Overthinking, ruminating, or letting your thoughts repeat, is a very common function in your brain. But what if it affects other aspects of your life?
Say you made a mistake at your job and that caused a delay in your project. It is a good practice to think about what went wrong so you can learn from your mistake. But when you run that single thought repeatedly, it can form unwanted connections in your brain, and the result can be very distressing.
This type of rumination is commonly called overthinking. While we are all guilty of it to some extent, extensive overthinking is bad for your brain health. Here are five ways to interrupt repetitive thoughts when they.
Why is Overthinking Harmful?
- Overthinking has serious consequences for mental health and your overall well-being.
- Dwelling too much on past mistakes and shortcomings can lead to chronic anxiety and depression. This causes you to over-focus on the same thought, feeding a vicious cycle.
- Studies have shown that in order to cope with overthinking-related anxiety, people may rely on addictive substances like alcohol and binge-eating. This leads to long-term and serious health problems.
- Overthinking seriously affects your sleep cycle. When you overthink, your brain cannot shut down as the thoughts keep running through its circuits. Extensive periods of sleep deprivation can lead to several health problems, as well as affect your memory, learning, and cognitive abilities.
How to Stop Overthinking?
1. Catch Yourself
- This is the hardest part because, most of the time, you may not even realize that you are overthinking.
- Practice questioning your negative thoughts.
- A characteristic of overthinking is vague or generalized thoughts. Thinks like “I know I’m going to fail the test” or “What if I cannot wake up on time”.
- Recognize this tone in your thoughts and stop yourself.
- Meditation and mindfulness techniques are a great way to improve this ability.
2. Let It Out
- The more you keep these thoughts inside you, the more they will affect you.
- Find a way to let them out.
- Write them down or verbalize them by talking to someone close and trusted.
- When you write or speak your thoughts, you’re giving them a clear articulation, and become better positioned to face them.
- Most often, when you write or talk, you’ll realize the counterpoints to the negative thoughts on your own.
3. Set Time Aside
- Put an alarm on your rumination time.
- Set aside 10-15 minutes (not too long) each day to reflect on everything.
- Once that time is past and the alarm rings, forcefully take your mind elsewhere.
- This will stop the negative thought circuits from taking root in your brain, and over time, these will fade and stop affecting your wellbeing.
4. Get Busy
- One of the surest ways to stop overthinking is to divert your mind with another task.
- When you catch yourself overthinking, immediately and purposefully take up some work that is unrelated to your thoughts.
- You can work on a different project, practice art, or indulge in any hobby you like.
- Exercise is also a great way to clear up an overwrought brain, as it has several other benefits too.
5. Seek Help
- Overthinking is associated with loneliness, and a feeling of being misunderstood.
- When you catch yourself overthinking often, speak about it to someone you can trust, or seek the help of a professional counselor.
Your brain is a complicated mechanism, and overthinking is a natural product of this. There is nothing wrong with overthinking a little, but continual fixation on any one thought is unhealthy. Take a deep breath and follow the steps above to help disrupt repetitive thoughts and stop overthinking.
To learn more about intrusive thoughts and how to stop them, watch this episode: