How to Stop Overthinking: A Simple Guide to Help You Relax
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Overthinking can be debilitating to those who can't seem to get out of their own heads. If this resonates with you, here is a simple guide to help you relax.
Overthinking is something we all do at one time or another. Still, many people find that constant overthinking plagues their lives. Overthinking has been linked to mental issues such as depression and anxiety. It can cause a decline in mental health, and when that happens, you're even more likely to overthink. It's a vicious cycle!
When you overthink, you can find yourself having trouble in your work life, social life, and other aspects of life. Your work and relationships may suffer, and you may also experience a range of unpleasant physical symptoms.
Relaxing may seem impossible at first, but learning how to stop overthinking and begin relaxing will have a significant impact on your happiness and health.
What is Overthinking?
Overthinking is simply what it sounds like -- thinking too much. But how much is too much? The answer is when it causes noticeable discomfort and anxiety. When we care about something, we can develop unhealthy levels of worry about it. Overthinking tends to be associated with ruminating on things that have already happened, whereas anxiety is the fear of what may happen. Nervousness can sometimes help us to pay more attention and do our best, but overthinking can become an unhealthy condition quickly.
Some personality types are more prone to overthinking than others. Those who already have conditions like depression and anxiety may be more susceptible to overthink outcomes in situations.
What Are Things We Overthink About?
We all tend to overthink about different things, but as overthinking comes from a more primitive side of our brains, it’s usually centered around things like relationships, money, jobs, and other basic needs. Commonly people will focus on some of these:
- Romantic Relationships - Our relationships can be amazing, but sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we constantly feel anxious and overthink. Fear of instability or thinking about what certain things said meant can become a loop of thoughts about negative outcomes.
- Inadequacy - Whether it’s about your position in life or position at work, feelings of inadequacy can wreak havoc on the mind. People tend to overthink about how others perceive them and can leave them feeling like they should have accomplished more by their age.
- Money - Money is stressful because many streams of thought can lead back to it. Thinking about vacation? Money. Worried about being fired from your job? Money. We can’t live without money, so it naturally takes a lot of our energy.
- Family - These topics are all about the most important things in our lives, and family is no exception. Thinking about relationships within our families can dominate our thoughts for hours without overthinking. Thoughts, like parents getting older and dying, having children, or just wondering if your family is really happy, can take up a large amount of your space to think.
What is Overthinking a Symptom of?
Overthinking on its own is not a condition but rather a symptom of conditions such as anxiety or depression. However, overthinking may actually start to cause these conditions if you don’t have them already.
An incredibly frustrating thing about mental health disorders is that they can feed off each other and build over time. For example, very anxious people may not like to go out and socialize, so they don’t have many friends, leading to depressive thoughts. By the same logic, someone who overthinks can develop an anxiety disorder. It may be best to see a medical or therapy professional to determine if you may have a mental health condition.
Signs You Are an Overthinker
You may be overthinking if you exhibit these signs:
- Repetitive Thoughts - Rehashing the same thoughts or scenarios in your head again and again.
- Lack of Sleep - Not getting enough sleep because you are thinking about situations that happened or could happen.
- Struggle With Decision Making - Overthinking decisions is a common trend that can quickly make life more difficult.
The Dangers Of Overthinking
Letting overthinking go unchecked can lead to many dangers. One of the more serious risks is an increased chance of mental illness. You may drive yourself to anxiety, depression, or even psychosis when you overthink constantly.
Disturbed sleep is another danger—getting by on a lack of sleep is possible, but not optimal. Lack of sleep can also exacerbate mental health issues, making sleep even more important. When you overthink, you'll often struggle to drift off at night and wake up frequently.
Overthinking gets in the way of problem-solving. Rather than coming to the right conclusion or coming up with a solution, you will usually flip flop and feel unable to make a decision. When you overthink every aspect of a situation, you block out the answer. Often, it's the exact thing your gut is trying to tell you.
Overthinking can lead to analysis paralysis, where you know you need to do something, but feel unable to take action or make a decision at all.
How To Stop Overthinking And Relax
If you're a longtime overthinker, you may be wondering if it's even possible to stop overthinking and relax. Focusing on relaxing, rather than thinking through every minute detail, will benefit you in a big way—but how do you do it?
Awareness of your overthinking habits is the first step to overcoming them. You need to understand your triggers and be more aware of when a bout of overthinking is coming on. Try to take a step back from the situation to get some perspective and consider how you are reacting. Just one moment of mindfulness can make a massive difference to how you feel and your habits in the long run.
Don't Focus on What Can Go Wrong
A lot of overthinking stems from fear. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, try to think about what can go right instead. Mental clarity takes mindfulness to achieve, so mastering this first step of focus is crucial. When you find yourself asking, 'What if this goes wrong?' Stop immediately, and ask, 'What if this goes right?' Your brain will automatically attempt to answer the question you have asked—whether that question is positive or negative. So catch yourself before your thoughts begin to negatively spiral!
Distracting yourself can be another effective way to avoid overthinking. You can do anything you like, but meditation, dance, and art are great distractions. You could even try to learn a new skill to put some distance between you and your troublesome thoughts. Magic Mind offers drinks that help to increase productivity while relaxing the mind—perfect for those who want to stop overthinking and get stuck into something fun!
Put Things into Perspective
Taking a step back and putting things into perspective can be challenging. Though your problem may be relatively small to others, that doesn't mean it has to feel that way to you. Your feelings are valid. However, try asking yourself how much this problem or situation will matter in the long term. When you do this, you can put an end to your overthinking almost instantly.
Stop Waiting for Perfection
Perfection is not as important as progress. News flash: perfection doesn't exist! Many overthinkers are perfectionists, and they will avoid making decisions or taking action because they are afraid of getting it wrong. Letting go of the idea of perfection is one of the essential steps to allow your mind to rest.
Imperfections are perfectly normal, and many people aim for 'good' or 'good enough.' The actual doing and learning are more important than getting it 'perfectly' right.
Put a Timer on Your Thoughts
If you have always been someone who overanalyzes every situation, try putting a timer on your thoughts. Set a timer for 5 minutes or so, and allow yourself to mull things over. When the timer is up, you can grab a piece of paper and write down everything that is stressing you out or making you overthink.
When you have these things out of your head and on paper, you will feel better immediately. If you want to be creative, you can rip up the paper and free yourself of the plaguing thoughts!
Accept Your Best
Overthinking can also be rooted in feelings of inadequacy, whether you're aware of it or not. Accept when you have done your best, and accept that there are many things out of your control. Though everyone will have a different perception of you, as long as you know you have done your best, that's all that matters.
If you don't get on top of your overthinking, you may begin to lose control. Acknowledging that you have a problem, and taking steps to overcome it will help you feel better. It's time you were the boss of your own life once more!