When an interaction or conversation doesn’t go your way, you’ll often walk away from the situation physically, but mentally you continue to replay it. Holding onto those anxious thoughts can make you feel like you’re walking around with extra weight on your shoulders, and all of the overthinking you’re doing can take a real toll on your mental health. Below are some simple strategies to consider:
Practice “thought stopping”
When you realize your mind is about to play into several catastrophic scenarios, close your eyes and visualize a stop sign. Then begin to think of something that brings you peace. The goal is to distract your mind from focusing on the negative pattern, thus reframing your thinking.
Take a mini nature break
When I find yourself caught in the overthinking trap, it’s time to get outside for fresh air. Once outside pay close attention and listen for the sounds of nature. These mini breaks help reset and continue on your day feeling more hopeful and happier.
Tap into a creative hobby
Tap into your creativity, either through writing, listening to music, or simply talking to a friend which may help to take control of your thoughts.
Pause and look up
When you start overthinking things, look up. There’s a reason we look to the sky when we need to remember something, or when we need a little more time to think and respond. The simple act of looking up releases a chemical in our brain that helps us become more imaginative, more creative and more open to possibilities. Most importantly, noticing something outside of ourselves gets us out of our heads and brings us back to the present moment to instantly intercept the cycle of rampant thoughts crowding our minds and causing stress.
Give yourself a pep talk
When you catch yourself overthinking, say out loud, ‘Stop it’ This is a good cue to stop and pause. The body and mind will listen. Then combat your overthinking with one question: ’Is there anything that can be done about this now?’ It takes you from rumination to action. It’s hard to think about two things at once so switch from passive thinking to active thinking.
Identify your intention
When you find yourself overthinking a situation, go back to an anchor word: intention. For something that’s occurred, it’s helpful to ask, ‘What was my intention? Is an apology or clarification in order?’ And for something in the future, it’s calming to start with, ‘How do I want to show up? What is the desired outcome I want out of this interaction? It’s a calming way to navigate away from overthinking.
Take a moment to ground yourself
Overthinking usually happens when you can’t see the forest through the trees. Changing your state is key. First, start with something to help ground you: deep breathing, meditating or walking. Next, be kind to yourself. ‘You are smart enough, savvy enough, determined enough’. Next, remind yourself of the outcome you are looking for and outline the steps that will get you there. Finally, and this is most important, act immediately. Once you take action you feel confident that you will overcome the moment.
Consider the worst case scenario
Another method to stop overthinking is to think of the worst case scenario that you are worried about and come up with a solution for that. Sometimes we ruminate and overthink because we get caught in the cycle of ‘what ifs,’ unintentionally adding more problems. Because stress is our body’s response to the feeling that we don’t have enough resources to handle the problems at hand, ruminating always adds to our stress and compounds the feeling of overwhelm. By finding a solution to the worst case scenario, not only do you cut the cycle of overthinking, but you’re also able to shift your perspective and take control.
Focus on a potential solution
Thinking about the same thing over and over with the same scenarios in your head only led to negative thoughts, so try to change your perspective. Instead of dwelling on your thoughts, start to look for solutions. Just the idea of thinking about potential solutions may get you out of that endless cycle of overthinking. There is no good outcome from negative thoughts, so why waste your time with it when you can find solutions.