Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
5 Strategies You Can Use To Stop Overthinking
Published Jul 31st, 2020 & updated on May 22nd, 2021
Have you ever laid in bed at night, replaying that first day on the job when you embarrassed yourself in front of all of your new coworkers? “Don’t worry, other people get confused by our printer’s settings too…” But do they actually?? Or am I the only one who can cause a disastrous paper jam that requires 4 hours of work to fix?? Nope, stop overthinking it. Don’t go down that road.
You know it was forever ago and most people won’t remember it…but you still can’t help thinking that you should have done something differently. Maybe even been funnier. Made more friends. Been more outgoing. Laughed it off instead of awkwardly apologizing.
On your commute home from work, do you keep thinking about the risky email you sent your boss with a dash of extra sarcasm? Did she get the joke?! Was everything even spelt correctly? Maybe the sarcasm won’t get through and now she’ll think you’re a snarky bee. You refresh your email and dang, no response yet. F**k.
Some of us love to play the “what if” game. What if I had accepted that job offer? What if I had gone to a different school?
If this sounds like you, chances are you are an overthinker. Welcome to the club!
But we hope to dismantle it soon so don’t get too comfortable.
We can confidently say you are not alone. A study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of adults between the ages of 25-35 overthink. That is a crazy amount of people who are overthinking on a daily basis.
Overthinking not only leads to you reliving the embarrassing moments that are better left in the past, but it also impacts your decision making skills, drops your energy levels, impacts your sleep, and hinders your creativity.
This is definitely a habit we need to kick. And we have just the strategies you need to stop overthinking and rein it all in!
1. Bring It Back Down To Size
Remind yourself that this worry is most likely smaller than you think it is. Ask yourself if you will remember this in three months, six months, a year. If not, it is probably not worth your time.
Remember that email you spent 35 mins reworking to ensure that your point was clear, you were assertive but not too confident, and your grammar was flawless? We commend you for being detail oriented!
And if that email was of incredible importance, you were right to be diligent. But if that email was about where your team should go for lunch tomorrow, you were 12/10 overthinking it.
If it won’t matter in a month, don’t get stuck on it.
2. Remind Yourself That Overthinking Magnifies Your Feelings
Here’s what you need to know.
When something embarrassing happens, the person who messed up always experiences magnified feelings. Observers do not experience the same shame, nervousness, or embarrassment.
Prevent overthinking about embarrassing situations by consistently reminding yourself that people do not attach themselves to your mistakes the same way you do.
How about that time you tripped walking out of Starbucks? Gravity did its job and you hugged the ground like a reunion in a post-war love story. Your iced coffee splattered in a 5 mile radius, your sunglasses found their way to Pluto, and your bag luckily protected the left side of your rib cage. Nobody remembers that but you.
When you are able, reframe your mistakes as learning experiences, as that is truly what they are.
3. Find Evidence To Use Against Your Worry
When you are overthinking about a specific worry, identify the worry as a cognitive distortion— there are several different types.
Catastrophizing is a type of cognitive distortion and it makes you believe that everything will end in tragedy or disaster. When you make a mistake, no matter how small, this cognitive distortion snowballs your thinking.
For example, what if you didn’t study as much as you would have wanted to for a very important test at school?
Catastrophic thinking would lead to this narrative: “I am going to fail. If I fail this test, my GPA will drop. If my GPA drops, then I won’t get a good job after I graduate. And if I don’t get a good job, then I will be living in my parents’ basement forever.”
See how that snowballs?! No wonder your pulse is accelerating and you’re having trouble breathing. That sh*t is terrifying.
Here what you can do to stop that. Check the worry you have with evidence. Come up with the facts. Use the cold hard truth to keep your worry within its boundaries.
The Worry: I’m going to fail this test.
Evidence for: I didn’t study as much as I usually do.
Evidence against: A failing grade is less than 50%. I went to all the lectures and finished the readings in time, even though I didn’t study as much as usual. The likelihood of me failing this test is actually in reality about 20%, which means the likelihood that I will pass is about 80%. I may not get an A or B, but I won’t fail. Ultimately, this will only affect my grade a bit.
Looking at the evidence helps you remember the facts that you are ignoring when you overthink. Try to put things in perspective.
4. Use Journaling To Think It Through
Another type of overthinking we love to engage in is when it comes to the future and potential scenarios. Why? Because the future is uncertain and we don’t like that. So we go back and forth in our heads analyzing every single scenario. Also goes by the nickname of analysis paralysis.
The problem is that we get stuck in our heads. That loop keeps playing and it exhausts you to the point where you might choose something just to be done with the process. We don’t want that, no sir.
This is where journaling comes in! Journaling has sooo many benefits, even beyond helping organize your thoughts. Writing down your worries can help you “play the tape through” which is what psychologists recommend as a strategy to stop overthinking.
It basically means you see the scenario allllll the way through and pay attention to the details. Like this.
Allow yourself to think of the worst possible scenario (if you feel safe enough to do so). What is the likelihood the worry will happen? If it does happen, who will be there to support you? How will you get through? What is Plan B?
As you “play the tape through”, use a journal to write down what you are feeling and keep track of it.
The DiveThru app is a great tool to help guide your journaling. Using 1000+ journaling exercises, we’ll help you dive thru different areas in your life where you are overthinking or you need more clarity.
Download the app here to get started! (it’s free!)
5. Tell Yourself To STOP
If all else fails, there is one more strategy you can try.
This might sound silly but take it literally. Tell yourself “STOP!” and imagine a stop sign in your mind when you notice you are overthinking. This works for some, but not all.
When you rehash a conversation wishing you had been more witty (us overthinkers love to do that), you can use this technique to stop you from rethinking different lines for every person.
Imagine a stop sign, and tell yourself to stop. Say it out loud if you have to. And rolling stops don’t count here, friends.
So there you have it. You’ve looked up ways to stop overthinking because you were overthinking your overthinking…and now you have 5 strategies to show for it! As much as we love your company, we really are trying to break up the overthinking club.
Looking for another club to join though? We have a DiveThru Together Community on Facebook where you’ll find a bunch of awesome people that are passionate about their mental wellbeing.
Now THAT group is worth your time! Don’t be shy, drop us a line.