Before you begin reading this, I have a confession to make. I may have indulged in some overthinking before writing this article. I always do, for all my blog posts. And then I fight it. So that’s what this blogpost is about: How to Stop Overthinking & finding ways that actually work. Because let’s face it – sending the brain on a hyperactive overdrive in the wrong direction never helped anyone.

You know what makes spies so good at what they do? They are trained to observe. And they observe mostly by keeping their wits together and not losing it in the face of pressure. Our observation and understanding skills are heightened when our heartbeat is calm. Our brains can then focus on important issues with the military kind of a precision (without the thought attacks).

Overthinking and worrying exist, multiply & cement as a habit -because you re-affirm them to your own mind regularly (like in a loop). And then finally they distract you from all the better possibilities by keeping you too focused on the worst case scenarios.

Here, I am not talking about parents worrying for their little girls in India because their worries are legit. That is the kind of country we are and the way we have raised our boys. And neither am I talking about the people who have acute anxiety problems and need medical attention. Anxiety is as real a disease as heart problems, often a cause.

But there is still a chance for many of us, who can keep their overthinking & always worrying brain in check. Here it is – How to stop overthinking: 6 solutions that actually work:-

Meditation

I know you must be thinking, “meditation is the answer to everything” for Motivational Speaker Akash Gautam. But I would be lying if I said otherwise. It truly is – the answer to all my worries!

I recently wrote my most hearty Blog on ‘How to Meditate– everything you need to know’ where I detailed the numerous benefits of cultivating this wonderful habit into our lives. Do give it a read for an elaborate understanding. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to keep our heart calm and our brain free to focus on solutions.

A quiet mind is able to hear intuition over fear.

Our mind doesn’t like going all gaga over the worst case scenarios. It needs to be trained to not jump to conclusions. It needs to be trained to stop running off in the wrong direction with the wrong co-runners (worries and fears) and it needs to be trained to calmly deactivate myths and look at reason. Meditation is one of the best ways to do it. Because it gives our brain the room to operate logically by training it in the act of one-pointedness. Those who find even an iota of success in meditation; find their ability to not over-think grow manifold.

Forcibly find Real Work & Get consumed into it

Idle mind is devil’s workshop. When you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right. So, langaaaar daal lete ho:)

overthinking-brain
(Image courtesy: The Protein Chef)

Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built in Goals, feedback rules and challenges , all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed. If there is ONE huge learning that I recently had (looking into the lives of my relatives & friends); then that is:-

THOSE who are FREE in Life – Have the maximum Issues / Problems. Unknowingly- they also unsettle the closest people in their lives.

THOSE who are Semi-Busy in Life – definitely have some (but fewer) problems. Usually their problems are ‘People issues’ arising out of Gossips, judging others, giving unnecessary advices or cribbing about things around. They end up living in a grey zone & do not have the audacity to turn it around.

THOSE who are purposefully BUSY- actually do not HAVE TIME for Problems or over-thinking. They have that inbuilt GPS mechanism which makes them reach wherever they want to reach via the most economical route (by avoiding overthinking, controversies and people issues).

These guys face the LEAST Problems in the long run.

Summary- Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging. And this to me is the best way to how to stop overthinking & start becoming awesome.

Unwinding the right way

My work gets me an opportunity to talk to people from all walks of life, and gather unique perspectives on what makes them tick. One could say – I have access to a large sample size of respondents and my secret research has been going on for years 🙂

The kind of life we live has a significant impact on our overthinking abilities. If we want to know how to stop overthinking, we need to know how the people who don’t overthink have managed to do so. If you ask me, it is people who have figured out genuine ways to unwind and frequently break away from the biggest stressors of their lives.

It is people who constantly travel & find ways into nature’s lap, people who find time for their hobbies (and please – drinking, smoking, sleeping, TV are NOT hobbies). Anything that takes us away from our worries or pressures with a lasting impact is a good hobby I would say. Hobbies are supposed to be positive. They should leave us with positive energy and a mind that is ready to think, analyse and process.

A night of drinking, meaningless casual sex with random people, drugs etc. to make us forget our problems or ‘losen up a little’ does not make the problem at hand go away. Rather, the problem comes back with full might next morning but our little ‘hobby’ has not given us the ‘right click refresh’ feeling or equipped our brain to think with more clarity. It has only made us forget the problems for a night, only to be face to face next morning with a hangover along with the original problem, maybe more intense now. Keeping the problem at bay, doesn’t make it go away at all.

