How to deal with overthinking: 5 tips from a fellow overthinker
When overthinking interferes with your mental wellbeing, here are some ways to soothe those worrying thoughts.
Overthinkers often face a silent battle. In fear of people calling them ‘overly sensitive’ for dwelling on something that might seem insignificant on the outside, they tend to struggle with asking for help.
Be it constantly mulling over the details of a relationship that has long faded, or trying to uncover a hidden negative meaning to the compliment someone gives, overthinking is not something that anyone should be embarrassed to talk about. Everyone deserves an outlet to express their feelings, even if it might seem small or trivial to others.
Based on my experiences as an overthinker myself, here are five methods that can help keep those overwhelming thoughts under control.
Penning down thoughts on paper is a good way to take the mind off those stressful thoughts, and give it something else to focus on.
As you try to replicate your headspace on paper, your thoughts slow down to match the pace of your pen. That provides a period of time for you to reflect on your thoughts and makes it easier to slip out of that overthinking mindset as you reflect.
Looking back on that moment of tension can also help in understanding how you process certain events or your flow of thoughts in general.
Thus, it is important to journal with an intention in mind. Is it for you to simply spill out your heart on paper? Or are there certain events you would like to reflect on?
Once you have decided on your focus, there are many different types of journaling styles to choose from.
Some people prefer structure to their journaling and opt for workbooks that provide prompts that help them reflect on a focused topic or event in their lives.
Others also lean towards freewriting, a journaling technique where the individual simply takes pen to paper and writes about whatever comes to them, no holds barred.
No matter your preference, it is key to cultivate journaling as a habit in your daily routine as it allows you to leave the stressors behind on paper, instead of chewing everything over in your mind.
2. Developing a good support system
Overthinkers often find it hard to share what’s on their mind with others in fear of having their feelings invalidated. Thus, it is important to find a group of people who are able to reassure you when an overthinking episode goes south, or simply just be there to allay your fears.
A way you could go about this is to bring up the topic of overthinking subtly in a conversation to your loved ones and observe their reactions. If they are genuinely paying attention and not brushing your concerns off, that could be a sign to open up to them more about your struggles.
The people around us might not always have the emotional capacity to support us. Not to fear, there are resources available to help, including online assessments to assess your needs and help you select the best course of action, be it therapy or other options.
3. Keeping your mind busy
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your mind is to limit the amount of time it has idle.
If you are tired out from the day’s events, there is hardly any energy left in you to overthink about things that have happened. For example, you could dedicate the energy you would spend overthinking into a new hobby like crocheting or learning how to solve a Rubik’s cube.
Most hobbies require time and concentration, as you level up and discover new things along the way. Having that as a de-stressing outlet can even prevent the build-up of thoughts that can lead to overthinking.
Scheduling social activities into your calendar like meeting friends on the weekends or visiting your family members can also reduce the time spent dwelling on stressful parts of the week.
It’s like feeding chicken soup to your soul. Feeling warmth at the end of a day with your loved ones does not leave much space for negativity to manifest.
4. Recognising your thinking patterns
Reflecting on your thought process during an overthinking ordeal can sound intimidating. However, it is one of the most crucial steps in dealing with it.
Recognising negative thinking patterns can provide more clarity to what actions you can take to prevent another episode.
One such negative thinking pattern is called a mental filter. It refers to when you pick out a single negative detail and solely focus on that, without consideration of any other positives that happened.
Researching about the various thinking patterns can help you identify thinking patterns that you struggle with and come up with targeted strategies to deal with them.
5. Appreciate the little things by practising mindfulness
In a world where most of us are raring to go, it is very easy to take the present for granted.
It is a guilty habit of many to hyperfixate on a future that is uncertain, instead of being grateful for the life we have right now. Thus, to become one with the present, you need to commit to slowing down and becoming more aware of your surroundings.
This could be as simple as appreciating the sunset on a bus ride home, or pausing on a walk to admire the beauty of the flowers.
Mindfulness lets you focus all of your energy into a task at hand, experiencing the sensations associated with it.
So the next time you feel the onset of an overthinking episode – practise mindfulness by taking a deep breath and instead, focus on the nearest thing around you.
It takes much practice to see a noticeable difference in your overthinking habits.
However, making a conscious effort to correct your thinking patterns will pay off in the long run as you find yourself worrying less about what you cannot change, and focusing on things that are in your direct control.
For more resources such as self-assessment and tips for coping with challenging seasons in life, check out Youthopia’s mental well-being resource page.