How to stop overthinking
Thoughts are powerful. Your thoughts become your reality. As Tony says,
“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.”
This is something that the world’s most successful people realize – and the only difference between them and everyone else is that they have learned how to harness the power of thoughts to help them achieve.
This is also good news for those who want to know how to stop overthinking – and there are a lot of overthinkers in America, especially among young people. Seventy-three percent of 25- to 35-year-olds overthink, as well as 52 percent of 45- to 55-year-olds.
You’re not alone, and you weren’t born an overthinker. Overthinking is the result of one fact of human existence: we all have patterns to our behavior. These patterns develop over time based on life experiences. And just as patterns are learned, they can also be unlearned.
The key is to identify what’s causing your overthinking, then take decisive action to change your mindset. But that can be easier said than done.
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What is overthinking?
The classic overthinking definition is, “to think about something too much or for too long.” While it’s human nature to think things through when making a decision or evaluating a situation, it becomes overthinking when you can’t get out of your own head. It happens to all of us at some point in our lives – we all experience events that cause us worry or stress.
Some people can’t seem to turn their concerns off. They worry about the future, making catastrophic predictions about unlikely events that haven’t happened yet. They also ruminate about the past, beating themselves up about “should haves” and “could haves.” They fret over what others might think of them or let negative self-talk build up in their minds.
Overthinking a tough decision you have to make can also cause problems. Replaying all the options in your head can lead to “paralysis by analysis” – you’re afraid to take the wrong action, so you take no action at all. But even making the wrong decision is better than making no decision.
Whether you’re a chronic overthinker or need to make a tough decision, you’ve probably experienced sleepless nights when your brain just won’t turn off. Overthinking can increase symptoms of depression, elevate your stress levels and cloud your judgment.
Why do I overthink?
Before you can learn how to stop overthinking, you must first address the question, “Why do I overthink?” Often overthinking is a byproduct of anxiety or depression. If this is the case, you may need to treat your anxiety or depression to reduce overthinking.
You may also find that overthinking only materializes when you need to make a tough life decision or are dealing with your insecurities. If overthinking is not a symptom of a deeper emotional issue, it can often be addressed by changing thoughts and mindsets.
Why do I need to stop overthinking?
Overthinking can sometimes appear to be a benefit to us: Running through different scenarios in your head is a good way to make hard decisions, and visualizing your goals is essential to achieving them. But those are strategies that are employed to reach a specific goal. Overthinking is different: it isn’t rational, and it isn’t part of a larger strategy. In fact, it can actually interfere with your problem-solving abilities.
Overthinking may also cause excessive activity in your brain that can be harmful to you. One Harvard study found that this excessive brain activity depletes an essential protein – and that may actually shorten the human lifespan. There can also be major psychological consequences. Another study found that “rumination,” a form of overthinking, can lead to anxiety, binge drinking or eating, depression and self-harm. Learning how to not overthink is good for both your body and your mind.
How to stop overthinking
A lot of people ask themselves “Why do I overthink?” and never come up with an answer. But stress and worry are emotions – and you can control your emotions. As Tony Robbins says, “Let fear be a counselor and not a jailor.” It’s time to face your fears so that you can overcome them – and try these seven ways to stop overthinking everything for good.
1. Identify your destructive thought patterns
Negative and destructive thought patterns come in many forms – and some are worse than others. These thought patterns tend to surface during times of stress and conflict and contribute to the negative effects of overthinking. Two of the most common patterns are ruminating and incessant worrying.
Ruminating means there is a single thought or several connected thoughts that are sad or dark, and that run through your mind over and over again. Rumination is common in perfectionists, and can contribute to depression and pushing others away. With incessant worrying, you constantly anticipate and worry about almost anything in your life going wrong. Incessant worrying doesn’t seem to be related to a specific event in your life, but it is deeply related to your limiting beliefs and your story.
2. Manage your story
Tony says, “We are all telling ourselves stories. The question is, does your story empower you or hold you back?” The stories we tell ourselves about who we are impact every aspect of our lives. Overthinkers may tell themselves, “I’ve always been a worrier” or “I’m just naturally more anxious than everyone else.” These are stories that hold you back and can be especially hard to change if you’ve never asked yourself “Why do I overthink?”
To overcome your limiting beliefs, you need to first identify them. Then you can catch yourself when you start telling yourself these negative stories and replace them with positive ones, like “I am in charge of my emotions.” Once you change your story, you’ll change your life.
3. Let go of the past
Overthinkers often focus on the past, expending energy on “what ifs” and “should haves.” Those who understand how to not overthink know that the past is just that. It can’t be changed. The only thing you can change is the meaning you give to it.
Letting go of the past means you don’t let your mistakes control your future decisions – and you don’t let bad things that have been done to you control your emotions. You forgive others and let go of your anger. It’s one of the most significant ways you can change your story.
4. Live in the moment
Living in the moment is key to learning how to stop overthinking. Most people can’t just flip a switch and live in the moment – or can they? You can take control of your mind and stop negative emotions in their tracks. Identify overthinking before it spirals out of control and take a minute to reset. Breathe and focus on the moment – what are you hearing and seeing? What are you grateful for? At first, it will take conscious awareness. Daily rituals like meditation and priming can help you retrain your brain to live in the moment. Soon you’ll find it comes naturally.
5. Take control of your emotions
Living in the moment doesn’t mean burying your negative emotions. In order to master your emotions, you need to acknowledge them and identify their root causes. When you’re feeling anxious, dig deeper. It’s often about facing your larger fears, such as not feeling in control of your life or not progressing in a way you’d like to be. Become aware of the root causes of your overthinking and you can start making progress to stop it before it starts.
6. Focus on solutions
As Tony says, “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” You’ve identified the real reasons for your stress and anxiety, but your work isn’t done. The only way to learn how to stop overthinking for good is to take charge of your life.
If your overthinking is caused by stress at work, rethink your career path. If you’re not where you want to be in life, set goals for yourself so that you can get there. If you feel like life is out of your control, make a decision today to get back behind the wheel. These are big moves, and they take guts. Remember: No one controls your reality but you – don’t you want your life to be extraordinary?
7. Know the difference between fear and intuition
Overthinkers may have trouble distinguishing between the fear of making a mistake, which leads to overthinking to the point where they make no decision, and a deep feeling that something is wrong. Knowing if fear or intuition is guiding your behavior will help you get out of your head and take the next necessary steps. By connecting to your body, taking a few deep breaths and really feeling what it would be like to make a decision, you can decipher whether fear or intuition are in play and how to best move forward.
8. Ask yourself the right questions
Asking yourself the wrong questions – including “Why do I overthink?” over and over – won’t help you identify what’s really going on in your thoughts or your life. They’ll only facilitate more overthinking. Focus on solution-oriented questions that are proactive rather than those that trigger rumination. Instead of asking “Why do all my relationships turn sour?” ask “What energy am I projecting that attracts negative partners?” When you ask questions that allow you to make changes to your own behavior and move forward in a healthier manner, you can reduce overthinking and improve your life.
8. Get the right tools
Knowing how to not overthink isn’t an innate gift. It isn’t genetic, or set in stone during your childhood. Many people who are able to control their emotions and avoid getting stuck in a spiral of overthinking and anxiety have developed these skills over time. It takes determination – but it also takes the right set of tools.
Tony’s Ultimate Edge self-improvement system can give you those tools. Discover your personal blueprint and how to align your choices with your ultimate purpose in life. Learn how to navigate pain and anxiety, rather than avoiding or suppressing it. Transform your thought process to crush negative behaviors – and any obstacles in your path. Ultimate Edge will give you the tools you need to stop overthinking in its tracks.
Once you discover how to stop overthinking and live in the moment, you’ll be happier, more rested and have a positive influence on those around you. Always remember that life happens for you, not to you. Even your negative emotions can lead to positive outcomes, if you treat them as a gifts that have been given to help you grow.
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A Results Coach can help you identify and overcome the deeper issues that cause your overthinking.