Do you need to give your brain a break from overthinking?
Overthinking, also known as rumination, is a negative thought pattern that causes you to get stuck in your thoughts. Negative ideas seem to grow, spiral, and freeze you trying to focus on all of them at once or trying to follow them. You can even contribute to the cycle by adding even more negative thoughts to the mix!
Thinking like this all the time can be exhausting. Your brain needs to rest and can’t spend all of its time mired in rumination, or you will lose the valuable cognitive and energy resources you need for the day! So how do you stop it? Here are four practical ways to give your brain a break from overthinking.
1. Postpone negative thoughts
Many people who think too much They tend to believe that they can change or calm those beliefs immediately, or they may feel like they have to pay immediate attention to those thoughts for whatever reason. But the secret to managing many of these ruminant thoughts may be to put off thinking about them for later!
Many overthinking people benefit from setting a specific time each day specifically for overthinking, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. If these thoughts arise at any other time during the day, they are not allowed to entertain them and must wait until the next scheduled time to overthink to address them. In other words, when you start to contemplate, you can say, “I’ll think about this later” and move on. Believe it or not, this is an excellent technique because:
Challenge the concept of uncontrollable thoughts
Those who overthink tend to believe that the thoughts they have cannot be controlled. Actively postponing thoughts challenges and changes this belief and gives you control over your thoughts in a way that can feel empowering and help reduce rumination.
It gives you the rest you need
If you just want a break from overthinking, limiting those kinds of thoughts to a short, specific time each day ensures that you have plenty of time free from brooding. You will be able to enjoy most of your day off from these kinds of thoughts.
It makes some thoughts disappear
By the time you get to your daily overthinking time, you may find that many of the worries you had put off are no longer the ones that matter to you. Thoughts can change, appear and disappear, and many of the negatives are triggered by temporary or emotional circumstances. As such, your time of worry will not only be limited, but it will also be shorter, and you will find that many of your thoughts were not what you really needed to entertain.
2. Be aware of your thoughts
Did you know that the human brain constantly processes memories, associations and thoughts of all kinds? Investigate indicates that it does this for thousands of separate thoughts on a daily basis, and many of these are ones that you won’t even consciously notice. As such, it can be easy to ignore all your thoughts completely.
For some thoughts, you do not need to pay attention to them, as they are background processes that help in daily life or happen without many consequences. But for others, they could be triggers for overthinking, and more confusingly, those triggering thoughts could be positive too!
A triggering thought is anything that causes you to overthink. For example, you may experience a negative idea about your capabilities and begin to reflect on how you will manage an upcoming project. Or you can experience positive thinking about the next vacation, but then start thinking about planning it!
The only natural way to combat these triggering thoughts is to learn to be aware of them. You can do this in the following ways:
Measure your thoughts
If you find that you are thinking about something that is not urgent, ask how long you have been thinking about it. If the answer is “more than five minutes,” it might be time to chair those thoughts for later. Catching yourself in the middle of overthinking also gives you the opportunity to trace your thoughts back to your triggers.
Question your thoughts
Now that you’ve caught yourself overthinking, question the issue of your rumination. Is it a realistic concept of possibility or are you approaching ridiculous levels of thinking? Are you careful or downright pessimistic? Challenge your beliefs with positive thoughts and ask if they are based on reality or if these thoughts are helping or hurting you.
Identify your fears
Many of the thoughts that arise and lead to overthinking, basing these ideas on your fears. The things that you are afraid of can lead you to feel indecisive, to need to plan too much to counteract the fear, or simply to paralyze yourself with thought. You may be afraid of failing, of not being good enough, or of people not liking you, for example. Identifying your fears allows you to understand some of the triggers for your rumination on a deeper level.
Ask if you can control it
Whenever you start thinking about something, ask if the subject of your thoughts is something you have active control over. For example, if you’re worried about the weather on a day that’s important to you, well, you certainly can’t control the weather! If you discover that your concern is out of your hands, then you will find no answer by thinking about it; that will only undermine your positive thinking and make you feel helpless. Instead, shift your focus to what you can control.
Look, don’t participate
When thoughts come to you and swirl toward rumination, stop participating in them. Look at them as if you are an audience member and they are putting on a play, and examine them as an outsider looking inward. Allow your thoughts to come and go without even jumping. In other words, just because a train of thoughts has arrived at the station, that doesn’t mean you have to buy a ticket to ride it!
3. Manage your self-esteem
Many people who struggle with overthinking or rumination also have low self-esteem, according to studies. This is because many of these negative thought patterns are born out of the belief that you are not able to overcome challenges or that you need to work harder and plan more to make up for your shortcomings.
Because of this, learning to develop and manage self-esteem can help you tremendously when it comes to giving yourself a break from all that overthinking. Here are some ways to do it:
Develop your strengths
We all have weaknesses, but everyone also has strengths. What are yours? Finding your strengths and leveraging them by developing, practicing, and honing them can enhance your faith in yourself. Better yet, your renewed skill and mastery of your strength may allow you to solve problems that would have troubled you!
· Change the story you tell yourself
Everyone tells themselves a story about who they are. “I’m just an average guy.” “I am not a very patient person.” “I’ve never been good at it.” But these stories become your reality as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than repeatedly telling yourself stories that degrade you or remind you of perceived weaknesses, remind yourself of your capabilities. “I have overcome all the problems that I have faced.” “I have always been able to learn and grow from situations, lessons and obstacles.” “I am much stronger than I think.”
Stop aiming perfectly
Perfectionism is many things, but none are good. It’s an unrealistic expectation, an avoidance tactic, and an impossible goal for those who feel they can only provide value by being perfect. No human being is capable of achieving perfection, and if you pursue it, you are always doomed to fail and your self-esteem will suffer at every step. So instead of trying to be perfect, strive to do your personal best and learn and grow from whatever mistakes you make.
4. Manage stress
Stress is a common cause of overthinking. The more stressed you are, the more confused and anxious your thoughts can become, opening the door to serious brooding. This is especially true in our busy, modern world!
It’s no wonder, then, that stress management is such a valuable tool for learning. Managing your stress will help you stay calmer, avoiding rumination and fighting the risk of overthinking. The next time you start overthinking, immediately distract yourself by using stress management tips such as the following:
Meditation encourages you to clear your mind, allowing your overthinking thoughts to get through. Just five minutes of meditation can help calm a noisy, ruminant mind. You can also combine this with mindfulness by tuning in your senses and learning to stay connected to the present when you meditate, a practice that you can also put into practice in your daily life outside of meditation. Try some guided meditation exercises and see if you like them.
Exercise allows you to expend a lot of stressed energy at one time. Your brain can’t think too much when it’s focused on oxygenating your muscles enough to handle whatever physical stresses you’re putting on your body. When you are done with your workout, you will find that you feel calmer thanks to the release of positive hormones and you have eliminated a lot of stress. Any moderate to intense exercise even one that takes five minutes to complete will do.
Spend time in nature
Simply walking in a park for 5 minutes can be a relief to your central nervous system. Investigate has shown that the brain relaxes and becomes cognitively sharper after spending a little time getting back to basics with greenery. If you can’t get to a place full of nature quickly, consider buying a plant (or a few) to decorate your space, be it your home space or your workspace. You can also play nature-themed ambient sounds to calm yourself when you start overthinking.
Final thoughts on some effective ways to give your brain a break from overthinking
Nobody wants to find themselves in a cycle of rumination and overthinking. By putting off negative thoughts, developing awareness of triggering thoughts, managing your self-esteem, and learning to manage stress, you’ll be better able to tackle rumination and eventually give your brain a break from overthinking.