How To Overcome Overthinking

Last Updated: April 15, 2024

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Overthinking can impact an individual’s well-being and mental health. Explore the types of overthinking, ways and techniques that can help to cope with and alleviate the stress of overthinking.

What is Overthinking?

Overthinking is like getting caught in a loop of thoughts that won't stop spinning. It happens when we get too wrapped up in analyzing every little detail of our lives, unable to take a step back.

Imagine this: You're replaying conversations from yesterday, worrying if you said the right thing. Then, you start imagining all the things that could go wrong tomorrow. Before you know it, your mind is racing, and you can't seem to slow it down.

The problem is, we often believe that if we think hard enough, we'll find the perfect solution. But all that thinking actually wears us out. It's like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it, it never feels like enough.

Constantly imagining the worst or doubting our decisions drains us mentally and leaves us feeling negative, self-conscious, and dysregulated.

Impacts of Overthinking

Overthinking and worrying are natural parts of being human. Yet, when left unchecked, they can become habitual and take a toll on our physical and emotional well-being, leading to destructive thought patterns.

  • Physical symptoms: Overthinking can trigger the release of cortisol, our body's stress hormone. This flood of cortisol can lead to heightened anxiety and other physical symptoms, including muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth

  • Anxiety and stress: Overthinking isn't just mentally exhausting, it can also exacerbate or be a symptom of pre-existing mental health conditions. Being trapped in cycles of overthinking can intensify feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression

  • Distorted perspectives: Our emotions hold immense power, often shaping our understanding of the world around us. They can subtly twist our perceptions, nudging us to misinterpret situations, hastily make decisions, and inadvertently misread the intentions of others. These distortions form subtle barriers to effective communication, or even being able to appreciate ourselves in all our beauty

Signs Of Overthinking

Here are some signs that you might be overthinking:

  • finding it hard to relax, often feeling on edge

  • constantly worrying or having anxious thoughts

  • feeling mentally exhausted, like your brain won't shut off

  • getting stuck in repetitive thoughts that you can't shake

  • second-guessing decisions

  • imagining the worst-case scenario

  • feeling worthless or down on yourself

The good news is that having this awareness of our patterns allows us to take proactive steps towards managing any overthinking tendencies we may have.

Causes of Overthinking

Cognitive Biases

Our minds naturally tend to focus on certain aspects of information, often magnifying negatives over positives. This inclination can lead to overthinking, as we may dwell excessively on potential problems instead of considering a balanced perspective or even positive outcomes.

Stress and Anxiety

High levels of stress and anxiety can trigger overthinking. When we're feeling overwhelmed, our minds may ruminate on worst-case scenarios, creating a cycle of worry that's difficult to break.


The pursuit of perfection can drive us to scrutinize every detail of our lives. This quest for flawlessness can lead to overthinking as we seek to avoid making mistakes or facing criticism. It can also make it hard for us to acknowledge our strengths, and feed our imposture syndrome.

Fear of Uncertainty

Many of us find uncertainty uncomfortable and unsettling. As a result, we may try to alleviate this discomfort by overthinking, attempting to predict every possible outcome and control every aspect of our lives.

Maladaptive Coping Strategies

When faced with stress or difficult emotions, we may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as avoidance or obsessive analysis. While these strategies may provide temporary relief, they can reinforce patterns of overthinking in the long run.

Trauma or Mental Health Disorders

Experiences of trauma or mental health conditions like depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders can significantly impact our thought patterns. Negative rumination and intrusive thoughts may become persistent, making it challenging to break free from overthinking cycles.

Overthinking can serve as a coping mechanism or an attempt to regain control or prepare for potential threats.

Additionally, trauma can negatively affect self-esteem, creating a heightened self-critical inner voice that fuels overthinking and self-doubt. Recognizing the impact of trauma on overthinking is crucial in developing effective strategies for healing and managing these thought patterns.

Common Types of Overthinking

Understanding the various ways our minds can get caught up in overthinking is an essential step toward fostering gentleness and self-awareness. Let's explore four common types: catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, all-or-nothing thinking, and jumping to conclusions.



Catastrophizing is when we envision situations as far worse than they actually are, often amplifying our anxieties and fears beyond reality. For instance, imagine preparing for a date night with your partner, only to find yourself consumed by fears of everything going wrong. From worrying about spilling wine on your new outfit to imagining awkward silences, these catastrophic thoughts can overshadow the excitement of spending time together.

Recognizing these moments allows us to offer ourselves grace and embrace the beauty of imperfect connections.


Overgeneralizing occurs when we take a single negative event and apply it broadly to all situations or relationships. Consider a friend canceling plans last minute, and suddenly, a wave of disappointment floods your mind. In that moment, it's easy to draw conclusions about friendship in general, assuming that this one instance reflects the nature of all friendships.

By exploring the uniqueness of each relationship and allowing room for nuance, we cultivate a deeper appreciation for the diversity of connections in our lives.

All-or-Nothing Thinking

All-or-nothing thinking sees situations in extreme, black-and-white terms, overlooking the nuances and complexities that color our experiences. Picture a situation where you receive constructive feedback at work. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity for growth, you might perceive it as a complete failure or where your career path ends, overlooking the progress you've made.

Embracing the gentle art of seeing the shades of grey allows us to celebrate our efforts and honor the journey, recognizing that growth often unfolds amidst the messiness of imperfection.

Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions involves making assumptions about situations or others' thoughts without adequate evidence, often leading to misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Think about a time when a loved one seemed distant, and immediately, thoughts of abandonment flooded your mind. Engaging in mind-reading or assuming the worst can strain relationships and amplify our anxieties.

Ways to Stop Overthinking

Challenge Your Thoughts

Understanding that our thoughts aren't always realistic or truthful is key. They can change, and learning to see them in a more positive light can help us break free from overthinking.

When one suspects they are overthinking, challenging these thoughts and questioning their realism by evaluating them and considering alternative scenarios is beneficial. Although reframing thoughts may be challenging initially, learning to discern the helpfulness of one's thoughts can aid in replacing and diminishing negative thoughts.

Our thoughts and how we see the world are shaped by lots of things—our beliefs, values, culture, and experiences. Trying to see things from a different perspective can be a powerful tool against overthinking.

Take a Break

Instead of sitting and thinking about a problem endlessly, we can try and stay in the present moment and channel the energy to something more nurturing.

Here are some simple distractions to consider integrating into your daily life:

Building these activities into your daily routine can help can help break the cycle of overthinking and reduce anxiety levels over time (and with a clear mind, we will soften the grip of intrusive thoughts!).


Meditation and mindfulness can help regulate emotions by improving concentration memory and reducing stress.

Attention training is a meditative technique that involves people directing attention towards an everyday routine task, for instance, doing the laundry or washing dishes, to tune out the negative and intrusive thoughts.

The aim is not to clear out the mind but to redirect the attention to something else during a moment of overthinking. Research demonstrates that meditation for ten minutes daily can lower anxiety and stress levels. Mindfulness and meditation help enhance complete psychological well-being.

Practice Self-Compassion and Acceptance

“The more you Nurture yourself, the more you’ll find you’re living from your future self—the best of who you are,” ― Tara Brach, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN

Self-compassion plays a vital role in stopping overthinking and cultivating a healthier mindset. When we practice self-compassion, we extend kindness, understanding, and acceptance toward ourselves, especially in self-doubt or negative thinking moments.

By showing ourselves the same compassion and understanding we would offer to a loved one, we create a foundation of self-acceptance and emotional well-being, ultimately empowering us to subdue overthinking, encourage a new thought process, and foster a healthier relationship with our thoughts and emotions.

Face Fears

Understanding that we can't control everything is key to feeling better mentally. It's helpful to look for small chances to deal with situations that make us worry, focusing on what we can actually do.

Taking a step back and dealing with problems one at a time can help us stop thinking too much about things we can't change. This approach is important for managing overthinking and looking after our mental health.


Journaling offers us a way to track our moods, anxiety levels, and negative thoughts about various situations. By putting our thoughts into words, we can ease their immediate impact and intensity

Journals become our trusted allies, helping us recognize recurring triggers that contribute to overthinking. Additionally, within the pages of our journals, we find a safe space to explore alternative perspectives, brainstorm solutions, and document moments of gratitude or personal growth.

Regular journaling practice can:

  • Give a sense of control over thoughts and emotions

  • Promote self-awareness

  • Enhance emotional regulation

  • Foster a sense of empowerment

  • Provide perspective and clarity

  • Relieve stress

  • Encourage positive self-talk

By engaging in this reflective practice, we gain insight into ourselves, break free from the cycle of overthinking, and pave the way for a more peaceful and focused state of mind.

Seek Professional Support

If your thoughts become overwhelming and you feel trapped in a cycle of overthinking, it's important to consider seeking support from a professional.

In some, but not all cases, overthinking can be a sign of deeper struggles like depression or anxiety, which might make things even harder as time goes on.

A mental health professional can be a real support in understanding our feelings and thoughts, helping us figure out what's helpful and what's not, and giving us effective tools to feel better.

They may suggest or recommend strategies such as mindfulness or physical exercise tailored to our individual needs. It is a basic human need to feel seen and heard, and sharing our worries with a trained mental health professional is a courageous step.

If ready to take that step, finding a mental health professional who knows about therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, or a healthcare provider who understands anxiety and similar issues, can be really helpful.

A therapist, for example, can help us see things in a more positive light, encourage healthy habits, acknowledge our tough feelings, and find different ways to look at situations. It's all about finding the support that works best you.


Navigating through overthinking and negative thoughts can weigh heavily on our well-being, making it hard to fully enjoy life. But with patience and kindness toward ourselves, we can start shifting these patterns and cultivating a brighter mindset.

Repetitive thinking and spending too much time dwelling on past or random worries can create a vicious cycle of excessive worry and stress, causing to feel less confident, prepared and motivated.

Yet, through simple practices like mindfulness, changing how we see things, and being gentle with ourselves, we can challenge these negative thoughts and find peace in the present moment.

It is important to remember that overcoming overthinking or incessant worrying takes time and self-compassion. It's a gradual process where patience is key. With practice and persistence, we can gradually ease the burden of overthinking and find peace within ourselves.

By trying out different ways to help ourselves and reaching out for support when we need it, we can learn to manage overthinking and take steps toward feeling better, with kindness and understanding along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I give my mind a break from overthinking?

Sometimes, distracting yourself for half an hour can be a game-changer. Take a stroll, lose yourself in a good book, or indulge in a hobby you love. Giving your mind a breather allows it to reset and gain a fresh perspective.

What kind of relaxation techniques can I do while in a pinch or on the run?

When you're pressed for time, consider these quick relaxation methods:

  • Take deep breaths: Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth to center your focus.

  • Practice mindful walking: Pay attention to each step and your surroundings to ground yourself.

  • Engage in progressive muscle relaxation: Tense and then relax different muscle groups to release tension.

  • Visualize tranquility: Picture yourself in a peaceful setting to calm your mind.

  • Use grounding techniques: Tune into the sensations around you, such as sounds and textures, to bring yourself back to the present moment.


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The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided