How to stop overthinking?

Overthinking is a habit. However a toxic one that’s hard to break.

As human beings, we are creatures of habit; about 45% of our daily actions are habitual.

If you have made overthinking a daily practice, if you have trained yourself to do it automatically as a response to certain stimuli, you can also train yourself to unlearn it. 

Overthinking is often associated with anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks etc., so people who struggle from any type of mental illness tend to overthink more than those without one. 

The same applies for depression. Research shows us how our brain processes emotions differently when we’re depressed versus not depressed.

Also read: How to calm down anxiety and relax your mind?

Therefore making us think differently too! And finally there’s self-doubt – everyone doubts themselves sometimes but this can lead down an unhealthy path if left unchecked.

In this complete guide let’s discuss how to stop overthinking with step-by-step process. Also you will learn overthinking causes, signs, symptoms, effects, types and tips to deal with overthinking disorder.

What is overthinking?

what is overthinking How to stop overthinking?

Definition of Overthinking: Overthinking is a process of thinking too much about something, especially in a way that makes you feel worried, sad or nervous. 

It is being stuck in your thoughts, which often leads to bad decision-making. It often happens when you are not sure to take some action or make a decision. 

This can lead you to consider various options and consequences of the same action. Overthinking can be harmful as it reduces your ability to make decisions and increases anxiety and stress levels.

Also read: If you can’t stop thinking about someone are they thinking about you?

Examples of Overthinking

What does overthinking look like? Below are just a few examples to help you better understand how it might manifest in your life:

  • Repeating questions in your mind without coming up with answers (e.g., “Why did I say that?”)
  • Replaying past conversations and imagining alternative ways they could have played out (e.g., “I should’ve said this instead.”)
  • Anticipating and anticipating what others will do or say before they do it, and then trying to predict their reaction (e.g., “They’re going to be mad at me if I say ‘no’ so I better just agree with them.”)
  • Analyzing every detail of a situation looking for some hidden message or meaning (e.g., “This email means nothing good can come from this meeting.”)

What is Overthinking disorder?

First, let’s look at the definition of overthinking disorder.

Overthinking is a mental health disorder in which someone spends a lot of time worrying about things and thinking through problems, even though they know that it isn’t helpful to do so.

A class of anxiety disorders, overthinking can cause distress and make it difficult for a person to function in day-to-day life. There are several types of overthinking disorder, including:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), 

Panic disorders, and post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). 

Overthinking is also known as rumination or ruminative thinking.

While there have been some studies done on people with overthinking disorder, medical experts haven’t reached consensus on how to treat it. 

What we do know is that overthinking affects how you feel and think about yourself, your relationships with others around you and your ability to function effectively in work or school environments. We also know that there are certain signs and symptoms associated with this condition.

Also read: What does it mean when can’t stop thinking about someone you barely know?

What causes overthinking?

Overthinking, in and of itself, isn’t a mental health issue. It’s a symptom of other issues that have an impact on your mental health.

In most cases, overthinking is a habit. Your mind gets stuck in an endless loop of negative thoughts and can’t seem to stop them from playing out over and over again.

Sometimes, it involves emotions like anxiety or depression that are overwhelming your brain.

Sometimes it can be just about anything really—a thought pattern you’re unable to control, even if it doesn’t feel healthy or helpful for you at all.

  • Many things can contribute to overthinking. Past trauma, cultural conditioning, lack of self-confidence, and even stress are all factors which may lead someone to overthink.
  • The problem with overthinking is that it takes up a lot of your mental energy. Overthinking also prevents you from being productive and doing the things you enjoy. Because of this, many people who suffer from overthinking feel anxious, depressed or even hopeless.
  • If left untreated for too long, overthinking can lead to more serious mental health issues such as chronic depression and anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social phobia (social anxiety disorder).
  • The first step in overcoming negative thinking patterns like overthinking is identifying what causes them in order to address those issues head on instead of letting them fester until they become unmanageable problems later down the line.

If you’re experiencing the above, it could be related to an anxiety disorder. If you think this might be the case for you, talk to your doctor about getting a referral for counseling.

