I tend to think a lot in general, but sometimes, I find myself looking at a subject way too closely and way too much, and the ruminating takes on a life of its own. (It might even revolve around an abstract concept as opposed to an actual event that’s occurring.)
When introspection becomes stressful, there are antidotes. Here are some of my personal suggestions…
1. Adopt a hobby.
Maybe if your spare time is filled with an activity that you love, overthinking spells will be pushed to the curb. I’ve started to re-immerse myself in the French language since I’m a total Francophile. Weekend hours are set aside for verb conjugations and charming vocabulary. Oui, oui, oui.
2. Write it down.
In the past, I’ve written about introspection overload and how to thwart rumination by journaling. I journal to lighten my mental load, where I can flesh out thoughts and feelings. (I find that the physical act of writing into a notebook is a more effective cathartic release than an online diary, but to each his or her own.) For someone who isn’t interested in writing, journaling may be viewed as a burden, so it certainly comes down to individual preference.
3. Keep your hands occupied.
According to this article, psychological theory proposes that when we’re stressed, we absorb information through two channels. “One is the basic, primal sensory channel: the sights, sounds, sensations, and smells of the situation. The other is an intellectual channel: our brains are trying to make sense of what’s going on, and put it into words and a context that we can talk about.”
Researchers explain that if the sensory channel is occupied, the intellectual channel is muted; therefore, stress relief techniques that incorporate the hands “will use up more ‘brain cycles’ and pull processing power away from intellectual activities.” A stress ball may do the trick, along with drawing or knitting. (I’ve experimented with colorful rugs via latch hook!)
The article also presents another theory, which states that large muscle groups contract in preparation for flight when we’re consumed with stress. Muscle fibers in your arms relax and reduce tension when squeezing stress balls or keeping your hands busy with objects of a similar nature.
4. Move around.
I revel in long walks around the neighborhood – preferably in beautiful weather – and have found that walking unleashes mental chatter and induces clarity. Exercise, dancing, or any other movement can help as well.
5. Talk to someone.
Sometimes, being honest and vulnerable with someone you’re comfortable with will clear your mind. After exposing your overanalysis to others, it suddenly doesn’t appear as daunting. And who knows, maybe they can relay insight about the topic at hand, which could provide further guidance.
Overthinking can be unpleasant, draining and debilitating, but hopefully the tips noted above can disrupt these incessant cycles.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Mar 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Suval, L. (2014). 5 Easy Ways to Combat Overthinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/03/16/5-easy-ways-to-combat-overthinking/