7 Hacks To Prevent You From Overthinking If You Have High-Functioning Anxiety
If you're someone who suffers from anxiety, you know how pervasive, distracting, and frustrating overthinking things can be. Even if you are able to manage your anxiety, it's common for thoughts to come creeping back in, which is why it can be useful to know some hacks to stop yourself from overthinking. Discovering good habits and mental tricks is key when it comes to managing anxiety and intrusive thoughts, especially when you find yourself ruminating frequently.
"We all have a tendency to overthink things, especially when it comes to decision making," psychotherapist Kelley Kitley tells Bustle. "We want to make sure we make the 'right' decision and therefore play out 10 different scenarios. However, this can lead to anxiety, and ultimately, indecision. When people engage in overthinking, they may suffer from insomnia because they are laying in bed at night overthinking. ... They may struggle to connect in relationships because they are distracted and not present due to overthinking."
While you may have a handle on other symptoms of anxiety, if you've found that overthinking has taken over you brain and is impacting your life, try out some of these seven hacks that experts recommend to prevent you from being in your head too much.
1. Notice & Name Your Anxious Thoughts
In order to change your overthinking, you first want to bring your anxious thoughts into awareness. "When you become aware that you are overthinking, give that thought pattern a name: Call it 'overthinking,' 'unhelpful thinking,' or another short descriptive nonjudgmental name," clinical psychologist Inna Khazan, PhD tells Bustle. "Labeling your experience reduces activation of the fight or flight center of the brain, and increases activation of the pre-frontal cortex, which is then better able to help you regulate your emotions, make better decisions, and put the brakes on to the fight or flight activation."
2. Notice Your Environment
Expand your awareness to other thoughts, feelings, and objects in your environment. "When we overthink, we place too much focus on the problem, to the point that the problem becomes the only thing in our awareness," says Dr. Khazan. "Instead, allow yourself to see the problem as just one part of your awareness, not all of your awareness."
3. Keep A Notebook
Getting your thoughts on paper can help you get some distance from what's going on in your mind. "Keep a small notebook and colored pens close by," therapist Ann Dillard, MA, LMFT tells Bustle. "Write things down. Make a list. Get it out out of your head. Even though it might not make much sense at the time, write it down and take the pressure off your brain."
4. Have A Go-To Confidant
Sometimes, all it takes is another person to help ground you and put things into perspective. "Plan ahead for your overthinking," says Dillard. "Sometimes having a trusted person to talk to during this time is very helpful." You can also ask yourself the following questions: "Where am I? What do I need? What do I know for a fact?"
5. Use A Grounding Tool
A physical object can be useful to help you become aware of when you are overthinking. "Wear a bead bracelet or a piece of jewelry to use as a grounding tool," says Dillard. "Count the beads, inhale/exhale, or pray."
6. Get Moving
Workouts can be a great way to distract your mind. "Cardio will help you clear your mind by reducing your stress level," psychologist Dr. Lyssa Menard tells Bustle "So will yoga. Take a nice walk in nature or talk with a friend, or both. It will help you feel more connected to what really matters. When you return to your thought process, you'll have re-ordered your priorities."
7. Create Time To Think Later
If you can't seem to let something go, take a break from it, but give yourself permission to revisit it at a later time. "Write down what you're overthinking about, put it in an envelope or box, seal it and tuck it away," says Dillard. "Give yourself permission to move on to something else. You can always go back to revisit the issue when your mind is in a better place."
Overthinking can be exhausting and contribute to your anxiety, but engaging in these hacks can help make it less of a habit. And if you're still struggling, speaking with a therapist can help quiet the thoughts even further.