How To Stop Overthinking & Chill Out A Bit With These 5 Simple Strategies
To call me an over-thinker would be a serious understatement. No joke here, some days, it is not fun to be up in my brain, because it just feels like I am on a bad carnival ride that will not stop. Whether it's simply a crush I can't get out of my head, or some (seemingly) massive existential woe, I can really drive my thoughts into the ground. Learning how to stop overthinking has been and will continue to be a process of incorporating tools and tricks to give my mind a little solace.
Now, my therapist calls what I do when I'm really stuck in overthinking, "ruminating." Not surprisingly, habitually and cyclically concentrating on negative or worried thoughts is straight-up bad for your mental health, according to Psychology Today. In fact, according to the results of a 2013 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, ruminating and overthinking were found to be a "well-established risk factor for the onset of major depression and anxiety" in both adults and adolescents.
So, if you struggle with overthinking much like myself, learning how to refocus or intercept the thought process is crucial for the sake of your well-being. Here are a few easy ways to stop overanalyzing and take things a bit more slowly.
1. Distract Yourself With A Different Activity
Sounds easy enough, but it can be really hard to actually allow yourself to engage in other activities when it feels like you're locked into your thoughts.
In the book Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skills Training Manual, author and psychologist Marsha Linehan suggests making or finding a list of activities you can refer to in order to distract yourself from your repetitive thoughts or extreme emotions.
Some examples, according to Linehan's writing, include super simple things, like watching TV, finding an event to go to, or even stopping at a restaurant to enjoy your favorite food.
2. Acknowledge Your Thoughts, But Don't Judge Them
New York-based therapist Julia Colangelo, LCSW tells Elite Daily that one of the first, and most effective things you can do to combat spells of overthinking is to notice and engage with these thoughts.
Notice the thought, she explains, and ask yourself to stop judging the fact that you're overthinking. Adding a judgment on top of whatever you're already ruminating about, Colangelo says, only makes the process of leaving the thought pattern more difficult.
3. Engage With Your Thoughts Logically
Oftentimes, overthinking can lead to rather illogical spirals of thought, so looking at and engaging with the thoughts you're having, in a more logical way, is an important step to take toward getting away from them.
Colangelo recommends naming the facts of the thought specifically, as a way to understand what these thoughts are trying to tell you. "Ask yourself," she explains, "'What does this thought give me?' Is it helping or hurting with my stress levels?'"
From there, you can decide other tactics to get yourself out of the thought pattern, or allow for it to pass without harshly judging the presence of the thoughts.
4. Look For A New Sensation
Some of the other immediate and in-the-moment actions recommended in the DBT Skills Training Manual have to do with getting into your body and using your other senses. In her book, Linehan suggests things like squeezing a rubber ball, taking a super cold shower, or listening to really loud music. These simple activities can allow you to both distract yourself, as well as shift your perspective to your immediate reality.
5. Find A Mindfulness Practice That Works For You
Whether this means you're implementing a daily bedtime meditation practice, doing some walking meditation, or simply sitting down to do some guided breath work, practicing mindful behavior, in any form that works for you, will help you quiet your thoughts and train your brain to respond to stress in healthier, less frantic ways.
According to Harvard Health, mindfulness practices can help ease anxiety, especially the kind that stems from what Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital, calls "unproductive worries," which pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of describing what overthinking really is.
But hey, you won't know until you try it, so what are you waiting for?