Try this to STOP your Obsessive Thoughts! | GREAT TIPS TO OVERCOME OVERTHINKING
How to Survive Overthinking
Overthinking an issue, event, or even conversation is a common method of coping with stress. But studies show that overthinking and ruminating on something stressful/troubling has strong ties with depression and anxiety.For many people, overthinking things is just an automatic way of seeing the world, but that mindset can lead to prolonged periods of depression and may even cause some people to delay seeking treatment.Learning how to cope with overthinking can help you let go of painful memories and break out of damaging thought patterns.
Managing Your Thoughts
Learn different cognitive distortions.Before you can begin to address or cope with your habit of overthinking things, you'll need to learn what kinds of thoughts occur when you're engaging in this damaging behavior. Any time you find yourself indulging in painful, unpleasant, or self-doubting thoughts, you are on the road to overthinking because of cognitive distortions. Likewise if you find yourself listing reasons to not do something, or otherwise making excuses for your self-doubt.The most common cognitive distortions include:
- All or nothing thinking - believing things are absolute and seeing every situation as being black or white.
- Overgeneralization - seeing one negative event as a continuous cycle of defeat or embarrassment.
- Mental filtering - dwelling only on negative things (thoughts, feelings, outcomes) while ignoring all the positive elements of those situations or scenarios.
- Discounting the positives - believing that none of your admirable qualities or accomplishments matter.
- Jumping to conclusions - either assuming that other people are reacting/thinking negatively towards you without any real evidence (called "mind reading") or believing that an event will turn out badly without any evidence for this conclusion.
- Magnification or minimization - blowing bad things out of proportion or reducing the importance of good things.
- Emotional reasoning - believing that the way you feel reflects an objective truth about yourself.
- "Should" statements - chastising yourself or others for things that should or shouldn't have been said/done.
- Labeling - turning a mistake or shortcoming into a character attribute of yourself. (For example, turning the thought "I messed up" into "I'm a loser and a failure.")
- Personalization and blame - internalizing fault for situations or events you aren't responsible for, or blaming others for situations/events that they had no control over.
Identify how you overthink.There are numerous ways to overthink, many of which are caused by cognitive distortions. One form of overthinking is the thought pattern known as "catastrophizing." Catastrophizing occurs any time you automatically predict a negative outcome to some event or series of events, and jump to the conclusion that such an outcome would be devastating and unbearable.Catastrophizing is a combination of jumping to conclusions and overgeneralizing.
- Try to identify which cognitive distortions affect your overthinking the most. Write down the thoughts you experience, and try to label which thoughts could fall into the category of cognitive distortions.
- Practice learning to recognize your "overthinking" thoughts in the moment, as they arise. Simply naming them when you become aware of them may be helpful. Try silently saying the word "thinking" whenever you begin to overthink - it may help ground you and break you out of your spiraling thought pattern.
Take note of how you're feeling.It's easy to fall into "autopilot" mode during the course of your day. But if your day is filled with situations that have the potential to induce anxiety, you may be walking blindly into a situation that will cause you to overthink and catastrophize.
- Try mandating a personal "check in" for yourself. Assess how you're feeling as you enter different scenarios and situations that tend to evoke your pattern of overthinking.
- Identify any instance in which you begin to indulge patterns of overthinking.Don't judge yourself for it, just acknowledge it before you work to change it.
Challenge your automatic thoughts.Once you've identified an incident of overthinking or catastrophizing, you can now begin to challenge the validity of those thoughts. Challenging those thoughts by remembering that thoughts are not facts may help you break out of your pattern of overthinking.
- Thoughts do not always reflect reality, and they are oftentimes warped, uninformed, or simply wrong. By letting go of the infallible perception of your thoughts, you'll be more capable of considering other possibilities, or at least accepting that your overthinking isn't always right.
- Examine what (if any) real, objective evidence you have to support the cognitive distortions and patterns of overthinking that you're experiencing. There is a good chance that you will not be able to come up with any real, compelling evidence that the thoughts you're experiencing have any basis in truth.
- Try silently saying to yourself, "These are just thoughts, and they are not truth."Repeating this mantra may help you disengage from the spiraling thought patterns you're stuck in.
Replace cognitive distortions with real facts.If your patterns of overthinking are spiraling out of control, it may feel difficult to break out of that thought pattern. However, once you learn to recognize that the thoughts you're experiencing are not factual, you can then fairly easily replace that thought pattern with a more realistic one. Tell yourself, "If I accept that my assumptions and overthinking are not grounded in facts, then whatarethe facts in this situation?"
