How to Stop Negative Thinking? 5 Signs You Are Overthinking Everything
You finally get a few quiet moments to yourself, but your mind just can’t stop mulling over past decisions and future prospects. Sounds familiar, right? This is called overthinking which can lead your brain into an infinite loop of worst-case scenarios.
Overthinking, a familiar experience, occurs when you have a rare chance for solitude but instead find your mind consumed by past choices and future possibilities. This mental process can trap your brain in an endless cycle of envisioning worst-case scenarios.
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While you may think that thinking about these scenarios over and over again will prepare you for the worst, it does not!
The only thing it does is stress you out and prevent you from living in the present. You will always find yourself wondering about past only-ifs and future what-ifs. In fact, evidence suggests that overthinking can also trigger certain mental conditions.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we are overthinking and we find ourselves saying, “Yeah, no, I was just a little worried” when someone asks.
However, worrying and overthinking are two different things. While worrying is often action-oriented, overthinking is not. It can stop you in your tracks by overwhelming you with a lot of negative emotions.
Here are five signs that you are overthinking:
1. You Can’t Relax
When you are overthinking, your body is oddly tense. You will notice tension in your body, your jaw clenching, and shoulders tightening. You might also experience back spasms and your eyelids twitching. All of these signs suggest that your mind is under significant stress due to repetitive thinking and over-analyzing a situation.
This physical tension doesn’t allow your body to relax consequently affecting your sleep schedule and mental health.
2. You Can’t Think About Anything
Another sign of overthinking is that your mind simply can’t move forward or reach a conclusion. Whenever you try to shake it off and distract yourself, it keeps coming back to bite you in the face. Overthinking can be very counter-productive. It simply doesn’t allow your brain to focus on anything else, which can impact your mental health and trigger anxiety.
3. You Ruminate Over Things You Can’t Control
Over-analyzing a situation is not always harmful. In fact, thinking about multiple outcomes and how you will handle them is actually a good way to prepare yourself for the worst. However, chronic overthinkers often don’t realize when they have crossed the line of thoughtful consideration.
When you start obsessively thinking about things that you have no control over, it’s a sign that you are overthinking.
4. You Feel Mentally Exhausted
If you are constantly thinking about one thing with no outcome, your mind will start getting tired. When your brain reaches a conclusion, your brain releases adrenaline which makes you feel energized. However, overthinking will only exhaust you mentally and physically.
5. You Start Second-Guessing Your Decisions
It is completely normal to mull over your decisions, however, overthinking will make you incapable of making any decisions at all. This is because the fear of failure will take over you and you will find yourself thinking only about the worst-case scenarios. This is called automatic negative thinking, where your brain is involuntarily steered toward negative outcomes.
How to Stop Overthinking?
Overthinking can trigger anxiety, cause damage to your physical health, and make you mentally exhausted. It is essential to break the loop of endless thinking if you want to reach any logical outcome.
Here are some ways you can train your mind to stop overthinking:
1. Take a Step Back
Next time you feel like you are overthinking a situation, take a step back and observe how you are responding to the situation. Looking at it from a different perspective will make you calm and capable of logically analyzing the situation.
2. Look at the Bigger Picture
Looking at the bigger picture is another great way to stop ruminating about small things in your life. Think of it this way: how are all of these problems going to affect your life in a few years? Is this really something that you want to damage your mental health over?
If you look at the bigger picture, every problem starts to look smaller.
3. Distract Yourself
When your mind is too occupied with problems floating around you, you will notice your mind trying to hyper-focus on the situation whenever you are free. One of the best ways to prevent overthinking is by distracting yourself. Do something that you enjoy, you can:
- Watch your comfort show or movie
- Talk to a friend about something fun
- Cook something new
- Do art
- Read a book
4. Take a Deep Breath
Yes, it might sound like a cliché, but it is true.
You have probably heard it a hundred times before, and that is because it works! If you don’t believe us, try it the next time you feel like your thoughts are running out of your control. Sit in a comfortable position, place one hand over your heart, breathe in through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
This will slow down your heart rate making you feel relaxed and more in control of your thoughts.
5. Try to Live in the Present
People who overthink often tend to drift away from reality into a makeshift world where everything is going downhill.
Thinking about things that you have no control over is neither action-oriented nor helpful. Stop ruminating about things that are going to happen in the future.
For instance, you are waiting on important test results. You did your best and gave the test, you overthinking about it is not going to change the outcome. Instead of living with fear of the future, focus on good things in the present.
6. Ask for Help
Last but not least, you are not alone in this!
Overthinking is a common condition triggering anxiety in a lot of teenagers and young adults. If you notice symptoms of overthinking, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Working with a therapist is an effective way to get rid of negative and unwanted thoughts.
At the end of the day, you cannot get better unless you take care of yourself. Eat healthy, have a positive outlook towards life, and look at the bigger picture!
Learn more: How to Cultivate Social Intelligence.