how to stop overthinking

3 tips on how to stop overthinking (and excessive worrying)

Guidance for calming the storm inside your mind

Everyone's head spins out of control from time to time. And all we want in those moments is a way to just shut our brains off so we can sleep or, you know, live our lives. Unfortunately, the overthinking itself is not something we humans have any control over. But there are plenty of things we CAN influence. Here you’ll find 3 ways you can support yourself when your mind goes into overdrive.

Oftentimes we have no idea what exactly triggered the overthinking and the good news is: you don't need to. Somewhere somehow a whiff (or perhaps a whole truckload) of insecurity and/or unsafety has crept into your system and now your mind is trying to save you - either by continuing to mull it over or by hiding it behind a curtain of thoughts. However your overthinking is expressing itself at this moment, and whatever may or may not be hiding behind it, it's here now, it's unpleasant, AND your brain means well.

How your brain is trying to save you

I know, it's almost impossible to imagine, and yet I want to invite you to consider that your mind has your best interests at heart and wants to take care of you in the best way it knows how – by trying to gain control over the situation. As long as you're in control, everything will be all right, because you will be safe. And so, your brain will start to blame you, go through worst-case scenarios with you, or distract you with the weirdest trains of thought; everything is allowed, as long as you don't have to deal with the feeling that’s actually underneath. Only, as your brain let’s out a sigh of relief in its false sense of security, you're slowly going crazy, all the while not getting the chance to come to terms with what's really going on.

Let's dive into the 3 tips to help yourself soften when you can't seem to stop overthinking and/or brooding!

‘The thing you’re most afraid of already happened. That’s why you’re afraid.’

Tip #1: The worst thing has already happened

Since your head is trying to create some sense of security with all this worrying and overthinking, it can be helpful to remind yourself that the worst thing has already happened. That which your mind is so afraid of has actually already happened. Hence this reaction. So, brooding or overthinking is not really helping you prepare for something bad (as it may seem), it is reliving old pain in a new, made-up situation.

A personal example

For example, my brain can go berserk whenever I feel like I don't belong. It will come up with the most painful scenarios in which I am excluded and ridiculed. Of course, they are totally unrealistic, but they do feel very real. Because what did happen, are the terrible bullying incidents in elementary school. That's the scar that now causes this reaction in my brain. And the here and now usually doesn’t even come close to those woes of the past.

You don't always find out exactly what is going on at such a moment, but the invitation is to remind yourself that it is no longer THEN, that the worst - the thing your mind is trying to protect you from - has already happened, and that the chances are very slim for something like this to ever happen again.

‘Now, when it rains, it storms.’

– a trauma survivor

Tip #2: Your mind's "exaggerated" reaction is very justifiable

When a person or situation presses on an emotional bruise, your inner reaction will feel exaggerated. You’ll notice that the event does not match all that it evokes. And that's completely logical and explicable; for it is a reaction to that which caused the bruise in the first place, not to what’s happening in the here and now. Maybe it is raining or drizzling, maybe you only feel a gentle breeze, but in your nervous system it is storming right now. Both because of the trigger, and because of the brooding itself. Since your system cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is happening exclusively in your mind. To your nervous system, the scenes taking place in your head are reality; not very surprising, then, that it only makes you more and more upset.