Also read: How to stop obsessive thoughts about someone?

Types of overthinking:

There are two types of :

  • Chronic overthinking – where the person constantly worries about everything in life unnecessarily. This can lead to insomnia, impaired concentration and even depression.
  • Situation-specific overthinking – is when someone only bothers about certain things like an upcoming deadline or an uncomfortable conversation with someone.

Symptoms of overthinking:

If you’re overthinking, chances are good that you already know it. After all, this is a phenomenon that usually gives itself away through its symptoms:

  • Anxiety. The feeling of having too much to do or not enough time to do it in will manifest as a niggling sense of panic.
  • Unable to relax. Overthinkers tend to see relaxation as an impediment to doing what they think they need to be doing—working on a task, thinking about something else, etc.—and so they don’t allow themselves the chance at downtime.
  • Lack of sleep. Due to their busy minds and inability to relax, overthinkers often face sleep issues like insomnia and nightmares.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches can also be brought on by the stress of overthinking things too much.
  • Depression. When overthinking becomes habitual or particularly intense, depression can result from the lack of activity as well as the lack of joy associated with immersing yourself in overly negative thoughts for prolonged periods of time.
  • Decreased concentration. Of course, when your mind is full of negative thoughts about your abilities and skills, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to focus on any given task at hand

Signs of overthinking:

There are many signs of overthinking. If you have one or more of these, you might be overthinking:

  • You worry about what other people will think of you.
  • You are worried about the future.
  • You focus and obsess on the past too much.
  • You’re constantly on edge and fearful of the unknown, which can lead to anxiety disorders.
  • You lack self-confidence in your choices, decisions and actions because you may be afraid to make mistakes or fail at something new.
  • Lack of focus
  • Negative thoughts
  • Disrupted sleep (insomnia)
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Worrying about things you can’t control or change
  • Social isolation, depression and other mental health problems
  • Physical symptoms including headaches, muscle tension and stomach problems.

How to stop overthinking?

how-to-stop-overthinking

How to not overthink? So, the first thing you need to understand is that overthinking is something that we all do from time to time. It can be used in a positive way by searching for solutions and preparing for tough situations. 

However, in most cases it’s a negative habit that causes us to think about people’s intentions or our own actions constantly instead of acting on things and getting results.

Nextl, you have to understand that overthinking is the result of fear. It is your body’s natural defense mechanism against potential threats by imagining the worst-case scenarios. 

It can be beneficial in many situations such as when you are planning for an important event, but it can also be detrimental to your mental health when it becomes uncontrollable and interferes with your daily life.

Therefore, if you want to stop overthinking, you need to first identify what is causing the overthinking. When do you feel anxious? What are the things that trigger negative thoughts? Once identified, learn how to deal with them one at a time and make sure to implement them into your daily life until they become a habit.

Overthinking is a way to solve a problem.It is often associated with anxiety or negative thinking,but it can also be very productive.

The most important thing to learn about overthinking is that we have the power to control our thoughts. A good place to start your journey on breaking free from your own head would be by following these simple steps:

1. Stop over-analyzing things in your life.

2. Learn how to take breaks from it when you need them most (like during homework).

3. Find ways of coping with stress so that you don’t get too worked up about things and then go back into overthinking mode again later on.

It’s important for people who are prone to anxiety disorders such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and others because they might not be able to stop themselves from doing what makes them feel better even though it’s causing harm in other areas of their lives.”

10 Practical and effective steps to stop overthinking

how to not overthink How to stop overthinking?

1. Change the story you tell yourself

Part of the reason we do so much overthinking is that we have a habit of telling ourselves a story about the situation and our role in it. The problem is that often this story is quite negative.

For example, you might find yourself thinking things like:

“I’m such an idiot – why did I say/do that?”

“This sucks, I bet everyone else has it better than me.”

“I can never do anything right.”

What you tell yourself will affect how you feel and perceive your experience, so when you find your internal narrative turning negative: stop! Take charge of what you are saying to yourself and change it by focusing on the positive aspects instead.

