6 Tips to Stop Overthinking

Michelle Overman, Author
Updated on December 9, 2021

Do you tend to overthink or overanalyze things? Think back to 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. When it was over, did you find yourself mulling over the events and conversations and picking apart your interactions and responses? Some rumination is completely normal; however overthinking takes it to a whole new level.

Overthinking

Rumination becomes overthinking when a specific event or thought dominates your mind and you feel paralyzed. Of course, sometimes it’s helpful to dissect and analyze moments from the past to learn and improve for the future. But with overthinking, you are not empowered to make positive changes, rather you are stuck in the past. These thoughts can be distracting and sometimes feel as though they are taking over your life.

Strategies to Help Stop Overthinking

Overthinking may be a sign of a real mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. So while it’s not always a clear indicator that something more serious is going on, it is definitely worthwhile keeping in the back of your mind.[1] If you’re trying to putting an end to your overthinking, try these six tips:

1. Practice Mindfulness

To stop overthinking, first you must recognize it. Mindfulness helps you become aware and gain insight into your current thoughts and feelings. Take time out of your day to listen to yourself and what is going on in your inner world.

2. Identify and Address the Real Problem

Overthinking is often caused by anxiety about the future, stress over what others are thinking, or concerns about the outcome of something in your life that may or may not be able to control. Addressing the real underlying issue, such as anxiety, can help you focus on what is truly the source of the problem.

3. Work on Your Self-Confidence

Overthinking can come from insecurities you have about yourself. If you are confident in your own abilities, you’re less likely to ruminate on mistakes you may have made in the past or conversations you have had. Developing your self-confidence will give you courage and assurance moving forward.

4. Take Small Steps

Ever find yourself overwhelmed by the enormity of project you need to complete? Breaking a task into smaller, more manageable steps is an essential key to stopping to overthink about how you will get things done. Instead of occupying your thoughts with all the details and stresses of the project, just start taking steps forward and focus on the present.

5. Be Accountable

Generally, people find it difficult to notice negative patterns and make positive changes on their own. A strong support system can help by drawing attention to moments when you are overthinking. Your loved ones can remind you to push past overthinking and move forward.

6. Seek Professional Help

If you find that your tendency to overthink or overanalyze is paralyzing you, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand what causes your overthinking and give you tools to deal with it and prevent it from impacting your daily functioning.

Final Thoughts

Overthinking disrupts your overall peace of mind, mental health, and day-to-day life.[2] But it doesn’t have to. If you notice yourself overthinking, first be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it is happening. Then, start to go through some of the aforementioned tactics. Once you master these, or find professional help, you will be able to 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.