Many individuals who struggle with anxiety also suffer from overthinking. We start thinking about something that bothers us, and we think about it until our heads feel as if they’re about to explode. The subject of our overthinking can be anything from going somewhere we’ve never been before to finding out the results of a medical test. We sit and we think of all the negative possibilities and by the time the event takes place, we feel as if we’re doomed to have a negative experience. The worse thing is that chances are that if we didn’t obsess so much about things going wrong, they’d have much more of a chance of going right.
So why do we overthink so much when it’s so dangerous to our health? Most likely it’s because over time, it has become a pattern. While overthinking is most often far from necessary, it has become a habit.. So how do we break the cycle? Here are some tips that I find helpful:
1.) Think about something positive: This may sound hard to do, but it’s essential. We have to get our minds off the negative and concentrate on something positive. Instead of worrying about going somewhere new, perhaps you can think of what you’re going to wear or how you want to look that day. You could also play out an episode of a TV show or movie that you enjoy in your head (just make sure it’s a positive episode or movie). Think about that crush you had in the first grade or how much you love your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse! Maybe even think of an idea for a story or poem.
2.) Do something positive/constructive: Get up and do something positive. You can exercise, listen to music, play a fun game (games that take a lot of concentration are the best), take a walk, sing, dance, read, or write. You can also watch TV or a movie as long as it makes you feel better and not worse.
3.) Try and realize that thinking negatively will only make things worse: I know this may be the hardest one of all, but thinking negatively really doesn’t help. Overthinking and obsessing about all the bad events that can take place only makes us feel more anxious, hopeless, and maybe even physically sick. Worrying isn’t going to change anything for the better, it’s only going to cause us to have less confidence in ourselves.
4.) When you start to overthink about irrational thoughts, remind yourself that they’re irrational: Many of us who have severe anxiety have irrational fears. Sometimes this is due to a negative experience we had, lack of faith in ourselves, or even simple overthinking. However, by reminding ourselves that these worries are irrational and by proving to ourselves that we have the strength to get through our anxiety (through exercise, exposure therapy, etc.), we can show ourselves that there’s no reason to overthink or obsess about these thoughts.
I know these steps and suggestions are not always easy to follow, but I do find them helpful.