7 Ways To Stop Overthinking Everything And Relax
Does overthinking cause anxiety, or is it the result of distress in our lives? I believe it’s both. Overthinking everything is a cycle that is fueled by anxiety and that eventually intensifies its presence. The paradox is that you might be overthinking to help yourself relax, but this strategy just makes you suffer more.
Overthinking can have a huge negative impact on your life. The constant thoughts prevent you from having quality sleep that is so necessary for healthy brain function.
In addition, thinking about something for a long time actually leads you to choose wrong over and over again because you operate from a state of fear, rather than logic.
What Is Overthinking?
The definition of overthinking is to think about things too much for too long. The replays in your head are endless: It could be thinking about the future, refusing to forgive yourself for past mistakes, or overanalyzing the small stuff. It gets to a point that you can’t get out of your own head.
For example – calling your ex and regretting it a second after it’s done (even though you were thinking about it for weeks whether you should do it or not).
Or hiring wrong contractors that never deliver and then dwell on your shortcomings (“I’m so stupid”; “I never learn anything”; “I have such bad luck”).
Perhaps you may find yourself replaying a conversation in your head on and on without diving into any definitive conclusion.
We were told from a very young age that we must always look for solutions and keep trying until we find them. This attitude is right.
We should look for practical answers to life’s challenges, but it’s important that we think about solutions from a clear state of mind.
Overthinking gives you the illusion that you control the situation. You tell yourself that “if I think about it long enough, that means I take responsibility for the circumstance”.
But that’s not the case at all. The more you think, the worse you feel. The more you think, doesn’t mean you will find the best solution. On the contrary, that leads to analysis paralysis.
Sometimes, taking responsibility entails taking the foot off the gas and calm down in order to be productive later on.
Why Overthinking Doesn’t Help Problem Solving
When you’re overthinking everything, especially if that interrupts your sleep, that means that you have entered a survival mode. From that state, there is no way you could possibly come up with logical and effective resolutions.
See, a survival mode means that the lizard part of your brain is activated – the Amygdala. When that part is turned on and starts screaming ‘danger’, there is no blood flow to the rational part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Your logical center is closed for business and can only reopen again when you allow yourself to relax and stop overthinking.
Then, when you actively get yourself out of the obsession to figure everything out immediately, you’d be able to think coherently.
As a former over-thinker, here are my preferred 7 ways to stop overthinking and depriving yourself of sanity.
1. Get Into The Habit of Relaxation Every Single Day
Overthinking is the result of an anxious mind. If you want to manage your emotional reactivity, you have to train your mind every single day to stay calm. Then, when a stressful situation arises, you will respond to it mindfully, rather than react to it irrationally.
You will be so used to remain in your center, that nothing would be able to shake you out of your Zen.
The consistent practicing of relaxing your mind and body will prepare you to handle life with wisdom, clarity, and capability. So it is definitely worth your time and energy to invest in it.
Only when you are fully relaxed and at ease, you can introspect effectively. Introspection can lead to self-understanding, which eventually, leads to making the right decisions that meet your needs.
I recommend dedicating an hour each day to practice self-soothing techniques. That can be thorough –
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Subliminal affirmations (in my audio library you can find over 200 recordings)
- Walking in nature
- Exercising – mainly aerobic exercises. That increases blood flow and increases the Hippocampus as well (which means improvement of memory and learning).
If you think that an hour each day is too much time to spend, think of all the countless hours you wasted overthinking every little thing.
One hour a day, in the long run, will save you so much time thinking about meaningless stuff and you’d be able to direct your precious energy towards your desires and goals.
2. Practice Self-compassion
When I used to overthink things, that process also involved impatience with myself, self-blame, and name-calling. It took me many years to internalize that the negative voices in my head did not belong to me, but were forced on me since childhood.
As I became more self-aware, I started talking to myself with kindness and compassion. In a way, I provided my inner child the love and nurturance it needed.
So, for example, when I was second-guessing myself or had repetitive thoughts about a certain situation, I treated myself gently and said “Edith, it’s ok. Of course you are worried. Don’t feel bad about it, you have every right to feel the way you do. I am sure you will find the answer you are looking for”.
When you are no longer berating yourself and being respectful and kind towards yourself, that on its own has the ability to decrease ruminating thoughts faster than imagined.
3. Use an Assertive Attitude When Needed
When overthinking happens in inconvenient hours, it’s time to be a bit more assertive. As you can experience yourself, thoughts are very powerful. You can harness them to work for you, or against you. Instead of letting them destroy you, use your thoughts in a productive way.
If you find yourself toss and turn at 3 am and wish you could fall asleep already because you have to wake up in a few hours – this approach would be in place.
The draining thoughts can go on and on for hours and that can really take a toll on your emotional and physical health. That is why you need to take an active and assertive step.
When you notice the overthink switch has been activated, simply say to yourself firmly – ‘stop!’
It will also be helpful if you mention your name. This way, your brain will perceive this as an authoritative command and will obey as you repeat it enough times.
For example – “Stop, Edith! Right now it is not the time or the place to think about it. Now it is important that you sleep, so you can wake up with a sharp mind and think it through then.”
4. Talk to Yourself Like a Mentor Would Talk To You
If you’re overthinking something and don’t know what to do and which way to turn, try to have a dialog with yourself.
But this time, imagine a mentor you respect and try to think what advice they would give you. This way you will not just be stuck in your own scenarios but will involve another perspective, even if it is imagined.
If you can afford a trusted mentor, that would be even better.
5. Explore The Option of Essential Oils
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. Since they’re so concentrated, their impact is very powerful. Some oils are known to induce relaxation pretty fast, and by that – decrease the inner chatter that ruins your day.
I personally use Clary Sage, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Lavender, and others. You can diffuse them or rub them with a carrier oil on your feet for best absorption. Look for the highest quality brands.
6. Relax – You Don’t Need to Have Your Whole Life Figured Out Right Now
Don’t worry if things are not clear yet. Let the pieces of the puzzle come at their own time and pace. Don’t rush the future to unfold.
Try to think of all the things you once didn’t know, and only years later have become much wiser at thinking and dealing with them.
You will figure things out at some point, so just let the process of unfolding occur on its own without trying to influence it or resisting it.
7. Find Destruction
In this case, finding destruction doesn’t mean ignoring the problem. It means that you’re giving yourself a break to get back in balance.
When you realize that your brain doesn’t shut off and the overthinking doesn’t bring any fruitful insights, find a way to destruct yourself. This is the easiest and most accessible solution because destructions can be found everywhere you turn.
My favorite way is to involve your senses: Look around you and notice all the colors of blue (it could be any color you want). In addition, pay attention to the sounds or the smells.
The best way to perform it is to take a meditative walk outside and quietly observe the colors, sounds, smells, and physical sensations. If your attention is going back to intrusive thoughts, simply redirect your attention to what you see and hear.
This will enable you to finally clear your head of all the constant ineffective talk that’s going on inside you. Then, you could handle the subject that is bothering you using critical, logical, and rational thinking.
In the end, ruminating thoughts are exhausting because they never get you from point A to point B, though you’re duped to believe they serve you somehow.
Repetitive thoughts don’t bring you closer to relief. They only strengthen the anxiety and insecurities that already exist within you.
Getting stuck in the spiral of overthinking and anxiety doesn’t have to be your life script. You can free yourself from it through awareness and determination. Make sure to check out this tool to shift your subconscious patterns.
You can actually work on yourself and find healthy ways to manage your emotions. Having self-awareness is key to changing your mindset. Over time, as you diminish the internal turmoil, the overthinking patterns will cease on their own.