Overthinking could a true pain in the mind. It´s a trick by our own brain to imprison us in a vortex of constant thinking about all possible and impossible what-ifs. Overthinking is misused creativity, because all of a sudden, you come up with thoughts and ideas you can´t imagine yet. Suddenly all bad things are possible, even totally unrealistic ones. You feel forced to at least to consider them.
That catches you in a mindset that attracts what you most fear, or most worry about. It´s like you precondition yourself towards the worst possible outcome. You react not to actions of the other person actually did but to actions the other person just happen to do in your imagination. That´s far from fair towards to other person and could be especially damaging in relationships.
How would you feel if you get accused of something the other one just made up, unconsciously? The situation feels unreal and you have no idea how to react or how you should excuse yourself for something you never did.
The problem of overthinking could easily transfer into a physical issue as well. More than once I read about people complaining overthinking got me drinking or overthinking got me use meidcation. Nothing of those are necessary but if you feel you can´t stop it even after trying the methods mentioned here, you might need to talk to a doctor. If overthinking ruins your life, you need to ask for help. Don´t be the person that lives in denial and things just get worse and worse.
The main problem of overthinking is, the more you think about it, the worse it gets. However, I´ll show you a few tipps and tricks how to overcome it over time.
Overthinking definition and meaning
Lets start with what overthinking really is and ask if overthinking is really so bad after all. In my experience it is because overthinking could be the root of many mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. Overthinking everything is a toxic habit, because it drains you out and wears you down. It´s like your mind tricks you into negative thinking and that results in you easier feeling like everything is bad or people are constantly against you.
Overthinking makes it easier for you to reach a low point, because even if you are full of energy, the mental trouble you get yourself in take over and drag you down and you end up in a lethargic state.
Think of it as your mind putting on the brakes because you ruminate all possible scenarios in your head thus making you indecisive which again leads to a higher stress level. It´s simple, too many choices is stressful. Laying in your bed at night, not being able get a proper sleep is stressful as well. The main problem is, all this different situatiojns of stress add up to become serious problem. Unchecked stress can contribute to many health issues, slike as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
As you know, thoughts become things so we need to be careful towards what direction we lead our thinking. In the ancient times our brain was focussed on survival and we still have that instinct deep in us. That´s why considering different options is not bad by defintion but once was a life-saving instinct. Over time, we just overdid it, just as we humans often do it with other things as well. On the flipside, we can use that primal instincts to our advantage, and I´ll show you how later on.
Is overthinking disorder a thing and if yes, what symptoms does it have?
Unfortunately that question is not so easy to answer. Based on my research there is no direct call of a „Overthinking disorder“ but mostly having this disorder in combination or as a trigger for other mental conditions.
Overthinking disorder is not a diagnosable or recognized mental health condition, therefore there isn’t any specifically designed treatment for it.
The point is, overthinking could trigger anxiety, depression or eating disorders and it can enhance their impact on your life. However, overthinking alone is usually not the main problem point. There might be an anxiety disorder because many of them have overthinking as a symptom. For example, a person with panic disorder might ruminate and overthink when they are going to have the next panic attack. They obsess over something that could trigger their attack. Not only are they anxious, they now have an anxiety about being anxious.
The actual term „overthinking disorder“ may actually refer to an anxiety disorder or other disorders that can lead to obsessions, intrusive thoughts, or compulsive behaviors. Overthinking is often counterintuitive when it comes to solving problems in your life, so if you want to stop overthinking, know that you’re taking a positive step. Recognizing anxiety and overthinking is the first thing you need to do to combat these problem.
This certainly can effect your love life as well as I´ll talk about in the next paragraph. It might be a motivation to start working on your anxiety/overthinking disorder. If you can´t start by thinking about yourself, do it for the people that love you. Sooner or later you´ll find out you do it for yourself anyway 😉
Overthinking in a relationship
Be honest! Had you ever thoughts like „She is cheating on me“ or „He is certainly meeting his ex girlffriend again and you never know what happenes then“? Jealousy is high likely the most troublesome of all problems overthinking could trigger. If you work yourself up into something that isn´t there you will behave wrongly towards your partner.
