What to Do to Stop Overthinking? 6 Tips

Sometimes, the mind torments us with ideas that lead us nowhere. Discover how to stop overthinking and regain your peace in this article.
What to Do to Stop Overthinking? 6 Tips
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 13 January, 2023

The mind is a wonderful tool. It allows us to analyze situations and solve problems, interpret what is happening in front of us and make decisions. However, it should be at our service and not the other way around. When the mental noise gets out of control and overwhelms us, we can suffer great levels of stress and anxiety. For the same reason, we want to offer you some guidelines to stop overthinking.

This happens when we get entangled in an endless loop of repetitive thoughts that lead us nowhere. It also happens when we reminisce over and over again about a past event or invest too much mental energy in anticipating an uncertain future.

In short, those who tend to overthink have trouble living in the present. Fortunately, there are several ways to correct this dynamic.

How to stop overthinking

There are certain personality traits that can lead some people to overthink more than others. For example, perfectionism, cognitive rigidity, and anxiety make us more prone to get caught up in the mind.

To reverse this tendency from psychology, there are different approaches that can be followed. Some are more focused on acceptance, others on voluntary control of thoughts, and some on how the environment influences us. In any case, the following recommendations can help in this regard.

Stop overthinking to avoid stress
The repetition of thoughts that lead nowhere generates stress and anxiety.

1. Focus on the present moment

Mental noise is always generated by thinking about the past or the future. In reality, here and now everything is fine.

Therefore, learning to anchor yourself in the present is a great way to avoid overthinking. Mindfulness can help a lot to achieve this, as we can apply it even while walking or doing our daily activities.

However, if you feel that your thoughts overflow you, you can also resort to meditation or implement some relaxation techniques. This will help you reduce the activation of your body and mind.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: Racing Thoughts Syndrome: What Is It and What Causes It?

2. Welcome your thoughts

When we are assaulted by ideas that displease us, our first reaction is to resist them and fight to eliminate them. However, this only causes them to amplify and linger.

Remember that what you resist, persists.

It may be more positive to practice non-judgmental acceptance of those thoughts. Let them be, but don’t get hooked on them or over-identify with them. As you practice this, you will see that as they come, they go.

3. Don’t worry about it; deal with it

Although you may not know it, you may have a positive view of worry. Maybe you think that by worrying you are being a more responsible, more considerate, or better person. Maybe you believe that by overthinking, you will find a solution.

However, repeating the same thought process over and over again does not lead to new solutions; it only causes suffering. Focus on taking real action, not a mental action. Analyze what you are worried about and identify how you can act on it.

Sometimes, you will be able to solve the situation (e.g., if you are worried about an exam, focus on studying). At other times, you will only be able to act on how you feel (by managing your emotions). Whatever the case, take the corresponding action and don’t dwell in the mind.

4. Turn to therapeutic writing

Writing has been proven to be an excellent way to process emotional baggage and release it, as well as to organize your thoughts. Therefore, when you feel that your mind does not stop, take paper and pen and write down what is inside you.

In doing so you will feel liberated, and you will be able to see everything with perspective and order. Those thoughts that were tormenting you will somehow stay on paper. Thus, you will be able to go on with your day.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Don’t Think about a Pink Elephant: How to Avoid Invasive Thoughts

5. Use distraction techniques

Thought-stopping is a simple and useful technique to stop overthinking, especially if combined with distraction techniques. To do this, when you identify that you are starting the thought loop, shout (out loud or mentally) “stop”. This will be the signal to stop rumination.

Now, focus your attention on any other element. It can be the environment (describe in detail an object you see) or a mental activity (for example, counting backward from 100 to 0). In this way, you will have succeeded in redirecting your thinking.

a woman taking a break
Several techniques come to our aid to stop negative and intrusive thoughts. You should choose the one that suits you best and works for you.

6. Use affirmations

One last strategy you can use is affirmations. They are short, simple, and direct phrases that you can repeat to yourself at key moments, as instructions or encouragement.

For example, “I can do it. Everything is fine”. Focusing on these mantras will help you get rid of that need to think and go over and over again the same ideas.

Stop overthinking to take care of your mental health

Many times, we’re not aware of the damage that overthinking generates. This is a habit that many of us have acquired and apply frequently in our everyday lives.

However, it can significantly affect our emotional state, interfere with relationships and limit us in our day-to-day lives. So, it’s time to cut the trend, take matters into your own hands and calm your mind. Try the above tips and you will begin to notice a difference.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nejla, N. C., & Bal, M. D. (2016). The effects of three different distraction methods on pain and anxiety in children. Journal of Child Health Care20(3), 277-285.
  • Reyes-Iraola, A. (2014). El uso de la escritura terapéutica en un contexto institucional. Revista Médica del Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social52(5), 502-509.
  • Sánchez, J., Alcázar, A. I. R., & Olivares, J. (1999). Las técnicas cognitivo-conductuales en problemas clínicos y de salud: meta-análisis de la literatura española. Psicothema11(3), 641-654.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.