Mental Health

Steps You Can Take When You Are Overthinking

Overthinking increases your stress levels, declines creativity, clouds judgement, and interferes with your decision-making ability. Here’s how to stop overthinking and negative thoughts.

07 Mar 2023

We all overthink situations once in a while. Reliving an incident, or an unhappy memory or even a conversation we just had. Overthinking or rumination is common for those who experience chronic pain and mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. It takes a trigger to kickstart the process that eventually leads to physical symptoms in some people.


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What Is Overthinking?

According to Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, a psychologist at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, “overthinking involves excessive, repetitive, and unproductive thoughts habitually about specific events that lead to emotional distress”. It is also known as rumination, brooding, and excessive worry. Many people also say that overthinking kills your happiness over time.


Related story: Overthinking: How Much Is Too Much?


Overthinking is energy-draining. It can conjure imaginations and stories way beyond limits. It wreaks havoc on your mood and prevents you from getting any work done. Overthinking often involves dwelling on the past and persistent worrying. Some examples of these worries or thoughts are below:

  • I shouldn’t have talked to my friend/colleague in a rude way. He/she must be upset.
  • If that unfortunate incident had not happened, I would be in a different situation now. (Replaying those scenes in mind over and over)
  • I’m going to embarrass myself tomorrow when I give that presentation. I know I’m going to forget everything I’m supposed to say.
  • Everyone else will get promoted. But not me. What will I do?
  • I know we won’t ever have enough money to retire. We’ll be too sick to work and we’ll run out of money.


Related story: A Guide On Anger Management


A 2020 study from the University of Michigan shows that 73 per cent of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 overthink, and 52 per cent of 45- to 55-year-olds.

According to the Sage Journals, overthinking increases your stress levels, declines creativity, clouds judgement, and interferes with your decision-making ability. Overthinking is an obsessive game which can impact negative consequences that reflect on your mental health. Chronic overthinkers restate talks they had in the past (yesterday, a couple of weeks ago, or decades ago), second-guess every decision they make, and imagine if they may have responded or said things differently.

People often seek help to understand what sets them off and how to process them. The good news is that there are ways to control overthinking like changing thought patterns and consistent practice to twist the way you are used to thinking.


Related story: How To Stop Procrastinating? A Step-By-Step Guide


How To Stop Overthinking And Negative Thoughts

1. Change the thought process: Things you say to yourself continually are what you believe. Everything you do or experience, originates from your imagination and in this case, overthinking. So try to pull yourself out of that mindset and focus on the moment, rather than the racing thoughts going on in your mind. The story you convey to yourself can empower you or hold you back. Identify those limiting ideas or sentiments and make a conscious effort to become the best version of yourself. Change your self-perception and replace those pessimistic narratives with positive and empowering thoughts.


2. Give up on the past: Ruminating about the past is the apparent sign of an overthinker. It is essential to unload the mental space that was occupied by overthinking. Learning to let go of the past means you don’t let your mistakes control your future decisions. Let go of your anger and practice forgiveness, it is an effective way to forget the past, becoming more conscious and making better decisions.


Related story: 7 Signs You Need to Take a Break for Your Mental Health


3. Practice being present: One must understand that the past cannot be changed. If you can gain anything, it is lessons and perspective. Living in the moment is key to stopping overthinking. Take control of your mind and stop to identify negative emotions. in their tracks. Breathe and focus on what you are listening to and noticing. Daily rituals like meditation and priming can help you retrain your brain to live in the moment.


4. Scribble down your thoughts: Want to get rid of those racing thoughts? Try writing them down. According to a 2022 study, a brain dump or writing down a list is more action-oriented and can calm the ruminating brain. Learn here how to journal for a better mindset. Daily journaling or writing one line every day can help you retain control over your mind, improve focus, and increase self-awareness.


Related story: Journaling 101: How To Journal For A Better Mindset


5. Identify and reflect on your emotions: Your emotions compel you to view problems objectively. You cannot take every thought that pops up in your brain seriously. In order to conquer your emotions, acknowledging and identifying their root causes is crucial. By facing your worst fear and taking charge of your life you make progress to stop overthinking. Read here why you shouldn’t be hiding your emotions.


6. Spend time with nature to unwind: Nature therapy plays a great role in containing overflowing thoughts. A 2022 study published in the paper Molecular Psychiatry shows taking a 90-minute walk in nature or fresh air can positively decrease running thoughts. The results suggest that going for a walk in nature can have salutogenic (health-promoting) effects on stress-related brain regions, and may act as a preventive effort against mental strain.


Related story: 15 Ways to Nourish Body, Mind, and Soul


It’s quite easy to get carried away in overthinking as if you have no control. When you’re replaying events in your mind over and over, or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge that this isn’t productive. Thinking is only helpful when it leads to positive action.


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