Let’s say you have to give a presentation in front of your colleagues. You’re feeling nervous and you tell yourself, “They’ll think I don’t know what I am talking about. They are going to criticize me. 

My voice is probably going to shake. I can already feel my face turning red. Oh no! What if my underwear shows? Did I remember to wax this morning? Why did I even say yes? Argh, what a nightmare…”

Whoa! Stop right there! Notice how all these thoughts are negative—what we call “negative self-talk.” In case it wasn’t already clear, negative self-talk is not your friend and only makes things worse. 

It creates more anxiety and even influences behavior—making you less likely to take risks or put yourself out there for fear of failure, rejection or embarrassment (remember the underwear thing?).

The good news is that research shows that by changing our thinking patterns we can change the way we feel. So instead of adding fuel to the fire with negative thoughts like those above, a better approach would be to ask yourself questions like:

What do I actually have control over? Stick with facts; avoid opinions or projections about how people will react (unless you have a crystal ball). 

Can you really predict what others think about you? If so, please let me know your magic formula! 

The reality is that we all have blind spots when it comes to how other people think and feel about us—we usually overestimate the negativity or judgment they might be directing toward us and underestimate their empathy towards us.

2. Look behind your overthinking:

Once you have understood the reason behind your overthinking, it is time to take a deep breath and let go of it. Now, there are many ways to do this. This section will highlight 3 of the most effective ways that I found to reduce my overthinking:

  • Be less self-critical
  • Practice positive self-talk
  • Don’t waste your time on things you cannot control

3. Focus on what you can control:

The third step is to focus on what you can control. This is an awesome strategy because it gives you the feeling of being in control, and helps stop your worrying.

What’s really interesting about the overthinking problem is that it stems from a lack of control. When our brain truly believes that there’s nothing we can do to change a given situation, we tend to lose motivation.

You may not have any power over others’ actions, but you DO have some power over your own! Every day, there are literally dozens of things you can do to make progress toward your goals and take positive action in your life – and the key to the overthinking battle is realizing that.

Here are some examples of things most people think they don’t (or can’t) do anything about:

  • What other people say
  • Bad habits & addictions
  • How other people act & treat us
  • Our past decisions & mistakes

But here are some things most people CAN actually take steps to improve:

  • What we say
  • How we treat ourselves
  • Our current habits & behaviors

So why not start with those? If you redirect your attention away from the stuff that doesn’t matter, and instead focus on improving yourself right now, it will help stop overthinking before it even starts!

4. Become aware of your thoughts

Overthinking is driven by your thoughts and so, to stop overthinking you need to become more aware of your thoughts.

According to Buddhist philosophy, our thoughts are constantly changing. The most important thing to learn from this is that our thoughts are not us. 

They are not reality and they often don’t reflect the truth. Thoughts can be considered as words that come into our heads. These words are just electrical impulses in the brain that create words, which we interpret and form into ideas or stories about ourselves, others and the world around us.

Overthinking is not a solution. It’s a habit.

The goal of becoming aware is: 

  • to realize what you’re doing, 
  • develop the ability to stop it from happening, and 
  • choose instead to think about something else.
  • In order to become aware of your thoughts and the story you tell yourself, try this exercise:

Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. On one side, write all the thoughts that are running through your mind for each situation you’re trying not to overthink about. 

On the other side, write how those thoughts make you feel. Doing this will help you see just how much mental energy goes into overthinking.

5. Redirect your thoughts:

If your thoughts are obsessing “I’m not good enough,” it is important to understand that you must not try to do any of the following things:

  • Suppress your thoughts.
  • React to your thoughts.
  • Try to reason with your thoughts.
  • Judge your thoughts.
  • Try to distract yourself from overthinking.
  • Analyze or break down your thoughts.
  • Understand why you have these negative thoughts.

We’ve discussed how to step away from the problem, so now we can tackle it directly. Before making any changes, though, it’s important to define the problem. If you’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by focusing on a solution.

Once you’ve decided that there is indeed a problem worth solving (and only then), it’s time to set some goals. Goals are very important in the pursuit of any kind of progress—they give you something tangible to work toward and provide motivation when things get tough. 

