man overthinking

5 Steps to Stop Overthinking

Sometimes we have too much time to think and it’s easy to get caught up in our minds. You might be over-analyzing a conversation or a text message you received. To be honest, it’s really just because your mind is so powerful. But instead of letting yourself get stuck in an endless spiral of anxiety, there are simple ways to overcome this problem.

Here are 5 steps to stop overthinking!

1. Create awareness around what triggers overthinking.

Overthinking can happen when you’re stressed, bored, or anxious. It’s important to know what your main trigger is because it’s the first step toward self-awareness and finding the right solution for you. 

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Start by writing down everything that triggers your overthinking habit, including external events like being alone or work deadlines or internal thought processes like worrying about how to impress your boss.
  2. Once you’ve identified these triggers, organize them in a way that makes sense to you—you could group them by day of the week, time of day, people in your life who appear often with that trigger (e.g. “my BFF always makes me think about my ex”) etc. This will help you create a clear picture of the patterns at play in your mind so you can make an action plan accordingly!
  3. Line up some distractions or activities that will keep your mind off the negative thoughts if they pop up again, this will help stop you from spiraling into an even bigger mess than just thinking too much.

2. Brain dump all of your worries, thoughts, and tasks.

This can be done in a journal or on a notepad, but it’s also helpful to have an app for this so you can share with other people (only if you are comfortable) and make sure you’re staying accountable. You don’t need to worry about grammar or spelling at this point! Just get it out of your head and onto paper so that you can move on to the next step.

Here’s what you’ll want to write down:

  • All the worries and thoughts you have in mind
  • The source of your worries
  • All the responsibilities and tasks you need to accomplish
  • Anything that is bothering you

3. Get clear on what you can and can’t control.

The next step is to get clear on what you can and can’t control.

You can’t control what other people think, do, or say. You can’t control the past, but you can control the future. You may not be in total control of your life, but you are in complete control of how you respond to your life. This involves taking responsibility for how you think and feel.

If the cause of your overthinking isn’t something you can control, create an anchor to redirect when these worries come up, i.e. “It is what it is” or “I trust the process”. It’s easy to blame others for the way that we feel, but when we do this we give away our power to those around us. You may not be able to control the actions of others, but you can take action to change the way you feel. 

4. Create an action plan to stop overthinking. 

If you truly want to stop overthinking, the most important step to do is to create an action plan. 

Here’s what you can include in your effective action plan: 

  1. Create to-do lists. Be specific on what you need to do and achieve.
  2. Implement a daily routine where you write down 3 things that went well each day (this is called a gratitude journal). This helps focus on progress instead of being stuck in the past or worrying about what might happen in the future.
  3. Schedule time for reflection.
  4. If something is going through your head constantly (like worrying about a project), recognize what triggered this thought and then schedule time later that day to think about it more thoroughly or brainstorm solutions.
  5. Have a brain dump file on your phone.
  6. Get into the habit of writing down any thoughts/feelings. Forget perfection, just get it down on paper! 

5. Stop perfectionist thinking.

Perfectionist thinking is a common habit that can become an unhealthy obsession. When you’re a perfectionist, you expect yourself to be perfect in everything: how you look, how your work is done, and how others perceive you. But perfectionism comes with many negative side effects such as low self worth, depression and anxiety.

To stop perfectionist thinking, decide on your priorities and goals in life. You can use SMART goals as an effective framework for this process. Once you know what’s important to you, it becomes easier to make decisions and reduce perfectionist thinking.

If you struggle with overthinking, overwhelm and procrastination contact wecare@happinessco.org to work with one of our coaches. 

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