Unreasonable accusation can easily lead to a grown our argument and in worst case to an end of the relationship. And all just because you had something going on in your head that never happened.
Jealousy itself is not the problem, but if it gets mounted up by you phantasizing about your partner cheating on you, it becomes a problem.
Don´t fall prey to overthink a tiny gesture or comment, you might misinterpret it. It´s better to ask, what do you ,ean? Instead of going ballistic and spitting on your partner with unfunded accusations.
Sometimes a text message is just meant as it is and nothing else is to be added to it. Take the time to understand your partner by talking to them. Don´t focus too much on things that don’t really matter and don´t let yourself get caught by trying to find the hidden message in every text you get.
If you got hurt in a previous relationship the tendency to overthink every single text, message or gesture is far liklier. If you have trust issues, it also makes it harder to trust what’s already good right in front of you.
Letting go of the past is crucial. It´s unfair to put a similar measurement on a new person in your life. It was not the new partner that mistreated you, so leave the negative things behind.
9 tips about how to stop overthinking
1 – Understand whats going on and actively adjust it
Awareness is the key. When you start to overthink, you need to get aware that it´s happening. It´s crucial that you don´t get yourself immersed in our thought patterns to not realize what you are actually do to yourself. You need to recognize how deeply entrenched you are. The way out is, as soon as you recognize yourself overthinking, set a mental intention to become aware of it when it’s happening and stop it for a few seconds. The time will get longer the more often you do it.
Take a moment to observer of your thoughts without judging them. Ask yourself things like: Can this or that situation really happen or do I just make things up? Do I put too much into something that isn´t really there?
Recognize the thought patters and acknowledge that it happened. To stand back and observe your own mental behavior is the beginning of releasing the grip of repetitive thoughts.
2 – Accept that it is here and will for a while longer
Just as with everything else that is worth doing, changing your thought patters needs time.
If you’ve ever tried to control your thoughts, you high likely found that more thoughts seem to come up. It´s like a self-empowering machine or like fighting fire with fire.
What you need to become is an observer. That means taking a step back from your mind and becoming aware of your thinking patterns and how you’re responding to something.
Don´t be too pushy wirth yourself. Overthinking will stay the more energy you put into fighting it. Try to become indifferent to thoughts that trigger an emotional reaction which eventually make you overthink even more.
The point is to become a by-stander, an observer, not directly involved in anything that might come up. As soon as you are no longer directly involved, you can have a step back and see how things unfold without putting too much into every single thing that might or might not happen.
3 – Become your own interrupter
Since you started to learn to acknowledge your overthinking, you can now work on it with some physical help.You can start with wearing reminder, be it a necklace, a ring or something similar. Everytime you start to overthink, touch the item and remind yourself to stay calm and stop the thinking.
The idea is to instandly activate another part of your brain and to bring your thoughts back to reality. Also speak out “stop” out loud, take a few deep breaths and stand still for a moment and let all thoughts pass.
You can use a „overthink glass“ ust like some use a swearing glass. Everytime you recognize yourself overthinking you put 5.- in the glass. It should be an amount you can easily afford to spend. However, when you see the glass getting fuller and fuller it will trigger another effect, a visual one.
4 – Switch that thought
Like turning on and off a light bulb, you can try to replace one thought with another. As soon as you notive you fall back intop overthinking, interrupt yourself, acknowledge it, accept it and replace your current thought with a positive affirmation.
At the beginning, you don’t even have to believe your replacement thought. The key is to stop your pattern and exchange an annoying or otherwise emotional thought with something positive.
As soon as you start to fill your brain with these positive affirmations, new neural pathways get created and step by step negative thoughts lose their power.
If possible, repeat your positive affirmation out loud if possible. If you are surrounded by people, it´s fine if you do it just in your head several times. Don´t forget to touch your necklace or watch I told you about in point 3 😉
This process needs time, but keep your patience and just stay focused on the end result.