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, setting specific monthly benchmarks for yourself can help keep you on track and show how far you’ve come in achieving your broader objective. 

A good rule of thumb for most fitness goals is setting mini-goals in 3-6 month increments—for instance, losing 10 pounds in three months or increasing your mile run by 30 seconds each month. This provides the ideal combination of being ambitious without allowing room for discouragement or complacency.

Once you have your goals laid out, stick with them! It may be tempting to look at other people’s goals and feel like yours aren’t aggressive enough or aren’t working fast enough, but comparing yourself with others will only slow down your progress and make you feel discouraged unnecessarily.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing; focus on accomplishing your own goals at your own pace!

6. Take a breather

One of the best ways to tackle overthinking is to step back and take a breather. This not only allows you to reflect and see things from another perspective, but it also gives your body and mind some much-needed downtime.

 If you find that you’re constantly overthinking and not getting anywhere with it, why not stop? It may sound counter-intuitive, but this way of thinking can be extremely helpful!

The next time your brain races off into the distance, tell yourself: “That’s enough for now”. 

Then try switching your attention to something else, like listening closely for sounds around you or focusing on how your body feels when sitting down or standing up. 

Read a book without distractions – anything that can distract you from what’s going on inside your head! Just remember: don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work right away; this takes practice (and patience)!

7. Write down solutions (Not problems)

The next step to stop overthinking is to start writing down solutions rather than problems.

You can use your journal or a separate notebook, but make sure you have them both. Why? Because you’re going to write down your problems in the first one and then brainstorm possible solutions for these problems in the second one. 

You should focus on the solution-oriented mindset rather than endlessly analyzing issues.

For instance, if you want to improve your communication skills, try to find out what’s holding you back from achieving this goal instead of complaining about how hard it is for you to communicate with people due to being an introvert. 

Write down all the possible solutions on a separate piece of paper — attending public speaking classes, joining Toastmasters, or volunteering for certain events that require good communication skills (that way you will get used to talking with people). 

After that, test them out and implement the ones that work best for you into your daily life!

8. Confront your fears

Here are some practical and useful ways to stop overthinking, confront your fears and start thinking positive thoughts:

  • Realize that you will never be able to stop and control all your thoughts. Instead, focus on the ones that are most helpful. I have already talked about planning a list of questions that can help you identify your fears, such as “What am I afraid of?” When you know what scares or worries you, it is easier to deal with them.
  • Identify what you are afraid of: a particular circumstance, object, person or feeling? What is likely to happen as a result? How has this affected your life so far? 

Don’t be too hard on yourself — everyone feels anxious at times! Once again, categorizing things helps; ask yourself if this fear falls under any of the following categories: death/dying (the end of life), health concerns (e.g., an illness), rejection (being rejected by someone else), success/failure (success in a certain project) or lack of control (not knowing how things will turn out). 

If so, try getting into their mindset for a moment before planning out how to move forward. It takes practice but eventually becomes automatic — like riding on autopilot mode for years before finally learning how to drive manually.

  • It is a good idea to make a list of your fears. Many people are afraid of the same things, and some will be specific to you. In order to make any progress with your worries, you need to know what you’re dealing with.
  • Try not to think about these fears as weaknesses. It is important that you acknowledge that these fears exist and that they are perfectly normal. You are not alone.
  • Look at each fear on its own and start thinking about ways in which you can face it head-on. Write down plans for how you can confront each fear individually and then ask yourself if there’s anything else holding you back from solving this issue right now

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt. How true these words are! It’s funny how some people are afraid of everything that could possibly go wrong, although nothing happens most of the time.

So many fears come from our imagination, but when we confront them in real life, it turns out that they aren’t as scary as we thought.

If you’re afraid of heights, for example, then you should visit a rooftop bar and enjoy your drink while looking at the view. You’ll see that there’s nothing bad to be worried about and your confidence will grow stronger.

As another example, if you spend too much time thinking about what others might think or say about your actions, stop being afraid and do whatever you want to do! In the end, it won’t really matter what they think because they don’t live your life; only you can decide what’s best for yourself.

