How to Stop Overthinking?

Michelle Overman, Author
Updated on May 31, 2021

Do you have the tendency to overthink or overanalyze things? Think about a time you gave an important presentation, had a conversation with someone you wanted to impress, or went to a party and talked to people you had never met before.

Lady overthinking with a cup of coffee

At the end of the presentation, conversation, or party, what did you find yourself thinking about? Many people might find themselves mulling over the events and conversations in their mind, and picking apart the interactions and responses. That is not an uncommon response, and there is a chance you probably can relate on some level.

Overthinking, however, takes rumination to a whole new level. When you overthink, your thoughts are completely dominated by this event, and you feel paralyzed. Of course, it can be helpful to dissect and analyze moments from the past to learn how to improve for the next time. But when you overthink, you are not empowered to make positive changes in the future but rather are stuck in the events of the past.

Tips to Help Stop Overthinking

While your overthinking may a sign of a real mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD that need to be addressed by a professional, this is not necessarily the case.[1] In fact, there are some steps you can take to help you cope before you decide to engage in therapy.

Practicing Mindfulness

In order to stop overthinking, you must recognize what is happening. Being mindful helps you become aware and gain insight into what you are thinking and feeling in the present moment. Take time out of your day to listen to yourself and what is going on in your inner world.

Identify and Address the Real Problem

Most people overthink because they are anxious about the outcome, the future, or what others are thinking. Anxiety can cause people to overthink. Addressing the real issue, such as anxiety, can help you focus on what is truly the source of the problem.

Work on Your Self-Confidence

Overthinking can come from a place of uncertainty. It can involve being uncertain about what is out of your control, but it also can come from being uncertain of yourself. When you are confident in your own abilities, it makes it easier to not ruminate on things like past presentations or conversations. Confidence in yourself can also help you feel courage and assurance moving forward.

Take Small Steps Forward

If you have a tendency to overthink, you may often find yourself overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Break up the magnitude of a task into smaller more manageable steps. One essential key to stop overthinking is to just start doing. Take those steps forward and focus on the present.

Find Accountability

In general, it can be difficult to notice negative patterns and make positive changes in your life. It is important to have people by your side who know you well and are willing to support you. They can lovingly draw attention to moments when you are overthinking. They can also reinforce the moments when you push past overthinking and move forward.

Final Thoughts

Overthinking can be disruptive to your overall peace of mind, mental health, and day-to-day life.[2] It’s therefore important to be kind to yourself and not just ignore it. With the aforementioned tactics, or professional help for extreme cases, you can overcome it and live a happier life.


References

  1. Kaiser, B. N., Haroz, E. E., Kohrt, B. A., Bolton, P. A., Bass, J. K., & Hinton, D. E. (2015). “Thinking too much”: A systematic review of a common idiom of distressSocial science & medicine (1982)147, 170–183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.10.044
  2. Jamshaid, S., Malik, N., Haider, A.A., Adnan, Jamshed, K., & Jamshad, S. (2020). Overthinking Hurts: Rumination, Worry and Mental Health of International Students in China During Covid-19 Pandemic. Proceedings of the International Joint Conference on Arts and Humanities (IJCAH 2020), 17-24. https://doi.org/10.2991/assehr.k.201201.004
Michelle Overman, Author

Michelle is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families.