- Even if a situation ended badly, you can focus on what to do differently next time as an alternative to dwelling on what you should have said/done in the past.It won't come easily at first, but once you retrain your brain to process situations differently, it will eventually get easier.
- Try asking other people who are aware of the situation for their input. Sometimes asking a trusted friend, relative, or colleague whether you're overreacting or overthinking things can help you realize that there's no reason to continue thinking that way.
- Try positive self-talk to replace self-doubt or overthinking.The way you talk to yourself (and think about yourself) can affect how you feel. So instead of criticizing yourself or ruminating on bad thoughts, try to focus on the things you did well and continue to do well.
Part 1 Quiz
How can you ground yourself when you begin overthinking?
Overcoming Your Fear
Practice relaxation techniques.Many people who suffer from overthinking and cognitive distortions find relaxation techniques to be helpful in breaking out of harmful thought patterns.Relaxation techniques can also have physical benefits, like lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, slowing down your breathing rate, and reducing the activity of stress hormones in your body.There are numerous types of relaxation techniques, including:
- Autogenic relaxation - repeat words or suggestions to yourself internally to help you relax. You might imagine a tranquil environment and then repeat positive affirmations, or simply focus on your breathing.
- Progressive muscle relaxation - focus on tensing, holding, and then relaxing each major muscle group in your body. Start at the head with your facial muscles and work your way down to your toes (or vice versa), tensing and holding each muscle group for five to ten seconds before releasing the muscles' tension into relaxation.
- Visualization - let your imagination form calming mental images, and visualize a serene place or situation.
- Mindful breathing - place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. While sitting, lying, or standing (whichever is most comfortable and convenient), take slow, deep breaths in, forcing the air into your abdomen instead of just your chest. You should feel your belly expand outward as you inhale. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly until all of the previous breath is gone. Repeat as many times as needed until you begin to feel calm.
- Meditation - similar to mindful breathing, meditation focuses on the slow, deep inhalation and exhalation of breath coupled with an element of meditative mindfulness. That may mean reciting a mantra (a word or phrase that helps you remain calm/focused) or focusing your attention on physical sensations, such as the feeling of sitting where you are, or the sensation of breathing in and out through your nostrils.
Find ways to distract yourself.If you find yourself constantly doubting yourself or overanalyzing situations, you may need to find a more active way to break out of that thought pattern. Try distracting yourself with a positive, healthy alternative. For example, you can try meditating to ground yourself in the present moment. Or, if you enjoy crafts, try taking up knitting or sewing to occupy your mind whenever overthinking thought patterns take over. If you play an instrument, pick it up and play for a bit. Find what comforts you and grounds you in the present moment, and use that activity as often as you need to.
Explore your thoughts in writing.Writing is a very effective way of processing your thoughts, analyzing patterns of thinking, and finding ways to move past those thoughts. One writing exercise that many people find helpful is to take 10 minutes to explore the nature of your overthinking thought patterns in writing.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- In that time, write as much about your thoughts as you can. Explore the people, situations, or time spans that you associate with those thoughts, and whether those thoughts have any bearing on who you were, who you currently are, or who you hope to be in your life.
- Read through your writings when the time is up and look for patterns of thinking. Ask yourself, "Have these thought patterns influenced how I see myself, my relationships, or the world around me? If so, has that influence been a positive or negative one?"
- You may also find it helpful to ask yourself, "Have these thought patterns ever really helped me? Or have the number of missed opportunities and sleepless nights outnumbered the occasional time I was right?"
Do things that make you happy.Many people who overthink things avoid going out or having interactions out of fear that somethingmayhappen. Even if you're not yet able to break out of those thought patterns, it's important that you don't let your overthinking dictate your decisions. If there's something you want to go to (for example, a concert or a party), stop finding reasons not to go and force yourself out the door. Otherwise your overthinking will prevent you from doing anything, and you'll almost certainly regret it.
- Tell yourself that the regret you'd feel over missing out would be stronger than the regret over having a less-than-perfect time.
- Think of all the times you took a risk at trying something new and it paid off. Then think about all the times that staying home or being afraid of trying new things has gained you anything. You'll quickly see that taking that risk of failure was valuable because it led to good things.
- Remind yourself that you can always leave early if you aren't having a good time. The important thing is to go and see whether or not you can end up having a fun and meaningful experience.
Part 2 Quiz
Why is visualization a good relaxation technique?
Changing Your Mindset
Alter your view of failure.Whether you're afraid of trying something because your overthinking has led you to believe you'd fail, or you can't stop replaying the memory of a time you failed at something or in some role, you need to recognize that sometimes things just don't work out the way we'd like them to. And that's not always a bad thing. A lot of what we perceive as failure is not an ending, but a beginning: to new options, new opportunities, and new ways of living.