9.  Make a firm decision and become a person of action.

Now that you know the reasons why we procrastinate and worry about everything that doesn’t matter, you need to decide that you will never again let fear run your life.

Stop overthinking about what others think about you. Stop being scared of failure or success. Make a firm decision to become a person of action and start taking actions even if they are imperfect at first. You will not be perfect but will keep on improving as you gain more experience and have more confidence in yourself.

Over the years I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather it is the mastery over your fears and doubts. It is through daily practice, experimentation, and building up experiences that you can develop your own courage little by little until it becomes part of who you are.

You don’t have to be an expert or wait until things are perfect before starting something new because perfection never comes (I tried very hard!) so take action no matter what!

Remember: When there’s a single decision that would change your life for good, do not make it after thinking about it for too long otherwise nothing will come out from it! Just do it without hesitation!!

10. Disconnect and align with yourself:

Going for a walk in nature is also a good way to disconnect and regain your composure – it will get you out of the constant need to be engaged in something. While walking or meditating, focus on nothing but the present moment to prevent overthinking.

Spending time in solitude will give you the opportunity to clear your head and reflect on what’s important. If you’re feeling low, consider doing yoga or going for a run as well – exercise will instantly boost your mood and help you refocus on being happy.

You can also try practicing deep breathing exercises or having a bath with essential oils such as lavender and peppermint, which are known for helping people manage their stress levels.

Practicing gratitude is another great way to ease your mind from overthinking – keeping a gratitude journal where you write down three things that you appreciate every day can help improve your mood tremendously.

Reading a book or going out for coffee are also good ways to escape your own thoughts, so consider giving them a try when your mind is racing!

Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you can’t stop overthinking, try doing one of the following:

  • Go for a walk in nature.
  • Spend time meditating.
  • Spend time in solitude.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Go for a run or to the gym.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Have a bath with essential oils (lavender, jasmine, rose).
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Read a book that inspires you to live your best life.
  • Go out for coffee (or tea) with someone you feel comfortable around and who doesn’t judge you or put pressure on you in any way.
  • Take an essential oil bath. The best essential oils to use are lavender, lemon, rosemary and chamomile, but you can also experiment with citrus and mint scents to boost your energy levels and refresh your mind during the day or at night when you have trouble falling asleep due to overthinking.

If this sounds like something that might be helpful for the way your mind works, give it a try next time your brain is going into overdrive!

Effects of overthinking:

Overthinking can have serious consequences on your mental health, relationships and career, your dreams, and even your sense of self-esteem. 

It’s something that we all deal with in one form or another—but once you learn how to recognize it, you’ll be able to put a stop to the negative effects overthinking has on your life. 

Overthinking is a nasty behavior because it doesn’t just affect the things and people you’re responsible for; it also affects you. When we overthink about any situation, we’re telling ourselves that our worries are justified and that we need to take action on them. 

We tell ourselves we will fail, lose control, and never get anywhere when in reality we’re just not emotionally prepared for anything.

For example: You’re at work (or school), trying to find a way to make a deadline happen despite the fact that you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress from talking to someone about a sensitive topic. 

Or maybe you’re having lunch with a friend but find yourself worrying about what she thinks about something when she’s always supportive of you.

Or perhaps you go into an interview thinking there’s no way they will see past your mistakes when in reality they see straight through them and want the best out of you because they think highly of what they’ve seen of your abilities so far.

The problem with this is that when we overthink situations like these, our brains convince us that things are going wrong while they aren’t—and before long anxiety sets in, causing it get ramped up even further until it seems as though every little thing is going wrong with every minor decision or task at hand or situation in our lives becoming more stressful than necessary at every turn because we confuse worry for actual cause.

Overthinking has a negative impact on your mental health (e.g., anxiety), physical health (e.g., headaches), relationships (e.g., broken friendships), careers (e.g., missed promotions) and life goals (e.g., low self-esteem).

Frequently Asked related Questions:

How to stop overthinking everything?

Everyone overthinks from time to time. But when these thoughts become obsessive, they can interfere with daily life and cause distress.

You can use various techniques to help you stop overthinking and ease anxiety about the future or past.

