How to Stop Overthinking: 11 Strategies for More Peace
Overthinking typically comes from anxiety and conjures up bad feelings. Try these 11 strategies to jar you back to reality and help you stop overthinking.
Idle brains are a devil’s playground, especially for women. If you are like me, at any given moment you are worried about your husband and children, wondering what your mother-in-law meant when she made that comment, thinking about whether you put your favorite jeans in the wash, and if you left the coffee machine on, all at the same time. How do you stop overthinking it all?
Perpetual overthinkers put too much thought into anything, make mountains out of a molehill. Many of the arguments I have with my friends and my husband revolve around me taking a simple moment in time, expanding it, examining it by taking it apart, and then overthinking it.
So much wasted time and energy, it is no wonder women often feel stressed out, exhausted, and distracted. Not enough space in that gray matter, sooner or later something has to give. Instead of making drama at every turn, try these strategies to stop overthinking things that likely don’t matter and are just causing you undue stress.
11 strategies to help stop overthinking
Try these top 11 strategies to stop overthinking about things in your life. When you do, you will find some peace and rest from yourself.
#1 Leave the past in the past. Often overthinking involves going over previous situations. Replaying them over and again, you question every piece of information that existed. There is no such thing as a time machine, so stop trying to be one. If it happened in the past, it is best to leave it there.
If someone has a problem with something you did or said, it is their problem. They have the choice to either bring it up to you or let it go. If you haven’t heard anything from them, chances are good you are imagining most of it in your head. [Read: 19 signs of emotional damage and ways to get past them]
#2 Consider the fact that no one else seems to be worried. There is a difference between a worrier and a non-worrier. A worrier is someone who is always in high gear. Never seemingly settled, they can’t just let their mind rest. Try to convince yourself to be like the people in your life who walk away from situations scott-free and never think twice about anything. If they can do and say what they do, why do you think you don’t have the same rights?
Stop beating yourself up by being the only person who seems to care. They don’t care because it doesn’t matter.
#3 Fill your mind up with other “stuff.” When you have too much blank time on your hands, it can be hazardous to your health. Having a lot of time alone allows you to overanalyze every aspect of your life. Think about the times in your life when you have barely enough time to think, weren’t things much less complex?
If you find that you have space to fill, fill it. Whether that means taking up a hobby or calling a friend, the key is to distract yourself from ruminating over something that doesn’t make any difference to the here and now. [Read: 12 simple things you do to make your life much worse]
#4 Think about the worst case scenario. Often we worry without ever really thinking it all the way through. If you are overthinking something you did or said, take the time to get past overthinking it and think it all the way to the end.
If it is real and you did offend or do something wrong, what is the worst that can come of it? When you think to the possible worst ending, it doesn’t seem so ominous anymore. Even if you are right and whatever you did was horrible, the outcome can never be as bad as you expect. By putting it into perspective, even if you can’t get yourself to stop overthinking, at least you can realize that all is not lost.
#5 Find a friend to bounce it off of. Have you ever heard yourself talk out loud when you are overthinking? When it comes out of your mouth, it literally sounds so immature, stupid, and insecure. You embarrass yourself.
Go to that friend who you can trust to tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear, and let them be your sounding board. Likely, you won’t get two minutes into your conversation, before you recognize you are being batshit crazy and give up on the whole thing. [Read: Partner in crime: 25 reasons why you need this friend]
#6 Just tell yourself to stop. Overthinking is like a bad habit. We don’t even recognize that we are doing it. Sometimes it just takes a conscious effort to stop yourself from thinking about things and worrying. When the thoughts come into your head, just stop them there, literally by telling yourself no. Like talking to a two-year-old, switch the subject in your brain channel. You would be surprised how quickly we talk ourselves out of bad habits.
#7 Learn to give yourself a break. Often over-thinkers are perfectionists or highly-sensitive people. Being hurt so easily themselves, their goal in life is to be perfect and never to step on anyone’s toes or do something to either make someone upset or angry.
The key to not overthinking is recognizing your humanity and give yourself a break. There are always going to be times when you mess up, you make a stupid comment, or a bad face that you didn’t mean, but those are all parts of being a person.
You can’t continue to beat yourself up over it. It doesn’t make it any better, it only makes you a nervous twit. If you keep overthinking things, you are probably someone who is nervous all the time and difficult to be around, which negates the entire reason you are overthinking to begin with. [Read: 13 inspiring ways to bring out the best in yourself]
#8 Just address it. If you are overthinking something and it is burning up inside of you for goodness sake, just get it out and over. If you wonder what your sister-in-law meant by her comment about your dress, instead of sitting and overanalyzing it, simply pick up the phone and clear it up.
By confronting the situation, instead of mulling it over for two weeks, you see that most of the things you conclude about situations that are since past are being fabricated by your inability just to let things be what they are. If you are wondering what someone meant, or why they did something, simply ask them.
#9 Think about past experiences and patterns. Go through the previous two years and think about how many times you have overthought something and came to a conclusion, only to find that you were wrong altogether.
There are probably many times you fabricated scenarios by overthinking situations that were never real, and you wasted real time on them. The best way to learn is through your own experiences, and if you see a pattern of overthinking behaviors causing a problem in your life, you need to stop the cycle.
I have a tendency to think my friends are mad. When they don’t call me, or return my call, I spend three days going through all the things I have said to them, to people they know, whether I forgot a birthday, or an anniversary, whether I should call again, or I am a stalker. Or I just get plain mad that they couldn’t just take the time to pick up the phone to call me back.
Within a day of being all hot and bothered about it, the phone rings and there is my friend. Usually apologizing and saying, sorry that life had gotten out of control, and she meant to call, but was just getting around to it. In the meantime, I have gone through a gamut of emotions that didn’t need to be. And a whole lot of mental energy I could have saved for something else. [Read: How to motivate yourself to do pretty much anything]
#10 Value yourself. If you know you are a good person and that you have done the right thing in your heart, then you don’t need to overthink things or worry. At the heart of overthinking is usually an insecurity about who you are, or what you have been doing. For instance, if I have a very troubled relationship with my mother-in-law, every time that I have a conversation with her, I get off and think “Well, what the hell does that mean?”
I reflect on whether she heard from someone that I was saying nasty things, or that the kids did something, or that I did something. It is my own frame of reference or feeling like there is a rift that I have done something to make her mad. If I would just keep my mouth shut about her, stop talking about it all together, then I would know that there isn’t anything she can do or say to hurt me.
If I am alright with my own behaviors and actions, I needn’t worry about what else is going on around me so much. [Read: 9 important habits you need to be more independent]
#11 Try to think about the things that really matter. Sometimes we overthink to distract ourselves from being overwhelmed by life, being depressed, or just not being happy, but not knowing what to do about it.
Instead of focusing on what is really important, which is hard, we find all these distractions in our lives so that we don’t have to acknowledge the truth or the things that really matter.
The next time you overthink if the girl at the grocery store thought you were rude, hug your daughter. The smile you elicit by spending just a moment of your energy and time on her, will overpower any misplaced concern you have over things that really have no relation to your world or well-being.
Take all the time and energy that you use overthinking things that don’t matter and throw them into bettering yourself, spending time with people who really matter, and being the best you, you can be. Soon you will stop worrying about all the peripheral noise that is just that, noise.