A common phrase, when you are upset or disturbed, that people just love to say is, ‘don’t overthink it’.
As if just these 3-4 words will magically whisk away the troubles you are experiencing and return you back to ‘normal’ or whatever normal really means.
However, the reality is that it is not as simple as it sounds, you especially if suffering from anxiety or depression or even just a normal case of the blues cannot just instantly turn off your thoughts like the flick of a switch.
Its very difficult, when you are in the headspace, panicking over something or another, be it grades, turning in the assignment on time, meeting a deadline at work, not getting home on time, etc, to just calm down and not overthink.
But, at the same time, overthinking on a particular issue can also result in a direr situation, as slowly you will start to envision all the worst case scenarios. So, at such a time, when people tell you to not overthink, what should you be doing as an alternative?
1. Get Involved In Some Activity:
I know it might seem clichéd, however, clichés are so for a reason, and sometimes they even work. A good way to not overthink and overanalyze your problems is to just distract your mind from them.
A good way to do that is to get involved in an activity with a group of people. The activity along with the company will work towards diverting your mind and helping you to clear up any negative feelings you might be experiencing.
The activity itself sometimes can work towards helping your mind drift, but the addition of people around you can work to further distract you from whatever is bothering you.
2. Breathing Exercises:
Now, you might not always be able to distract yourself with people, perhaps you are out of town, or the time is inconvenient wherein you cannot really meet other people.
In such a situation, I have found doing a few simple breathing exercises can really work to calm you down.
This is something I am saying from personal experience, that whenever you feel anxious due to overthinking and just want to stop your mind altogether from bombarding you with more thoughts, just do a simple ‘breath-in-breath-out’ exercise.
Not only will this help calm you down, but also focusing on this one simple thing will not allow your mind to drift back to the problematic situation.
This also helps to center you and allows better focus so that you can find a solution to your problem.
3. Write It Down:
It might seem like nothing, but researchers in a study at the Ohio State University actually found that “when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the thoughts as well.”
The co-author of the study Professor Richard Petty observed that perhaps it is the physical act of throwing away your thoughts can lead to influencing your thought pattern. Basically you can write down your thoughts, any troubles or problems, and since it is just for your eyes you don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself or think that the problem is too small. After you have written it down, either tear up the pieces or just throw the entire paper away.
4. Interpret Things Differently:
Sometimes overthinking can be a result of something that another person has said to you. Perhaps your friend was rude to you, or a senior at work did not give you your morning greeting and was gruff with you the entire day.
Commonly you would hold yourself accountable for their reaction to you, wondering if you did something to warrant it and overanalyze it to no end.
However, a good way to not do so is to just interpret things in a different manner. Instead of immediately thinking it is your fault, just think of other alternatives to their bad mood.
According to Bruce Hubbard, the director of the Cognitive Health Group and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University for psychology and education, “You can cultivate a little psychological distance by generating other interpretations of the situation, which makes your negative thoughts less believable”.
5. Interrupt Your Thoughts:
Physical actions have mostly proven to work when trying to distract your mind, and doing a physical act to interrupt your thoughts on looping can work effectively to break them.
Something as simple as snapping a rubber band around your wrist when you start to overthink too much, or untying and tying your hair back, can do the trick.
The aim is just to break your thoughts away from the constant loop they were on and bring you back the reality.
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