So, we need to find ways to unwind genuinely. Get busy. Don’t give yourself time to overthink. Read or write, paint or dance, sing or run, find nature or God. But do things that take you in a positive direction. This will really help you to stop overthinking. Because in the process of unwinding, we often stumble upon what really matters to us. This in turn helps greatly in eliminating the alternative outcomes that we may have been previously worried about or overthinking about.

Being methodical

If going away is not an option and the problem has to be solved within the 4 walls of a cubicle, there is a methodical way of doing it. A simple SWOT analysis. The following steps can be followed if you want to try this approach –

  • Write down all your alternatives that you are worried about.
  • Cancel out any which you won’t be worried about one year down the line.
  • Cancel out any that could lead to an outcome that’s immensely wrong if you look at your moral compass.
  • Do a detailed SWOT of the remaining (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats – you know the drill!). Get all information you can.
  • If a SWOT doesn’t convince you of your options, even do a Porter’s or a PESTEL (Click on the links to know more about these strategic methods of environment analysis).
  • Once you have all the dos and don’ts of all the alternatives available to you, look at the ones that you can control.
  • For every alternative, the control you have will vary. Figure out the one where you can have moderate to high control and more positive outcomes. Then choose accordingly.

This is probably also a kind of overthinking but this is controlled, methodical, goal directed overthinking. Not the kind where one keeps worrying to wit’s end running down the wrong tunnels. Bottom-line is – we need to not let the mind run amok with all the overthinking & worrying and allowourselves to give it direction. And we will see that many of our fears will get eliminated in terms of the options that are ludicrous and not going to happen. Here’s something over-used but still funny about worrying:

Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

Only asking questions leads to overthinking. Seeking answers is the answer to ‘how to stop overthinking’.

Accept Being Imperfect

A lot of us overthink because we want to control the outcome, we want to take perfect decisions. But life isn’t as precise, and it most certainly isn’t a maths problem where there is one right answer. We can’t control the audience poll in the grand finale, we can’t predict everything down to the last decimal and we can’t be perfect. Which is why, we need to be okay with being wrong.

So, have the audacity to be bold, if not always right. And have the courage to accept the consequences. That will help you to not obsessively overthink it and to go with the flow.

imperfection-is-ok-overthinking
(Image courtesy: Cheerfully Imperfect)

And to be okay with being imperfect, we need to stop being afraid of failure too. Failure it a relative yardstick. We don’t need to worry about it just now. Trying to get as many decisions right as possible and doing the task at hand is way better than trying to get all decisions right and becoming a sitting duck instead of swimming through.

I have lately realized- ‘I just cannot make everyone happy. They will never be’. This helped me bigtime. I also stopped feeling guilty about a dozen aspects of my life which I cannot control even after having put my hazzar best into them in the last few years. Accepting a few things the way they are helped me reduce my overthinking.

Social Support

That’s right. Whenever you find that you have been obsessively worrying, overthinking and getting stressed about a situation, you need to seek help. Talk to your trusted people, seek advice or simply seek a listening ear or a good catharsis. But try not to isolate and alienate yourself. Often, talking to someone who has seen more sunny days than you have – can open some good doors on your thinking plane.

And if you feel like you can’t go to anyone with your problem, then do read the first point again. Don’t let your overthinking get to you. It could subtly be causing you problems like binge eating, binge watching TV, stress, depression, anxiety and more. These things happen when we are not looking, when we believe we are fine while the truth is that we are slowly and gradually falling into a hole that we won’t be able to pull ourselves out of, without help.

Besides, that’s what friends and family are for 🙂

Do share this with your people who have a tendency to worry, to overthink, to stress out. Tell them- how to stop overthinking and start becoming the best that they can be.

One Life. Rise & Shine!

Akash Gautam

About Author

Akash Gautam is a Motivational Speaker & Corporate Trainer in India. Hundreds of Top Corporates like Google, CIPLA, Vodafone, McKinsey & Co., Maruti, HDFC, RIL, M&M & premier colleges like IIMs, IITs, SRCC etc go to him whenever they need a refreshing, big bang impact. Write to usWrite to us to know how he can transform your Team.

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