Ruminating or letting our thoughts wander is a very common function of our brain. But what if it starts to affect other aspects of your life?
Say you made a mistake at your job and the project you were working on was delayed. It is a good practice to think the matter over at a later time to learn from your mistake. But when you run that single thought over and over again, it is bound to form unwanted connections in your brain, and the result can be very distressing.
This type of rumination is called overthinking in lay terms, and while we are all guilty of it to some extent, extensive overthinking is bad for your brain health. So how to stop overthinking? Let's take a look at our comprehensive guide about it.
Why is Overthinking Harmful?
Overthinking has serious consequences for mental health and your overall well-being.
- Dwelling too much on your past mistakes and shortcomings can lead to chronic anxiety and depression. This in turn causes you to focus on the same thought even more, feeding a vicious cycle.
- Studies have shown that in order to cope with overthinking-related anxiety, people tend to rely on addictive substances like alcohol and binge-eating. This leads to long-term and serious health problems.
- Overthinking seriously affects our sleep cycle. When we overthink, our brain is unable to shut down as the thoughts keep running through its circuits. Extensive periods of sleep deprivation because of this can lead to several health problems, as well as affect your memory, learning, and cognitive abilities.
How to Stop Overthinking?
- Catch yourself – This is the hardest part because, most of the time, we do not even realize that we are overthinking. So practice questioning your negative thoughts, always. A characteristic of overthinking is the thoughts are often generalized or vague, 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.
- 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 of them, you are giving them a clear articulation, and are better positioned to face them. Most often, in the process of writing or telling, we realize the counterpoints to the negative thoughts on our own.
- Set time aside – Put an alarm on your rumination time. Set aside 10-15 minutes (not too long a time) 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.
- Get busy – One of the surest ways to stop overthinking is to divert your mind with some other 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.
- Seek help – Overthinking is associated with loneliness and a feeling of not being understood. When you catch yourself overthinking often, speak about it to someone you can trust, or seek the help of a professional counselor.
Our brains are complicated mechanisms and overthinking is a natural product of this. There is nothing wrong with overthinking a little, but continual fixation on any kind of thought is unhealthy. So take a deep breath and follow the steps above to be well-aware of how to how to stop overthinking. We are sure you’ll find a way out of your own mind.