5 – Master the art of reframing
When overthinking gets the better of you, it can usually involve negative self-talk. Every time you allow this inner dialogue to take shape, it just becomes stronger and more limiting.
However, we can use a simple psychological trick that can help which is called „reframing“.
The basic idea is to replace the dismal, energy-stealing thoughts with more responsible ones. You intentionally shift your thinking about a situation. It will have an effect of change in the emotional tone and the meaning you give to our life circumstances. In other words, reframe the situation to an outsiders perspective.
It´s important to note that reframing is not ignoring reality or just switching from bad to good. There is no denial either. The challenges are still out there, but the self induced hardship becomes far lower every time you do it. Within time, you are able to let go more often and learn to trust your own skills and decision making capabilities.
6 – Keep an overthinking journal
Just like the swearing glass/Overthinking glass from point 3, the physical action of writing something down can help bring the necessary energy and awareness to change.
I found that statement on one of the website I did research on. „According to an Ohio State University study, researchers found that “when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the thoughts as well“ – Awesome, right!
You can go a different way and take 5 to 10 minutes every day in the morning and right before going to bed to jot down all the things you overthought that day. Again, creating an aweress of your thought patters is key to change them.
Writing is therapeutic because you can release your emotions by expressing them. The whole process of journaling helps you express your painful feelings in a safe environment.
Whatever it is you’re feeling, let it out. Process those feelings and eventually overcome them.
7 – Find a distraction that keeps your mind busy
When you are ruminating thoguhts in your head, you are distracted from the present moment. So to get out of your mental spin, getting busy doing something that engages and occupies your mind could be a fantastic way to overcome overthinking.
Physical labor is a great way to break up overthinking. It needs to be something that asks you to focus and keep your attention on that very task. You could go outside or exercise. Focus on a project or a hobby that you really enjoy doing.
At the beginning, it´s natural that your thoughts still try to creep in to distract you. However, stay patient with yourself and slowly but steadily steer your mind back to the task at hand. Eventually, you’ll get lost in the task and the overthinking decreases automatically.
The fact that the mind can only really think of one thing at a time can be used to your advantage here.
8 – Meditate
If you haven´t done that yet and it might sounds counterintuitive at this point, hear me out. Certainly, just sitting there practising awareness or mindfullness is a difficult task when you just started working on your overthinking issue.
However, there are simple ways to get started and you can do it with overthinking in the back of your head. I made a guide of how to get started here, but the gist of it is:
As a starter, a guided meditation is the best way to get going. You find plenty of those for all kinds of situations in youtube for free. The voice of your guide will lead you through the meditation and you have something to listen to and put your attention towards.
That also works with gratitude meditation or breathing exercises. As for the later, I would not recommend to start with those alone. Better get some help to get started, you can start to get deeper in meditation later on anyway if you want to.
9 – Exercise
Yes that could need some willpower to get started but it´s worth it. Overthinking drains your mental and emotional energy and you need to refill that. The challenge is, all that overthinking makes you weak and the last thing you want to do is exercise.
It´s truly a thing of willpower but as soon as you are on to it, you´ll feel the betterment. Exercising stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators. Beside that, exercise has been proven to increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When you really get all out in yuor exercises, your mind will focus on the task at hand and no longer will make your thoughts jump from one end to the other. Physical body workouts distracts your mind from intrusive thoughts and almost forces you to be in the present.
Even on some bad days, try to do at least a 10 minute workout. Just as with meditation. You can find some free exercises on youtube. If you really start to enjoy it, you can add more time as you enjoy.
I intentionally did not went down the „positive overthinking“ path because since this is a thing you can cope with. The negative effects of overthinking are more important to be addressed and therefore are prominently featured here.
In case you are an overthinker, I hope the methods and advises above will help you in the long run to overcome your overthinking, enjoy life more and be more present in the very moment.
Overthinking can be overcome, however you need to put time and energy into it. It might be difficult at some points but you need to remind yourself of the final goal of a liberated life.
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- Letting go for a more peaceful life
- Live life to the fullest