Stuck in the never-ending loop of negative thoughts? You aren’t alone. With increasing stress and anxiety issues in youth, overthinking has become a chronic issue affecting people’s productivity and happiness quotient in modern times. Overthinking or ruminating over distressing thoughts can be paralysing which not only leads to wastage of time but also impact overall well-being. (Also read | Ways to combat overthinking spirals)
However, overcoming overthinking isn’t as difficult as one may think it is. All you need is to steer your thoughts in a positive direction, accepting and acknowledging the thoughts, and taking action towards what you fear the most.
“Overthinking is a paralysing habit that prevents us from making decisions, fosters anxiety, and hampers our overall well-being. It is also a common factor in individuals with anxiety and depression and can interfere with our ability to ‘problem-solve’ effectively. The good news is that it can be very well overcome by cultivating healthy habits that help us manage our thoughts effectively,” says Rujuta Shah, Psychologist, Mpower, Aditya Birla Education Trust.
7 daily habits that can help overcome overthinking and foster mental clarity
1. Acknowledge your thoughts
It can be hard to recognise the pattern or the type of thought you could be having as it can be an automatic process. We as psychologists recommend observing your thoughts and accepting them as they are first. When you find yourself replaying past mistakes or stressing about things that may be out of your control, observe and accept how you feel. Then, try to identify the triggers. A way to keep track of your thoughts could be to quickly jot pointers or keywords down on your favourite notes app or a notebook.
2. Create an emergency toolkit
In situations when your mind starts wandering into unwanted territories reach into this mental toolkit to forcefully derail the overthinking train.
- Say a random number mentally or verbally to focus on what number to say next instead of the thought.
- Make a list of activities and choose to do one of them at that moment to step away from those thoughts. It could be something like going for a walk or a workout class, painting, petting a dog or cat, or simply listening to music or podcasts.
- Do something nice for someone else as it releases happy hormones in us as well.
- Deep belly breathing: Inhaling and exhaling all the way to the stomach with one hand on the heart and the other on the stomach. This helps ground one to the present.
3. Limit information consumption
Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that constant exposure to news and information, especially through social media, can contribute to heightened stress levels among adults. Setting boundaries on information intake can be pivotal in preventing the information overload that often leads to overthinking.
4. Take actions
We often get stuck in an overthinking loop and are unable to take any action toward the task or thought. A good way to get out of the loop is to take an action based on it even if it’s the smallest one. Developing clear decision-making guidelines, including defined criteria and time limits, aids in preventing the chronic overthinking associated with choices. It helps channel your energy in the right way.
5. Turn your fear into a friend
It is important to acknowledge that some things will always be beyond your control. Accepting your fears can significantly help your mental well-being. Look for small opportunities to confront things you worry about often.
6. Evening reflection ritual
The University of Rochester Medical Center highlights the benefits of reflection for stress reduction. An evening reflection ritual enables adults to process the events of the day, facilitating closure and minimizing the mental clutter that contributes to overthinking.
7. Ask for help
It’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we may not have all the answers. Asking for help from a friend, family, colleagues or even a professional may be the best answer. Often our feelings of inadequacy prevent us from asking for help further cementing the feeling.
“As adults navigate the complexities of modern life, overthinking can be a formidable adversary. By adopting these habits, adults can regain control over their thoughts, reduce stress, and cultivate a more intentional and balanced mindset, ultimately breaking free from the cycle of overthinking,” says Shah.