The Dangers of Overthinking: How to Stop It Before It Stops You

Do you struggle with overthinking?

Overthinking is when you excessively analyze and obsess over every decision, situation, or problem. It is a common habit that can have negative consequences on your mental and emotional well-being. It is not uncommon for individuals to overthink from time to time. However, when it becomes a constant and overwhelming pattern, you might want to take some steps to help reduce your cycles of overthinking. Here are some of the most common types of overthinking:

Constantly Replaying Past Events in Your Mind

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Stuck on replay? Overthinking can cause you to get stuck on replaying events in your thoughts. Try to catch yourself when you realize that you have been hanging on to the same thought for hours. Acknowledge that you are stuck, give yourself some compassion, and move on to something new.

Difficulty Making Decisions

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This or that? Now or later? This type of decision repetition can drain your mental energy. Unless the decision is life-threatening or will possibly cause someone physical harm, make the choice and move on. We all do the best we can with the information we have at the time of the decision. Give yourself grace.

Worrying About Things That Haven’t Happened Yet

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Yes, life is unpredictable and can be painful. But spending time overthinking our actions to try and prepare for every possible outcome is not healthy. Instead, focus on your own ability to solve problems and the reality that you are strong enough to navigate any challenge that awaits you in the future.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

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Learn to recognize when you are overthinking and challenge those thoughts by asking yourself if they are realistic or based on facts. Replace negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones. Try to be diligent in identifying negative thought cycles; it’s important to observe your patterns of overthinking.

Set a Time Limit For Decision-Making

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When we want to stay safe or avoid negative outcomes like embarrassment or humiliation, we often struggle with making a decision. We might end up so confused that we don’t take action or try something new. Give yourself a set amount of time to make a decision, and once the time is up, stick with it. Avoid second-guessing or going back on your decision.

Keep Busy

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Engage in activities that keep you occupied and prevent your mind from wandering into overthinking mode. Go run those errands that you have been putting off, take the kids to a local park, and find something to shift your thoughts away from the cycle of repetition.

Talk to a Trusted Friend or Therapist

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Sometimes, talking about your thoughts and feelings with someone else can help put things into perspective and provide helpful insights. Additionally, a mental health professional can help you assess your overthinking and offer you solutions based on their expertise.

Engage in Physical Activity

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Regular exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but also for mental well-being. It can help reduce stress and promote positive thinking. Research shows that regular exercise helps improve the quality of sleep, sexual activity and can help regulate our overthinking cycles.


Set Realistic Expectations

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Perfectionism is often a root cause of overthinking. Learn to set achievable goals and accept that mistakes are a natural part of life. Our brains will keep us stuck “practicing” and prevent us from actually taking action. It’s okay to have smaller goals that help you overcome procrastination and the frustration of overthinking.

Write Down Your Thoughts

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Keeping a journal or writing down your thoughts can help release them from your mind and provide clarity. Go beyond writing a “to-do” list and take the time to identify the most troubling thoughts that keep haunting you. Writing often helps the brain identify the deeper emotions that are the reason for the overthinking patterns.

Practice Mindfulness

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Being mindful means being present in the moment and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. This can help reduce racing thoughts and bring a sense of calm. You can choose mindfulness during a yoga session, or you can sit on your couch and let your mind wander, releasing anxiety and worry. Mindfulness is one way to move your brain into a sensual experience, noting and noticing sights, sounds, smells, taste, and touch.

Take a Mental Gratitude Break

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If you find yourself caught in overthinking, shift your thoughts toward gratitude. Make a mental (or written) list of five things that you are grateful for at this moment. People, memories, future events, hopes, and dreams all belong on a gratitude list. It can be helpful to remind your brain that your world is bigger than your current worries or fears.

Overthinking can have a detrimental impact on your life, but the good news is that there are ways to reduce it. By recognizing the signs of overthinking and trying some possible solutions, you can shift your thoughts and live with more mental peace.  It takes time and practice to break the habit of overthinking, so be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process. Don’t let overthinking control your life any longer – take action now and start living in the present moment!

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This article was written and syndicated by Midlife is Magical.

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Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.

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