You finally crawl into bed at the end of a long day, ready for some much-needed rest. And then, this happens:
The voice in your head starts reliving and over-analyzing every interaction from the day.
Second-guessing every decision you made, whether big or small.
Like this all-too-relatable Tweet, your endless loop of worrying keeps you wide awake.
You’ve fallen victim to overthinking. Again.
While most people overthink from time to time, some of us are downright masterful at recounting, well, everything.
It seems like a harmless habit. But in reality, it’s seriously impacting our mental health.
It’s time to break the cycle. With a little effort and practice, you can learn to silence the nagging voice in your head. Here are four tips to take better care of yourself and stop overthinking:
1. Let go of the need to control
Attempting to control everything in life will disappoint you at best and more likely make you miserable. It’s like holding water in your hands—the more you try to contain it, the more it slips through your fingers.
The key is recognizing what you can control and letting go of what you can’t.
Sometimes you have to let things happen. Roll with the punches. And remember, there are some circumstances you can never control, especially other people’s actions or unexpected situations.
But you can choose your own responses, behaviors, actions, and attitudes.
If you’re struggling to loosen your grip, first, identify the problem areas. Then you can work towards letting go by making small changes.
For example, if you plan out every detail of your day, and things don’t go as planned, give yourself a pass. As long as you did your best, that’s all you can do.
Or, if you’re always the one leading conversations with friends, let someone else take the reins for a while.
Accepting that you can’t control everything is very liberating. It means you don’t have to stress about the things you can’t change. Instead, you can focus on the things you can control, which will help you enjoy life a lot more.
Letting go doesn’t mean giving up entirely. You can still be proactive and engaged in your life without being controlling. Know yourself and find the right balance.
2. Focus on the present moment
It’s easy to get caught up in the past or worry about the future, but the present is all we really have. Every other moment is either gone or not yet here.
We’re more likely to be happy and content when we focus on the present.
When we start worrying about what might happen in the future or dwelling on past mistakes, we feel anxious and stressed. And boom—that’s when overthinking takes over. Over-analyzing every mistake we’ve made. Imagining another outcome if we had only done something differently. Letting the “what ifs” take over.
Even seemingly insignificant overthinking steals joy from the present moment. I can’t tell you how many Sundays I’ve wasted being anxious about the start of a new week.
If you catch yourself in this pattern, be intentional: make plans with friends; write down activities or hobbies that you enjoy—and pick at least one to do that day; go screen-free; or spend time outside.
3. Overcome perfectionism
What if I told you perfectionism isn’t actually about being perfect? It’s being afraid of failure.
Once that fear sneaks in, you start overthinking everything you do. You take fewer risks for fear of falling short and to avoid negative feelings.
So how do you overcome perfectionism?
You’ve heard it a million times before: no one is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and everyone has their fair share of bad days.
You’re going to mess up. You will fail. That’s okay—it’s what you learn from it that matters.
Acknowledge where you went wrong, sure, but don’t ruminate on it. Find the lesson and try again.
Take more risks
If you want to overcome the fear of failing, trying new things is a prerequisite. By taking risks, you acknowledge that you might fail. That’s always a possibility. But success is another possibility, and you’ll never know until you try.
Overcoming perfectionism requires a lot of practice and patience. Remember that if you struggle with perfectionism and overthinking, this process of unlearning is new and challenging. Extend kindness and compassion to yourself.
Remember that you’re human, just like everyone else.
4. Make a decision, then let it go
Indecisiveness and overthinking go hand-in-hand.
But I promise you that agonizing will not guarantee better results.
The easiest way to avoid waffling back and forth?
Make the decision, then let it go.
When I chose to leave my previous job, I was overcome with anxiety. I knew deep down that leaving the company was best for my mental health, but I still second-guessed myself weeks later. I loved my coworkers, and it was hard to leave them.
That’s when the overthinking started.
“Maybe the job wasn’t that bad. I could have stayed longer.”
But the decision had been made. No takesies-backsies. I reminded myself of all the reasons I left, and I knew I made the best decision for me.
It’s natural to have doubts after making an important decision (or even trivial decisions!), but obsessing can only lead to anxiety and regret. Instead of dwelling on it, trust that you made the best decision you could at the time and move on.
When you catch yourself overthinking, be proactive
Like many unhealthy habits, the first step toward progress is self-awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts. When the scales tip from reflecting to obsessing, ask yourself good questions:
Am I replaying that conversation again? Am I agonizing over a decision that has already been made? Am I worrying about something that’s outside of my control?
Try out different strategies to stop overthinking and learn what works best for you.
You wouldn’t let a friend continue to ruminate and beat herself up. Treat yourself the same way.
Remember, when it comes to your well-being, the stakes are high. Defending your mental health and inner peace is worth every effort.