How to Stop Overthinking

March 5, 2020

Have you ever said or done something you wish you hadn’t, then you lie awake at night replaying it over and over in your head? Or maybe you have an important event coming up and you can’t seem to stop thinking about how it’ll go and what else is on your to-do list.

Thinking about what you need to do can be a great way to stay organized. But at some point, churning over the same, usually negative, thoughts becomes counterproductive. This is called rumination, and it’s common among those with anxiety and/or depression.

Why Do People Ruminate?

Some people may be naturally more prone to rumination, based on personality traits, like perfectionism. But other people experience rumination or overthinking as a symptom of their depression or anxiety.

Some common reasons for rumination include:

  • Believing that continuously thinking about an issue will provide insight or a solution
  • Having a history or trauma
  • Experiencing life stressors that are outside your control

How to Stop Ruminating

  1. Acknowledge it when it’s happening

    Like most things in life, change won’t occur until you’re aware of what needs to change. The next time you find yourself replaying a series of thoughts, ask yourself if this is helpful problem solving, or more obsessive behavior.

  1. Use the unknown to your advantage

    Rumination is typically spurred on by fear – fear that things won’t go well, or that you’ll let someone down, etc. When you find yourself stuck on fear, remember that you’re ultimately thinking in hypotheticals. Because the event is in the future, the outcome exists only in your mind at this point. In a hypothetical situation, there’s just as much likelihood that things will go well. Try focusing on that outcome instead.

  1. Try a new perspective

    More often than not, the things that cause us stress and anxiety now, we hardly remember a year later. Try asking yourself if what you’re overthinking about will truly matter in a month. What about a year from now? You may find you’re dealing with a major life event, but more often than not, we stress over the smaller things in life.

  1. Change what you can, let go of the rest

    Ask yourself if you have the power to change what you’re ruminating about. If you can change it, it may be helpful to start thinking about a plan of action. Oftentimes, being stagnant can contribute to feelings of helplessness, so turning inaction into action may help. Furthermore, if what you’re ruminating about is outside your control, remind yourself of that fact.

  1. Question your thoughts

    We all can fall victim to different cognitive distortions from time to time. It’s easy to believe our thoughts that simply aren’t true. You may think you’ve made a major mistake or are responsible for things that are out of your control. It can sometimes help to imagine a friend having the thoughts that you’re having. What would you say to them? You’d probably be much more objective and optimistic.

Recognizing harmful thought patterns, like rumination, can be a big step towards improving your mood and wellbeing. In addition to these techniques, one-on-one therapy sessions can help address your specific areas of concern and provide unique coping skills designed for your needs.

If you’d like to learn more about Neurocore’s counseling services or brain training program, give us a call at 800.600.4096.

Daskal, Lolly. (2016, January 4). “10 Simple Ways You Can Stop Yourself From Overthinking.” Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/10-simple-ways-you-can-stop-yourself-from-overthinking.html
Legg, Timothy. (2019, April 18). “10 Tips to Help You Stop Ruminating.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-ruminating