I’m a huge over thinker. While I like to think of myself as an over-all optimist, for some reason whenever it comes down to my own personal scenarios I always end up in a pretty negative headspace. So how does one to stop themselves from getting sucked into this bad habit of overthinking? I'm a big believer that you need to be proactive in fighting your bad habits, and this one is no different! I only have so much energy per day, so why waste it worrying about things that truly don't deserve that limited energy (or my limited attention/time)? So here are six ways I’ve been helping to prevent it (or stopping it before the downwards spiral).
1. Be mindful
Believe it or not, sometimes overthinking can be controllable! By practicing mindfulness, doing some meditation when thins get hectic, or just taking an step back from the situation really can help one gain a better perspective. If I see that my thoughts are getting increasingly negative, I try to 'talk back' to myself (in my head) and challenge those negative thoughts. I find that most of my negative spirals are me stressing out about the unrealistic expectations and pressures I have put on myself to "do it all." Spoiler alert: we can't do it all, and that's 100% okay.
2. Write it down
I used to keep a diary and stopped in middle school when I realised how easy it was for a snooping sibling or parent to find... and then I transitioned to a blog that blew up in my face. HA. That put me off journaling or writing my thoughts down for a long time, but I found it easier to assess and digest my thoughts when I took the time to actually write them down. I don't know what it is, but perhaps it is the pen hitting the paper that forces my mind to slow down and process what I'm writing. Lingering thoughts swimming around in my mind usually cause me to overthink and is one of the major causes I don't fall asleep! I keep a small journal by my bedside so I can write down random thoughts or ideas. Gotta love a good brain dump.
3. Distractions galore
Hello, I'm Melissa and I'm a human being who is going to worry, stress, and over-think. But you know what helps take my mind off the overthinking? A distraction! When I’m busy doing stuff, I don’t really have the time to overthink things. For example, the other day I was getting ready to put all my papers together for my student VISA application, taxes in two countries, moving across the country, finding a new place to live, getting manuscripts re-done, organizing a conference trip to Spain, submitting invoices, etc. If that didn't stress you out reading... well, you're not human LOL. BUT I was feeling stressed and began to overthink... so I got up and asked my husband if he wanted to throw the (American) football around in the backyard for a bit. When you notice yourself overthinking things during the day, take a break because sometimes the best thing that you can do is deal with those thoughts later on. And when you're ready to face them? Give yourself x amount of time to feel all the feels and then move on.
4. Que Será, Será
There are some things you just aren’t going to be able to change. "Que Será, Será" is not only a popular song but a way of life! So instead of trying to change things that just won't budge, why not focus on what you could have done differently, or even what you can do in the future. What can you do NOW? You have control over your actions and feelings in the present moment, not the past. By making sure you are 'living in the present,' you can help stop that overthinking muscle!
5. Be true to yourself
During one of my two-hour commutes (gosh, I really hope I don't have these in Perth) to/from work, I wondered if my overthinking came from a deep-seeded fear that maybe I did't trust myself. Am I right for feeling what I’m feeling? Is my opinion going to be valued and respected? My overthinking can lash out with some pretty ugly words that I believer others are saying or thinking about me and that I've somehow internalized. But, through self-reflection I’ve realized that I need to embrace my thoughts and feelings for what they are, regardless of how I think others will perceive me. Staying true to yourself and trusting your instincts often prevents me from overthinking (and has saved my life!).
6. Don’t worry
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the choices we have to make on a daily basis. Making decisions and then realizing later that they weren't the best decision (see above about my first blog when I was a teen, haha) is never fun. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was t see mistakes as opportunities for growth. Making a “wrong” decision is like steering a boat in the wrong direction but learning how to sail – it might not be where you wanted to go, but the journey is going to teach you a lot, and eventually you’ll end up back on track exactly where you’re meant to be. Being comfortable with being wrong, or making bad decisions from time to time, brings me peace because in the end I think I was supposed to make that decision to be where I am today.
What are some ways you stop yourself from overthinking?
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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