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4 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Reduce Stress

I feel like my whole life until now has been preparing me for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of us are lifelong, card-carrying overthinkers and serial worriers; some may even venture to say that this incliniation comes with being a mom.  In fact, a part of my brain that remembers my mom saying "...well it's my job to worry about you." practically gave me a pass to worry.  Part of me expected the outbreak of the crisis to send me down a rabbit hole of fear and anxiety.

However, I have surprised myself with my own resilience in the face of this unprecedented situation that is both global and frighteningly local.

I have built this resilience over the last decade, driven by my desire to overcome various mental health issues and the obstacles they have created in my life.

This journey led me to explore many healing modalities, from cognitive behavioral therapy to mindfulness.

It has armed me with a toolbox of daily practices and hacks that I am employing to overcome overthinking and stress during the crisis.

If you are experiencing:
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Racing thoughts
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Stress

...or any other negative emotions as a result of overthinking, read on to find out how to overcome them.

1. Breathe

Breathing is the most powerful tool you have for beating stress.

When you feel stressed, your sympathetic nervous system — or "fight or flight response" — is activated. This response causes you to take shorter, shallower breaths.

Breathe

If you notice yourself feeling stressed or allowing racing thoughts to take over, stop, and take some long, deep breaths.

This will send a signal to your body that you are safe, and that it can relax.

Doing so activates the parasympathetic nervous system — also known as the "rest and digest response," releasing soothing hormones that counteract the effects stress.

The other great thing about breathing is that it brings you into your body, which gets your mind into the present moment and helps to break the cycle of overthinking.


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2. Conscious Awareness

When your thoughts are racing, you are not in the present moment.

According to Eckhart Tolle, not being present in the here and now is what causes suffering.

He says that when you can bring your mind into the present moment, you will notice that there is no suffering in the here and now.

However, it can be challenging to stay present in times like this, with worries about health, finances, and the uncertainty about the future constantly creeping into our minds.

If focusing on your breath feels too difficult, and your mind continues to race, try the following exercise.

Start looking around the room you are in, and notice every detail about it. Describe it to yourself as if you were describing it to another person: the colors, the textures, the temperature, the sounds, and any other detail you see.

Use all five of your senses to pick out what you can see, hear, smell, feel, and even taste.

Doing this for just two or three minutes will break your thought cycles and induce an immediate feeling of calm. 

3. Shift Your Focus

The world may feel like a very negative place to be in right now.

News outlets the world over drone on about the pandemic, while conspiracy theorists shout over each other on social media.

And while it's important to stay informed, it's best to limit your media consumption if you are prone to overthinking.

Instead of scrolling social media or compulsively checking the live news updates, shift your focus to things that empower and inspire you.

Maybe it's time to tackle a project you've had on the backburner, start a new hobby, clear out your wardrobe, or learn a language.

Maybe shifting your focus to someone broken will make you whole

Perhaps you have a vulnerable neighbor or relative. Ask them if you can do anything to help, as this will shift your focus away from yourself and your racing thoughts.

These activities, and many more, can help you stop your patterns of overthinking and enhance your mental wellbeing.

4. Practice Gratitude

For many, this crisis has thrown into sharp relief the things we take for granted but for which we are now incredibly grateful.

Most of the time, we don't think about things like having a house, a warm bed, food, electricity, or running water.

But our life in quarantine, tough as it is, would be hell without these basic amenities.

Taking time to reflect on the things for which you are grateful improves your physical and mental health, which is more important than ever at this time.

It also trains your brain to focus more on the positive than the negative, which can help stop overthinking.

Try to write down at least three things for which you are grateful each day, and watch how your mindset shifts.

Honor Your Emotions Without Overthinking

It's normal to be experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions right now, and it is important to honor those emotions by allowing yourself to feel them.

The practices in this post will help you get your mind under control by stopping you from overthinking.

This, in turn, will reduce the stress that overthinking induces.

Did you find these tips helpful?

How are you managing overthinking and stress at this time?

Let me know in the comments!


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Kristina Marie is Resident Mama @CalmaMama and she writes about motherhood and mindset over matter. Keen to share your insights and journey with us? Head over to our calm-a-mama.com/tribe

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