5 Tips to Stop The Spiral of Overthinking
Here's how to break the cycle of overthinking
There's time in all our lives where we tend to overanalyse situations, replay events in our mind or think about possible outcomes in the future.
From an evolutionary prespective, the ability to think about things in detail has helped humans to plan, problem solve, survive and ultimately get to where we are now.
However, overthinking has now become a common problem that many of us face.
In fact research suggests that 73% of 25-35 year olds and 52% of 45-55 year olds are chronic overthinkers. It's more prevalent in women and with over 20% of youth worldwide now struggling with anxiety symptoms, chronic overthinking is fast becoming a big problem regardless of age or sex.
Overthinking can show up as:
Rumination - dwelling and replaying events of the past
Negative forecasting - thinking about the what if scenarios of tomorrow.
Struggling to make decisions or second guessing choices you have already made.
Fixating on things that are out of your control.
Running through your to-do list.
Asking lots of questions but never actioning them.
Even though you think of overthinking as taking place in your head, sadly it has a ripple effect on your behaviours, actions and experiences, as well as the way you engage with the people and environment around you.
It steals your attention away from the present moment, takes up precious time and can cause panic and stress. Long term overthinking impacts your overall well-being and can even lead to anxiety, burn out and depression.
This is because whatever you are thinking in the moment, your brain thinks you are actually experiencing - and because it tends to be all that negative that swims around in our head, we're putting our brain and body through many hellish rollercoaster rides.
Negative, worrying thoughts cause a flood of stress chemicals in your body, leaving you feeling anxious, stressed out and exhausted. You may even find yourself getting frustrated - especially if the overthinking stops you from being able to fall asleep or holds you back from doing things you really want to do.
But the good news is that you can learn to take back control of your mind and stop the spiral of overthinking.
Here are 5 strategies that you can use the next time you catch yourself overthinking.
1. Identify When You're Spiralling
The first step to stopping the spiral of overthinking is to recognise when it's happening.
Often, we get so caught up in our thoughts that we don't even realise we're spiralling.
So, how do you identify when you're in the midst of overthinking?
Tune into your inner dialogue. When we're overthinking our Inner Critic tends to come into play, reminding us of the things we're rubbish at, past mistakes we've made or instilling fear and worry into us about a future event that could happen.
Questions to ask yourself are:
What thoughts are you thinking?
Are you ruminating on the past or worrying about the future?
Are you talking down about yourself?
Are you obsessing over what you or someone else did?
By identifying these patterns, you can start to become more aware of any particular triggers and by questioning these thoughts you're coming from a place of curiosity and empathy rather than frustration and anger.
2. Create a Positive Trigger
This is not as simple as telling yourself to stop thinking - you have probably tried that before and if you’re reading this then it’s obviously not worked! The reason we can’t just flip the switch off when it comes to overthinking is because it doesn’t come from the rational, conscious part of our brain.
Plus if I told you not to think of a pink elephant - what are you going to think about? A pink elephant! You just can't help it.
For whatever reason (and there could be many!), your subconcious mind is holding onto beliefs or blocks that are causing you to stress and overthink.
So instead of trying to stop the thinking completely, you can replace your negative thoughts with a positive one instead.
You can take your mind off to a happy place, repeat a positive affirmation or think of something funny. This positive trigger will begin to disrupt the cycle of negative thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place.
3. Challenge Your Thinking
Most of the thoughts we think about are either irrelevant or untrue and when we're feeling anxious and stressed, going down that rabbit hole of overthinking, our thoughts become even more false and distorted.
Ways to challenge your thoughts could be to ask:
What evidence is there that this thought is true?
How likely is it that your imagined catastrophic event will happen? - I like to score this as a percentage but you could rank it out of 10.
What would you tell your child or best friend if they voiced these same worries?
By challenging your thoughts, you are taking a step back from the problem and increasing your ability to think more logically and rationally.
4. Find a distraction
Healthy distractions are great at helping you to redirect your focus and break the cycle of overanalysing.
This could be changing your environment or doing something you enjoy. When you are doing something you enjoy, it releases feel good chemicals such as serotonin which help you to stay in your rational, intellectual brain.
Things like mediation, exercise, listening to feel good music, practising a skill or doing some arts and crafts help bring you back into the present moment and distance you from the thoughts that are pulling you back into the past or ahead into the imaginary future.
5. Letting Go of What You Can't Control
This can be hard to start with, especially if you are someone who likes to be in control - I'm a recovering perfectionist myself so I know how hard this can be!
It takes practice but it is so freeing when you are able to let go of what doesn't serve you. I found that a combination of techniques such as mindfulness, hypnosis and subsconcious work is more effective, which is what I teach in my ReAlign Your Mind Program.
Once you let things go, you will be able to direct your focus to what you do have control over.
We can't control what has happened in the past, or other people's actions and behaviours. But we can control how we react to these events and behaviours.
By letting go of what you can't control, you can reduce your level of stress, anxiety and overthinking. Like any skill, it takes some practise. But the more you work on it, the easier it becomes.
Practising this tools overtime can help you to shift your thought patterns and reduce overthinking.
Looking for further support?
If overthinking is getting you down and you're finding yourself stressed and anxious then Hypnotherapy can help. Whether it’s letting go of a traumatic event or memory to someone or wanting to feel more confident in your decision and be more present, results can be achieved relatively quickly. We can do this in a way that is gentle, without having to revisit the past or re-living past emotions.
Book a free telephone consultation if you would like to find out how Hypnotherapy can support you.