Strategies to Stop Overthinking

Last updated: February 2019

Has your sleep ever been interrupted by constant thoughts? I liken it to repeated thinking about events of the day, worries or “what ifs”. This can be similar to a video camera replaying thoughts and scenes repeatedly. Overthinking may include ruminating or rehashing past events or worrying about negative thoughts of the future. As a cancer survivor, I personally worry about recurrence of my cancer and the need for further treatment.

Overthinking prevents a person from doing something productive. It can cause emotional distress and encourage an escape by using unhealthy coping strategies, such as overeating.1 You cannot stop overthinking unless you realize that you are doing it. For me, my sleep was impacted. How could I sleep when my mind would not shut off? How can we learn to get our brain to stop worrying? My husband was excited when I decided to research this topic as he hates that I overthink.

Strategies to stop overthinking

Become aware of your worry

Recognize that you are overthinking. When feeling stressed or anxious, step back look at the situation and how you are responding.2 Stop replaying the events. Try not to worry
about things you cannot control. Recognize that these thoughts are not productive.

I always thought that by thinking about all the negative possibilities, I would be prepared and in control. Instead, I became more anxious and found that worrying did not help. In fact, I became more negative expecting the worst possible scenario. I recognized the futility of this habit this week when I over-worried about a medical procedure. I focused on all possible complications. Fortunately, none occurred but overthinking did not help.

Look for solutions

Instead of asking “why something happened, consider what you can do about it. Look for solutions instead of dwelling.

Set limits

A brief reflection and thinking about the issue can be helpful. However, do not dwell
on it as it will only increase anxiety.2 I try to remind myself to move on after giving myself time to reflect.

Put things in perspective

Sometimes things can seem over exaggerated now. Ask yourself if it will matter in 5 years.

Focus on the present

Worrying about yesterday or tomorrow can impact today. This is a challenge that I continually need to remember.

Busy yourself as a distraction

Find an activity that you enjoy. Thinking is a mental activity. Make a list of activities that you enjoy i.e. exercise, yoga, listening to music, or meditation. Anything to distract and interrupt your overthinking. I have found this to be a helpful strategy. Yoga has become an important supportive strategy for me.

Be grateful

Try to spend time being grateful and being positive. Make a list of things that you are grateful for and that make you happy.

Overthinking can increase our stress levels, impair our judgment, make us negative and interfere with accomplishing necessary actions. We must realize that we cannot predict the future, worrying will not help and wastes time that we could be enjoying the present. Reducing overthinking about my cancer is a challenge that I hope to reduce by trying the above strategies.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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