I am guilty of being an over-thinker. Ever since I could remember I have dwelled on a majority of the thoughts that have occupied my brain. I obsess over the smallest things, and continue to obsess over them for days. Maybe I forgot to say thank-you to someone holding the door, or perhaps I’m making a to-do list about a mile long. Maybe I’m obsessing over a blog post and whether I got the wording right. Regardless, it doesn’t end.
My thoughts are a series of lists and on-going chatter. I think about something and I can’t seem to shake the feeling. A thought will re-occur several times a day, usually a nagging thought of something not going the way I had wanted. It will pop up over and over again, never changing, just becoming more annoying.
This happens throughout the day, when my brain is supposed to be focusing on other things. It happens when I have downtime, my brain a constant swarming of thoughts. It happens right before bed, when I think about everything from the day and dip into the next.
Over-thinking is tiring. I don’t want to have the same conversation with myself 20 times a day. I don’t want to reassure myself that there was nothing else I could have done 20 times a day. I don’t want every little task to be accompanied by the task of mulling it over 20 times before executing the thought.
Over-thinking robs you of being in the present time. You are not truly engaging in the present life around you. It sends your brain into a series of spirals, thought after thought, until you don’t remember what initially started the over-thinking. You are living in the past and the future while your brain spirals, and unfortunately wasting time just living. The past we can’t do anything about, and the future isn’t here yet.
I knew I was wasting quite a bit of time over-thinking. I was exhausted and tired of mulling over the same thing without the outcome changing. I knew I had to change my thought patterns to correct the overthinking or else I would continue the same cycle. I have not perfected the act of stopping overthinking, but I have significantly reduced the amount of time I spend dwelling on recurring thoughts. Below is a list of tricks I use to stop overthinking in its tracks and bring me back to the present.
5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Use grounding when you catch yourself over-thinking to reorient yourself to your surroundings and bring yourself back to the present.
Change your scenery/task
If you find yourself over-thinking while doing a mindless task, get up and change your scenery and change the task. By getting up and physically moving yourself you will put yourself into a different space (and then you can try grounding). Changing your task over to something else will require you to change your focus as well as your mindset.
Ask yourself if you can change it
For example, if the recurring thought you have happens to be dwelling on the past, ask yourself if it’s something you can change right now. Can you change the outcome or the circumstances? If you can, then change it. If you can’t change it, you will have to accept the outcome/circumstance the way they are. At this point you can change your focus onto something in the present.
Assess the importance
Determine if what you are over-thinking is a priority or needs to be addressed at the current moment. If it can wait, redirect your thoughts to something that requires your attention in the moment using grounding. If it needs to be addressed right now, find a way to complete the task or address the thought to clear it from your brain.
Meditation is a great way to silence the mind and the flow of thoughts through it. If you’re new to meditation, you can try guided meditation to build up the ability to focus on the current moment. Meditation is great for calming the never-ending string of thoughts, and can be used daily and in times when your thoughts cannot stop racing.
Over-thinking is still something I occasionally struggle with and work towards improving. Using these tricks has helped me in times of over-thinking. I use these tricks daily to be able to bring myself back to the present time and place.
Did you find these tips helpful? Did something else help you to stop over-thinking? Let me know in the comments!