Are you thinking about how to stop overthinking? Hate to break to you but yes, you did it again. Fixating on the past or future can bring you many negative experiences, both mental and physical. The anxiety and stress you experience, when you keep rotating the same thoughts in your mind, can lead to fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping and even nausea.
Then there’s decision fatigue. If you’re not familiar, this refers to the concept that after making many decisions, or in this case just imagining making them, your ability to make more during the day worsens (source). And yes, even more fatigue follows, and likely bad choices, born from exhaustion.
There’s this very famous quote by Mark Twain:
“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
And isn’t it true? We tend to exaggerate the bad in our minds. To find a million and one obstacles and excuses not to do what we need to do right now. One day I will. Just not right now, because I’m too busy for it. But imagine…
What could you achieve, what life could you lead, who could you be if you started acting on your ideas and goals and stopped only holding them in your head? Constantly thinking about them.
Looking down the line, a big reason we need to learn how to stop overthinking is that it can actually lead to a wasted life. And we don’t want that. We want to make the most out of what is inside of us, to be who we actually were made to be.
Although quitting overthinking may seem unachievable, it’s actually not impossible to do. You need to be as persistent as your annoying recurring thoughts and start some behavioral changes. Below, I’ve listed some ways you can try and avoid torturing your mind and lowering the effectiveness of your decision-making.
Be Present And Mindful
It’s not only me and you who wish time travel was already invented, trust me. If we could go back or forward in time, we could absolutely play out all the scenarios we constantly fret about and not waste our time just imagining them. Since this isn’t an option just yet, being present and mindful is one of the best ways to stop overthinking.
What I mean by that is you should try and focus on what’s currently happening – the present. By doing that you’ll be able to make decisions more rationally, evaluating the real condition of your situation. If you just think about what could have been or what could possibly happen, nothing will literally happen at all.
When you live in the present moment and not in your thoughts, you will start noticing opportunities as well as the many blessings in your life. When you live in your brain, you simply miss out on all the goodness of life. Yes, there will be hard times, but they won’t last long if you’re present. And as bad as they may seem in your mind, you’re built to overcome them.
So don’t give power to fear and do what needs to be done right now. You can try meditation or exercises for mindfulness if that’s what takes for you to stop overthinking. But put simply, be aware of your body and mind, of the reality you’re living in and not the one your exhausted brain is trying to project.
Have Clear Goals And Targets
Make the picture crystal clear by defining your goals and targets. This is a great method to achieve your dreams more easily. When you’re clear about where you’re going, it’ll be a lot easier to say no to the distractions and obstacles that will stop you on your way. That’s why instead of wasting time overthinking, spend it planning for your goals.
Having your own brain cause you constant anxiety about your life choices may push your actual aim somewhere further down the line. If you instead keep your eyes firmly on your goals, then you’ll simplify decision-making considerably and move towards your aim one confident step at a time.
Practice Noticing When You’re Overthinking
The best way to stop overthinking? Quit it as soon as you realize you’re doing it! That’s why I told you how important mindfulness is. If you get to know your body and mind, you’ll be able to detect the first signs of overthinking. Then once you do that, it’ll be considerably easier to stop in the early stages.
You can turn it into a mental exercise. Practice being aware of your thoughts and reactions to different situations. It can creep in for big and small decisions – from what to make for dinner to whether or not you should go for that dream you’ve had for years…
Once you start being aware, you’ll be able to notice how your overthinking is triggered, the moment it intensifies, and when it reaches its peak. Once you’ve got all that figured out, you’ll be able to stop doing it more easily than if it caught you by surprise.
Practice Being More Decisive
I know, this is much easier said than done. But you must admit it, sooner or later, and best as soon as possible, you should become more courageous in order to stop overthinking. Challenge yourself to take small steps at first, limiting your time making low-impact decisions like what kind of soap to buy.
Challenge yourself for a day to make fast decisions and stand by them. Don’t go returning the soap you bought the next day. Whatever decision you make will be a good decision. Better make a mistake than no decision at all.
It’s a cliché but practice does make perfect because when you build trust in your judgements and become more decisive, even the hard choices can be made without too many worries. All of this isn’t to say that you should jump into actually dangerous situations without any thought. Use common sense and make your choices reasonable and quicker.
Do Information Detox
Remember the soap? You know what I’d do in the past? Before buying it, I’d go on the Google and research the reviews for that soap, the ingredients and then I’d do it for the other 15 brands in the store as well. Then I’d decide, well maybe I won’t find what I need here.
