It’s amazing how sometimes our mind tends to scare itself into madness with self-talk. Think about your last failed job interview, or screwing up in a presentation. Does your mind goes “I’ve just ruined my future“, “I’ll probably fail again, so why don’t I just quit“, or “I must look like a total fool“. And if you’re suffering from anxiety, those overthinking could just ramp up on turbo mode, and within minutes, you felt like the biggest loser on earth.
I used to suffer from deep anxiety in the past, and even have short bouts of it at times now. Articles and friendly advice that suggested you to “think positive” or “don’t be such a pessimist” often backfire. Can you relate? When it comes to stopping overthinking and excessive worrying, it’s much more than reading a few self-help books and hoping that your mind will stop behaving in a destructive way. It is going to take more than intellectual understanding to snap out of it.
Battling anxiety is not a single war that you could win overnight but a series of battles that only make you stronger if you know how to. I’ve had my fair share of issues with anxiety for the past 15 years. These by far are the most effective methods for me to stop overthinking and worrying when anxiety struck.
How To Stop Overthinking And Worrying (5 Techniques)
Let’s be clear that it’s impossible to eliminate all form of worrying and overthinking. In fact, a healthy amount of worrying is actually good for you. It’s only when overthinking and worries paralyze your mind that you need to do something about it.
1. Break Your Thoughts Habit
We’re all creatures of habit. That means our action, speech and thoughts are all driven by habit. The condition that we grow in shapes up our early habits. Our social environment, workplace stress, and relationships define how we react. Sometimes, certain thought habits could be born out of traumatic incidences.
Habits are hard to break when we’ve been accustomed to it for years. Our thoughts happen so fast that it’s impossible to actively change the process there and then. But here’s one technique that I discovered unintentionally while I was going through Harv Eker’s course; the use of mantra.
It may sound funny and a far cry away from other techniques that you may have heard of but it works. I went through an online program by Harv Eker’s that changes the way we think about wealth. The point is, it requires us to recite mantras as our daily practice. Something like “I’m a spiritual millionaire” 5 times before each meal.
I was skeptical and dubious on what it hope to achieve initially. But after a couple of weeks doing, as requested, I find that it has an effect on my thought patterns. Where I normally would have negative reactions when things messed up, I found myself being aware of my thought intention, just a moment before being plunged into another bout of excessive worries.
Now, the key to this method is not the mantra. I personally do not believe that the mantra carries magical power, but the effectiveness of the process where you disrupt your routine thought habits so that it affects your other thought reaction as well.
2. Have A Worry Period And Create Positive Momentum
This is the contrary approach to “change your thoughts” or “think positive“. In reality, when you’ve gone through a long period of excessive worrying, you have pent up frustrations and negative energy that has to go somewhere. Think about a can of Coke that has been shaken and the built up pressure.
Set up an interval where you can worry and be obsessive with your thinking safely and comfortably. I personally enjoy my worry period in the comfort of my home. It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 minutes or a couple of hours. The key thing is to turn your negative energy of worrying into a huge momentum to propel you forward.
Here’s exactly what I do after my worry period that creates a powerful positive momentum. As soon as I finished obsessing, I start working on stuff that I worries about. If it’s about money, then I’ll start sending proposals and pitches for jobs. If it’s about health I go for a heavy workout routine.
It needs a slight nudge of discipline on your side to spark this awesome powerful momentum that will drown your worries in the coming few weeks. And because you take action after you allow yourself to worries, it is easier to do so. You’ll find that your mind automatically shrugs off any overthinking that comes along the way.
Do try it out the next time anxiety struck, and let me know if it works for you.
3. Set A Higher Goal And Purpose
When your only immediate goal is to stop your anxiety and get better, you’ll often fail. That’s because you focus all your effort on overcoming anxiety and nothing else. While it’s true that you have to take proactive effort in dealing with anxiety issues, obsessing with anxiety itself can develop into secondary anxiety.
This is personally true for me a few years ago, when I’m trying to battle both anxiety and depression after a divorce. You’ll lose sight of life in general and things often don’t get better. That change when I shifted my focus on a goal much wider than myself.
Try helping out on your local community projects. Some have noble goals like helping cancer patients. When you spent more time committed to making a better world for someone else, you’ll find that yours improve unknowingly. Or you could start a blog like this to help others with their anxiety.
If anxiety is represented physically, it could be a wound in our mind or some allergic rashes along the neuron pathway. It doesn’t get better if you keep rubbing it. When you have a physical wound, you don’t keep staring at it after applying medication.
So set a higher goal that’s bigger than yourself and touches others meaningfully in the process. Offer your best in volunteering for others. It heals emotionally, and also take off the stress of your daily job. You’ll have less time worrying when you’re working on meaningful higher purpose. Check out VolunteerMatch for opportunities nearby.
4. Relearn Your Behavior With Hypnosis
If you’re still trapped with the common misconceptions of hypnosis, read this. It is by far the best method that is both cost effective and efficient to bring calm to my mind almost immediately. As pointed out previously, our thoughts are formed by habits which have been developed over time.
Clinical hypnosis is a great method in changing our mind’s behavior and therefore our thoughts process. Recent developments have also seen hypnosis integrated with cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) and have been proven more effective than CBT alone.
While hypnosis is generally safe, you’ll want to ensure that it’s effective and not some random hypnosis script read by an unknown voice on Youtube. It’s one thing using hypnosis for entertainment but when it comes to treating anxiety and giving you calm and clarity, experienced hypnotherapist is the best option.
I personally use hypnosis developed by a professional hypnotherapist for my social anxiety and it has been working wonderfully in dealing with a few relapse. Here’s an in-depth review of my experience with the particular hypnosis track.
While you may find you start to worrying less after a hypnosis session, it takes multiple consistent session to totally change your subconscious behavior. That said, hypnosis may not work for you if you have a very weak focus, as you may be drifting away from the suggestions from the hypnotists.
5. Practice Mindfulness
You may have heard of mindfulness as it has grown in popularity especially in Western countries. The root of mindfulness practice could be traced to 2,500 years ago in ancient Buddhism, but the secular form of mindfulness is found to be effective in treating anxiety.
Put it simply, mindfulness is a practice to detach ownership of your thoughts, especially negative thoughts that occurs in excessive worrying. It encourages you to “live in the present” by not getting carried away with worries and regrets.
It is not some magical drugs that could stop your worries and anxiety overnight, but a practice that must be cultivated consistently for the benefits to show. The best way to get started with mindfulness is still the formal practice of meditation.
However, meditating while you’re deep with worries can be almost impossible, and some people with anxiety gave up when they can’t seem to find the “calm zone”. Here are a few methods that help to meditate in anxiety.
These methods work for me, and I do believe it may work for some of you even if we experience anxiety differently. If you have other methods that help you to stop overthinking and worrying, feel free to leave your comment below.