overtime to find solutions. Getting up out of your chair and stretching for ten minutes a few times a day will release this tension, sending the message to your mind that it’s okay to relax. You could join a yoga class too and get the full relaxation experience that comes from regular stretching and mindful breathing.
Taking some deep mindful breaths will almost instantly calm your overactive mind. When we are stressed our breath becomes shallow and high, our shoulders get tense and pull upwards with contracted muscles. A few deep breaths, allowing the air to go deep down into the lower part of the lungs, and letting the shoulders relax downwards, can be a strong signal to the body and mind that it’s time to relax.
This will help to slow those racing thoughts and lower stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Build the habit of stopping what you’re doing, closing your eyes and taking some good deep breaths several times a day and you will certainly notice an improvement in your overactive mind. These breaths can be enhanced from time to time by taking them outdoors in a green space such as a garden, park or forest.
4. Objective problem-solving
When our minds are racing with negative thoughts, it can be easy to get absorbed in a negative frame of mind, worrying about problems, being annoyed with people in our lives or dissatisfied with what life has given us. When you notice that you are stuck in this thought process, take a step back, think objectively and try to find solutions rather than allowing the mind to grind on dissatisfaction.
For example, if your mind is going over an argument you had at work, rather than remaining angry, write down the specifics of the problem. Ask yourself “can I change the situation or my expectations about it?” This is a vital question. We can’t always change the situation but our expectations are always open to change. Take a step back from the emotions. What would you advise a friend to do who was in the same situation? Using kindness, gratitude and objectivity you can almost always find a stress-free solution and allow your mind to settle back to a more quiet state.
5. Write down your thoughts
A very powerful method of calming an overthinking mind is to empty it of troubling thoughts by writing them down. Just jot down or type out a list of your main concerns, with the goal of simply freeing your mind of them. This can be beneficial any time of day but especially in the evening, a few hours before bed. Try not to get involved emotionally with the thoughts or situations, just quickly jot down the main things that are occupying your thoughts. Then put the list away and make the intention of not thinking about them overnight. You may find that when you look at the list many hours later when your emotions have calmed down that many of these things seem superficial or unimportant.
6. Embrace specific gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful thing and we should embrace it every day. The use of “specific gratitude” is especially powerful for a racing mind. Think of something for which you are grateful such as your health. Now think of something more specific within that such as your gratitude to be able to walk to the shops or being pain-free. This will be different for everyone but we can all find small specific things for which we are grateful. The act of stopping and thinking about them can calm a racing anxious mind and foster a more positive outlook.
In conclusion, a mind that overthinks is very common but we can all successfully use small habits each day to gradually install a more relaxed and mindful state that will improve our mental and physical health. Try out these tips and I hope they will help you find a more peaceful existence.
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