Accept your thoughts for what they are, then let them go by using mindfulness practices like meditation and focusing on the present moment. You can also reframe negative thoughts, such as by challenging them or replacing them with more rational ideas.

  • Don’t take things personally
  • Let go of what you can’t control
  • Reframe your thoughts
  • Take a walk, meditate, or listen to music
  • Talk to a friend or therapist
  • Focus on the present moment
  • Breathe and accept your current situation

How to stop overthinking in a relationship?

If you have the tendency to overthink, accepting and trusting your partner might be difficult. Insecurities can cause you to think negative thoughts even when the reality is quite different. 

One way to overcome these thoughts is by thinking of positive memories and times spent together. Knowing that your partner loves you unconditionally and that they have never given you reasons not to trust them will help clear your mind of unnecessary worries. 

If there are recurring issues, address them clearly with your partner but don’t let it affect your love for them or their love for you.

Writing down a list of every time you overthought and then checking it against what actually happened will be helpful for realizing how often this pattern occurs in your life and how unnecessary most of these thoughts were.

Overthinking in a relationship can cause a lot of unnecessary problems. Here are 5 steps that will help you stop overthinking in a relationship

  • Identify the problem
  • Talk about it
  • Stop being defensive
  • Don’t blame your partner for your feelings
  • Work on improving yourself

How to stop overthinking after being cheated on?

So, you find out that your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on you. You’re angry and heartbroken.

But then it happens: Your thoughts start to wander.

What’s the right thing to do? Should you confront him/her? Tell someone at your workplace? Call the police?

If you don’t know what to do, chances are that seemingly simple choices—like whether or not to tell your best friend or coworkers—will cause further internal conflict. The more stress there is in those first few hours after finding out about the infidelity, the worse this will get.

Overthinking and comparison are the two most toxic things when it comes to relationships. Cheating is a big reason for overthinking in relationships. It can easily lead to self-doubt, trust issues, and an unhappy relationship life.

After being cheated on, people tend to overthink about themselves or their partner: whether they are good enough or not? Why did their partner cheat on them? What can they do to make the relationship work now? Should they be with their partner?

Having trust issues and self-doubts after being cheated on is natural. But if you let your mind wander too long without getting answers, it will eventually get control of you which may lead you to make decisions that can ruin your future even more than being cheated on did.

The important thing here is to stop overthinking altogether by answering the questions that are troubling your mind and then move forward with your life

The first thing you should do is to stop thinking about the past. This means you should stop thinking about your ex, and whatever they did to you. 

If anything, overthinking only makes things worse because it drags us down into the mud of misery and depression. Instead of thinking about the past, try focusing on how great your present or future can be.

Here are some steps for how to stop overthinking and just take immediate action:

  • Accept the fact that it happened
  • Let go of anger and resentment
  • Forgive your partner
  • Start doing things that will take your mind off being cheated on
  • Don’t let yourself become a victim!
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Reprogram your mind to think positive thoughts
  • Accept yourself, heal and move on

Final thoughts:

You can stop overthinking, but you will have to work at it a bit first. You need to understand your thought process and how you got into the habit of overthinking in the first place. 

From there, you will be able to figure out what triggers your anxious thoughts, which is important for developing coping mechanisms that will allow you to move past them. There are also several practical methods for stopping overthinking. 

For example, only think about a single task at a time for a set amount of time, or pretend that someone else is telling you what you are thinking about. Remember that it’s okay to not know everything–you don’t have all the answers to life’s questions because no one does.

Then write down those little “what if” scenarios on paper so they won’t take up space in your brain anymore! The key takeaway? Don’t let your thoughts spiral out of control by taking action today with these tips and tricks on how NOT to overthink things before they get too bad.

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Naveen Bommakanti

Naveen is Experienced Psychology and philosophy Writer, self-help and relationship Coach and thought influencer. He has 7 years of experience in Personal development industry.

Naveen’s expertise as a self-help and relationship Coach has been highlighted through his articles in medium and substack to name a few.

To be updated with Naveen's work, connect with him by following his social media accounts.

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