You’re consumed by worry about an upcoming event, second-guessing something you’ve already done, or can’t make a decision because you’re constantly assessing and reassessing the pros and cons. This is overthinking, and it adds anxiety and stress you don’t need to have in your life.
Here are some ways to stop it.
Know How It Makes You Feel
If you’re not sure if you’re overthinking or not (and overthinking that question), the signals your body is sending can help. If the muscles in your shoulders and neck are tightening, your heart is beating faster and your teeth are clenching as you think about a situation, that’s a pretty solid “tell.”
When you catch yourself starting to dwell on something longer than you want to, try just doing something else. Call a friend you haven’t seen for a while (but don’t talk about the issue you’re trying to get away from). Go for a walk or bike ride or put on some music.
Don’t Judge Yourself
If you’re starting to criticize yourself for what you did in the past or not knowing what to do in the present, identify these as thoughts you’re having rather than fact. Believing them as if they are will just perpetuate a negative cycle.
If you’re finding it’s just too hard to shut your overthinking off completely, try corralling it into a specific time frame. It can be 15 or 20 minutes a day at a time when you’re relatively unoccupied, but try not to do it too close to bedtime.
Look For Solutions
The hallmark of overthinking versus just “thinking” is focusing on the problem instead of solutions. Let it go if there is no solution, either because it’s in the past or you can’t do anything about it. If you can, start thinking about actions you can take to either change the situation or minimize the effect it has on you and others.