How to Stop Overthinking
It’s 3 a.m. and you’ve been trying to go to sleep since 10:30 p.m. The room is dark and cool. All
of the sleep hygiene tips have been implemented, including following the instructions on the
$17.00 bottle of melatonin gummies you bought the other day. Despite the excessive number of
gummies in your system to ensure that you would fall asleep fast, you are wide awake and a flood of thoughts consume your mind.
1) When it comes to overthinking, the first step to stopping it is becoming super aware
that you’re thinking too much. It’s important to pay attention to what you are thinking
about as well as the amount of thinking you are doing. When you notice yourself
replaying events in your mind over and over again – think about, what you are thinking
2) The next step is to recognize when your thoughts are irrational. Cognitive
distortions are very common and it’s easy to think irrationally without recognizing it.
Before you conclude that someone who hasn’t liked your social media post is mad at you,
or that being late on your bills is going to lead to you becoming homeless, acknowledge
that your thoughts may be distorted and irrational. Recognize thinking errors and replace
them with more rational ones. or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge
that your thoughts aren’t productive.
3) Instead of ruminating on things outside of your control, turn your attention to
active problem-solving. Dwelling on problems doesn’t benefit you, but looking for
solutions does. Ask yourself what you can and cannot control and shift your focus only to
what you can do something about in the near future. Once you dismiss unproductive
thoughts, write down what you can do about the problem and action items for the next
day. Turning thoughts into action items and writing them down is a great way to clear
your mind and interrupt overthinking.
4) Schedule your worry thoughts for a time that is earlier in the day. Stewing on anxious thoughts for long periods of time will only increase your worrisome thoughts. But scheduling a set time can be helpful. Restricting your worry to a scheduled time “tricks your emotions” and causes you to recognize that you can manage those feelings. For example, telling yourself that you cannot worry tonight at 3:00am because it’s not the scheduled time, can buy you some time and help you to sleep while knowing that you are not letting go of your concern about the problem. When it is the “scheduled time” to worry, incorporate 15 minutes of “worry time” into your daily schedule. During this time, allow yourself to mull, ruminate, or worry over whatever you want. Then, when the time is up, stop and shift your focus to something more beneficial. When you notice yourself worrying outside of your appointed time, remind yourself that your appointed time is coming.
5) Mindfulness is all the rage now. But what is it? Simply put, mindfulness is shifting your focus to the present and away from everything else. It’s difficult to rehash yesterday or become anxious about tomorrow when you’re focused on the present. Practice shifting your thoughts to becoming super aware of the here and now. Like any other skill, mindfulness takes time. But with effort and practice over time, it can eliminate overthinking.