How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

How to stop overthinking

In general, the term overthinking does not seem or sound too bad as thinking about things is good or thinking about the steps you want to take are still better than doing things without thinking but thinking too much about simple matters or overthinking about things can make them more complicated and can start causing troubles and problems. When you start to overthink a matter, it starts creating doubts in your mind and your judgment becomes blurry and cloudy which further frustrates you resulting in elevated stress levels. If you spend too much time thinking about the negative aspects, it will have a harmful effect on you and it will become harder for you to act or make a decision. If this feels like the emotions or feelings you go through more often, here are some steps that can help you out and free you from overthinking about stuff too much. In this article, we will learn How to stop overthinking. 

How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

1. Awareness is the beginning of change (How to stop overthinking ).

It is the basic practice to know of the issue before you start addressing it, so before you can work on your habit of overthinking the first step is to make yourself aware of the process when it is taking place. You should be able to see the signs when you are overthinking things like when you are having doubts about your decision or when you are feeling anxious or stressed, you just need to take a step back, relax and look at the situation with a neutral point of view and see how you are responding to that situation. That moment where you become aware of your action is the beginning point of changing your behavior.

2. Don’t think of what can go wrong, but what can go right (How to stop overthinking).

Most of the cases overthinking are more favored by the emotion of fear, your fear of failure, and what if things do not go the right way. When you are only or mainly focusing on the negative things of the issue like this might happen, it is quite easy to become hesitant and step back from the problem. Rather than thinking about the negative aspects of the issue, it is better to think about the positive things if you are still tilted towards the negative aspect just stop thinking of once and visualize what will be the positive effects if everything goes right and keep those positive thinking in your mind and upfront which will make you more steadfast on your decisions and will help you change your habit of overthinking.

How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

3. Distract yourself into happiness (How to stop overthinking).

Sometimes it is also better to distract yourself when you are having negative thoughts with positive, happy, healthy alternatives which can be done with different activities like dancing, mediation, knitting, exercise, drawing, learning an instrument and painting and can help you feel free and distant from the problem at hand and can shut down the process of overthinking and overanalysis for some time. 

4. Put things into perspective (How to stop overthinking).

It is always easier to think about the negative aspects of the things and to make them bigger than they need to be, the next time you are facing a problem and you are making too much fuss about it, just take a second, step back and think to yourself how much is this problem really worth and how much will it cost you in the next five years or even by next month. Asking this simple question might end up in you shutting down the whole process of overthinking at once, as you will know the real worth of the problem by putting it into another perspective. 

5. Stop waiting for perfection (How to stop overthinking).

Do not overthink things because you are always going for the perfect solution or are waiting for things to end up perfectly. Being ambitious or aiming for a better result is all good but trying to do things perfectly or being too idealistic in your approach is just impractical, unrealistic, and debilitating. The moment your thoughts wander towards “This needs to be more perfect” is the moment where you are drifting towards overthinking and you need to keep reminding yourself that waiting for making things perfect or going towards it is never a smart approach and you will never be able to make progress so it is better to make things work in an efficient way.

6. Change your view of fear (How to stop overthinking).

There might be certain aspects affecting your approach to some situations or issues which might be because of your failure in the past or because of your fear of overgeneralizing because of some other failure or you are fearful even to try it out, you should always remember that there might be a different factor involved if the things did not work out before but it does not mean that things will not work out again or you will have the same outcome. There is a saying that you should always remember that every opportunity is a new place to start and a new beginning so take it as fresh and do not hinder yourself with past experiences and failures. 

7. Put a timer to work (How to stop overthinking).

Set a boundary for yourself, limit your thinking time. You can use a timer for it, set time for let us say five minutes, and give yourself time to worry, think, and analyze the situation you are in. Once the timer is off, stop thinking and then get a pen and paper and write down in points all the worries and things that are bothering you, giving you stress and anxiety. Put them all down and when the ten minutes are up just throw the paper out and move on with your life to do some fun activity.

8. Realize you can’t predict the future (How to stop overthinking).

You should realize and recognize the fact that no one can predict the future and you do not know what is there for you in it. So rather than worrying about it a lot in your present moment, you are just wasting your time and efforts on something you cannot do anything about so it is better to focus on your present and do some productive activity and enjoy the time you have at your hands. 

9. Accept your best (How to stop overthinking).

One of the fears that push a person towards not taking decisions and overthinking stuff is that you are not good enough for the task or not hardworking or smart to take things on or even determined but it does not mean you can not give your best. Work on it and give it your best effort and accept the fact that you have given your best for it but you can not control the outcome and success might be dependent on other factors too, just give it you’re all.

10. Be grateful (How to stop overthinking).

Always be grateful for things you have, if you are having a grateful thought in your mind most of the time, it is very hard for a regretful thought to come into your mind at the same time. So it is better to spend your time in a more positive light than go towards negativity, every morning and evening you can start with making a list of the things you are grateful for. Have a friend help you out with looking for things around you for whom you are grateful for, exchange lists with them so you can have a wider scope of things.

11. Set short time-limits for decisions (How to stop overthinking).

Put a time limit on your thinking, do not overthink things in a cycle but take action and try to limit your thinking to some specific time and keep them compact and limited, it will take some time but you will get to it eventually. To learn to become better at your decisions in a short time and to make decisions at once on the whim rather than thinking about it over and over again and from all angles making you more hesitant towards it. So it is better for you to start being good at making decisions whether they are for short term or long term and spring into action at once by setting a deadline or a date for yourself. Some of the things that can work for you while making such decisions are : 

  • For small decisions like for washing dishes or sending replies to an email or work just give yourself 30 seconds or less to go over it and make a prompt decision.
  • For somewhat larger decisions that might take days, it is better to make a deadline for like 30 mins or so to make the decision which will help you further in making prompt decisions. 
How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

12. Become a person of action  (How to stop overthinking).

Rather than to keep thinking of a situation it is best to start taking action consistently each day and time so you can progress towards your goal and not stay stationary at the point of thinking only, this will end up in you thinking less and taking more action towards your goal. Setting up deadlines for different activities and a good start for the day can end up making you a person of action rather than one who only stays at the point of thinking. Taking small steps towards your goal and keeping at it by focusing on those small steps one at a time will work out well for eliminating your cycle of overthinking. This works well because your work is divided into smaller steps and you do not feel overwhelmed by the work and it does not feel like you are being suffocated and want to run from it. It can also help you overcome your fear of trying something new by taking small steps towards the main goal. 

13. Say stop in a situation where you know you cannot think straight (How to stop overthinking).

There might be times when you are feeling dizzy in bed or you are hungry and there are a bunch of negative thoughts just coming into your mind from all directions and you are just dwelling more and more into them. It is better to put a stop to the thinking as soon as you start diving deep into those negative thoughts because you know because of other things you are not able to think straight at this time. 

How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

FAQ about How to stop overthinking. 

How do I stop overthinking things?

Here are some ways in which you can stop overthinking about things :

  1. Awareness is the first step in stopping overthinking, always notice when you are thinking too much about a certain thing.
  2. Keep challenging your thoughts and do not dwell too much on the negative aspects of the problem.
  3. Keep your focus only on the problem at hand.

What is overthinking a symptom of?

Overthinking is linked to different psychological problems like anxiety and depression. There might be other mental health diseases too that are caused by overthinking like analysis paralysis.

References

LOLLY DASKAL.(n.d.): “ 10 simple ways you can stop yourself from overthinking”

Henrik Edberg (2020): “How to Stop Overthinking Everything: 12 Simple Habits” 

How to stop overthinking (A Comprehensive Guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.