- Recognize that behaviors may fail, but people (namely, you) do not.
- Rather than seeing failure as the end of something good, try thinking about it as a new opportunity. If you lose your job, you may be able to find a better job that gives you more satisfaction. If you start a new art project and it doesn't turn out the way you hoped, at least you got some practice out of it, and you might have a better idea of what you'd like to do differently next time.
- Try to let failure motivate you. Put more effort and concentration into doing better next time, or spend more time preparing for future events.
Try not to dwell on the past.An important part of overthinking is to recognize that you cannot change the past, and that dwelling on it over and over will not help change anything. While learning from the past is an important part of growing and maturing, overthinking and ruminating on mistakes, missed opportunities, and other elements of the past is harmful and unproductive.
- Once you learn the lesson you believe you need to learn from a past event, try letting go of the memory. Don't consciously think about it, and any time you find yourself thinking about it try to distract yourself or snap yourself out of that thought pattern. Focus on the present moment, which you do have the power to change.
Realize you can't predict the future.No one knows what's going to happen, and your overthinking mind certainly isn't going to predict the future any better than the rest of the world. But many people with overthinking minds tend to believe that they know what will happen in advance: that trying out for the basketball team will only result in failure and humiliation, or that asking someone out will result in an awkward and devastating rejection. Yet without trying, how do you know? What are you basing your assumptions on? More likely than not, those assumptions are unfounded and are setting you up to fail by assuming from the start that you will.
- Remind yourself that no one knows what the future holds, and if you suffer from an overthinking mind, your "predictions" are mostly built from self-doubt and fear of the unknown.
Part 3 Quiz
Why is it important to realize you can't predict the future?
QuestionHow do I stop overthinking when I'm trying to fall asleep?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry to create a bedtime ritual that includes some meditation and relaxation. These techniques can allow you to go to sleep with a peaceful mental state.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop overthinking friendships?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI used to do the same thing, but then I started yoga and meditation and nature walks in the morning. Friends come and go. Enjoy your life. Make new friends and leave the bad ones. If someone is a bad influence, don't go along with them. Friends are great, but remember that you'll always have yourself, and that's the most important thing.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is "overthinking"?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOverthinking means focusing on an issue too much and analyzing it more than you should, causing increased amounts of stress and anxiety.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop overthinking when I try to sleep?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhatever faith you connect with, prayer can help clear your mind before you sleep. After this, take your mind somewhere else by watching a funny movie, or playing a game online. All of these are what I use and they help.Thanks!
QuestionHow I can stop myself from making predictions about my future?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust remember that no one knows the future. Whenever you start to make predictions about your future, remind yourself to stay in the present and focus on the moment. After all, what you're doing in the moment is what drives you towards and determines your future.Thanks!
QuestionI always overthink, and the feeling of being lonely almost kills me. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionHow can I stop worrying if some of my predictions have come true?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRecognize that sometimes predictions are just lucky guesses. If you start to worry too much, think about all the predictions you made that didn't come true.Thanks!
QuestionI overthink everything. I overthink social activities so much I don't do them. What can I do?Donna M DuncanCommunity AnswerI know what you mean. But the older I get, the more I realize how much joy, love and memories I have deprived myself of. FEAR. Face Everything And Rejoice or.....F___ Everything And Run. I realize the choice for today is Mine. Hopefully you can do the same.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop overthinking about my favorite people and things?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA useful way to get rid of overthinking is to find ways to show your favorite people that they are truly important to you and to value and take care of your favorite things.Thanks!
QuestionWhen I overthink, I usually feel scared, trembling from fears, and create negative thoughts, causing a heavy heart. How do I overcome this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWrite down your fears or thoughts in a journal. Then ask yourself "What is the worst thing that can happen?" Often acceptance of your fear and the imagined worst outcome helps to calm you.Thanks!
At times, I dunno when I'm overthinking. I nonpurposely overanalyze something in school and fail. It's like "a permanent state of analysis." Is there a way to help with this?
What do I do if others have told me I overthink, but I don't understand what it means?
How can I manage my thoughts if I'm overthinking everything?
- Get yourself a notebook and pen. Use journaling or writing exercises to help you process what you're thinking and determine whether that way of thinking is part of a larger problem.
- Some people who overthink things tend to believe they cannot perform well or that they will fall behind and be looked down upon. Don't fall into this trap! Believe that you can do it and you will; the pain and breathlessness will fall away.
Sources and Citations
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