Same for diet or exercise. Do I become vegan or carnivore? Do I run or lift weights? You’ll find conflicting answers everywhere – online or from your friends. Everyone’s got an opinion, but not everyone can back it up with experience. Before we do the smallest things, we’ve learned to check our phones as if they’re this divine source of wisdom. They’re not. Our environment right now is built to make us overthink.
Information is a luxury, which quite like chocolate you need to consume in moderation. Knowledge is power, but too much information can be poison. If you notice you’re always looking for information, yet not learning anything that serves you or if you feel like you cannot hear your own thoughts, it’s time to do an information detox.
That means no listening, no watching, no reading, no nothing. Challenge yourself instead to do something with your time. To create something. To invest in yourself. Even if that thing is sleeping or watching the ducks in the park. You need space in your mind to be able to think right and to learn new things. If you fill your brain with information from all over the place, it can pretty much freeze like a computer screen.
You don’t need to ask 10 people about their opinions about anything, you simply need to listen to yourself. But first, make sure that you aren’t influenced by others. I find the best way to do so is spending time in nature no podcast, no phone, no company. I try to do this for at least an hour a day. It really resets your brain. Writing things down is also super helpful!
Keep It Simple
So, while you’re doing your information detox, use the knowledge you already have. Stick to the basics and keep things simple. For example, let’s again take diet and exercise. What are some basic exercises you know? Push ups, sit ups, squats…Right? Something like that. What are some good healthy meals you love? Maybe it’s a chickpea salad, maybe it’s salmon with vegetables…whatever you like. Do those exercises, make these recipes. You don’t need to look for more. Simple saves you time and energy. And helps you stop overthinking.
You know, the best athletes in the world didn’t become athletes because they watched endless amounts of workouts online, or did the most effective 4-minute workouts, or because they ate the most elaborate high-protein dishes. It’s because they kept it simple, they did their repetitions and kept taking action every single day.
So simplify and get to work!
Control What You Can And Let Go Of What You Cannot
One of the main causes of overthinking is the desire to keep things under control. We make our plans and then we’re disappointed things didn’t go exactly as we wanted. But you know, in life you need to trust that whatever happens, it’s for the better. It will somehow serve you in the long run.
Learn what is under your control and what you don’t have a hold of. The latter, no matter how difficult it is, you should let go of it.
As already established, the past and the future are not something we can change. Obviously, as much as you overthink about events in them, you can’t help what has or will happen. That’s why you should focus on what you can do right now, today, and tomorrow, and accept the things you can’t fully change. This will not only help you stop overthinking but save you plenty of anxiety and stress as well.
Realize Perfect Isn’t Real
Doing information detox can also help you understand that mistakes are a natural part of life. If you keep asking and relying on others, you may not be able to experience anything on your own. And when things go bad – you will blame those people. Don’t do that! Take responsibility for your own life and challenge yourself to learn on the job. Make mistakes and learn from them, that’s how you’ll get the knowledge you need in life.
Forget about perfection. It is not real. It does not exist. Instead just do your best within a reasonable time frame. Give it your all, but let go of expectations.
Perfectionism is proven to be among the work-related mental problems that can increase the difficulty of completing even the simplest tasks and bring you severe distress (source). You’ll bring nothing good but only stress while aiming for an 11/10. Instead, work on coming to terms with the fact that you should do your best but that doesn’t include beating yourself over imaginary ultimate results.
Set A Deadline
This is a more hands-on approach to stop overthinking. When there’s an important choice to be made, set a deadline for it and stick to it. Having an exact day and hour to complete something can make you considerably more decisive than if you kept putting things off.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t go overboard and create even more stress for yourself than the one you’re already experiencing. Set a realistic timeframe for the decision or project you have to make and complete it by then. You’ll not only attain better self-organization skills but have a thing less off your mind a lot quicker than if you left it hanging in there.
Engage In Regular Exercising
You’ve heard the phrase “healthy body, healthy mind”, right? Another way to stop overthinking is reducing your stress and tension, physically and mentally. You can do that by working out or engaging in physical activity every day! This will clear your mind and strengthen your body.
Additionally, physical activity can increase the production of endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. This can help improve your mood, relax you, and help you make more well-thought-out decisions. Plus don’t act like you don’t know that working out isn’t essential for your well-being, so accept this as just another reason to do it.