I've always been a proud deep thinker, a natural philosopher of sorts. Indeed, a critical and analytical mind can be an admirable trait of one's character. However, there's a thin line between thinking and overthinking and I've learned it the hard way. The good news is that you can train your brain how to not overthink and become a master of your own thoughts. I'd like to share a few tricks I have up my sleeve for how to stop overthinking and worrying.
1. Create your mantra
One fun way to get yourself out of rumination is to replace the thought with your own mantra. It can be a word, a phrase, or even a few lines of a song that you repeat to yourself over and over again until you feel released and stop your overthinking anxiety. Ideally, you should use the same mantra each time you find yourself slipping into a vertigo of overthinking problems, as your brain learns to react to the distraction quicker. The science behind it is simple: you can only think about one thing at a time.
2. Take on a cognitive task
An enjoyable brain exercise not only keeps your mind focused on something other than your current obsession, but also awards you with a sense of accomplishment and closure. Having puzzles, Sudoku, or crosswords at the reach of your hand can save your sanity.
3. Practice meditation
Meditation is a unique tool to help you appreciate the beauty of here and now, this moment, the only thing that we actually own. They say that depression stems from overthinking the past, whereas anxiety – from overthinking the future, neither of which we have control over. If you are truly here and now, there's just no room for overthinking.
4. Set timers and deadlines
If your problem at hand is a serious decision that you must make, the best thing you can do is to decide upon a time window during your day when you are allowed to lose yourself in contemplation. When the time is up, though, you should stop and carry on with your life until the next day. This way you are more likely to eventually solve your problem, just be sure to set a hard deadline.
5. Roll a dice
Not being able to make a decision, even the simplest one, feeds and grows your anxiety until this monster starts cracking you open. So in case you're faced with a dilemma that is not a matter of life and death, I'd say you roll that dice, darling. Carry it with you wherever you go and train yourself to make everyday decisions faster.
6. Write it out
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, sit down and spill all your thoughts down on paper without editing. A routine of writing for a set period of time first thing in the morning has even more benefits: not only do you stop thinking so much afterwards, but you come up with fresh ideas for how to solve your problems too.
You know the drill – a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. Do yourself a huge favor and engage in a physical activity that you enjoy and that makes your blood flow throughout your whole body. In case you're curious, my all time favorite exercises are yoga and freestyle dancing to the 80s and 90s tunes.
Overthinking leaves you tired, stressed out, and tensed with fear. One of the quickest ways to get out of this disturbing state is to get yourself laughing. Watch an episode of Friends, stream a stand-up show of Bill Burr, or go to an improv evening at your local theater – whatever floats your boat.
9. Get vocal
The act of singing releases endorphins, the act of screaming releases muscle tension. Use whichever when appropriate.
10. Memento mori
Stargaze, go climb a mountain, camp deep in the woods, swim in the ocean, take a walk in an old graveyard, visit your childhood's playground. Doing these things regularly will help you put your current issues into perspective before overthinking grows into a mental disorder. After all, what you are most likely to regret at the end of life is not the wrong word you've said, the wrong thing you've done, or the wrong dreams you've pursued, but the time you've wasted worrying. So be kind to yourself, try to relax, and enjoy being alive.