What To Do About Overthinking?

5 Ways to Counter and Strategize Against Overthinking

By Amelia Garcia, APCC

Do you spend too much time in your own head? Find you have difficulty focusing on simple tasks, or experiencing sleep disturbances because your thinking about things you have or haven’t done? Chances are, you may be overthinking. 

The overthinking mind has difficulty translating actions and processing positive outcomes, so instead — it creates feelings of stress and anxiety. Overthinking is exhaustive, consumes energy, and could make you feel physically and emotionally drained. You may feel like your mental health is declining and you are becoming more easily agitated, or may even experience an increase in anxiety and depression. When your system overthinks, you spend too much time inside your own thoughts, which make you unavailable mentally and emotionally with friends, family and those around you.

Overthinking can take various forms: endlessly going back and forth deliberating between options and choices, then questioning the decision; reading into the smallest of details, running monologues in your head, criticizing and picking apart things you or others have said, worried that others are judging you or that you may have looked or been perceived as bad or in a negative light. The effects of overthinking could at times be unhealthy, creating an increase in anxiety, depression, fear, stress, fatigue, indecision, substance abuse, loneliness, sleeplessness, and suicide ideation. The next time you recognize you are overthinking, try one of these 5 strategies:

1. Stay in the present

You are not your thoughts, you have the ability to ignore overthinking, and use thinking as a tool when needed. Instead, choose to live in the present moment where there is no time to let overthinking consume you. Living in the present means letting go of the past, not worrying about the future, and enjoying the moment you are in. Make a commitment to remain present by spending a moment each day to remind yourself to enjoy the day for what it is and to make the most of it. Set reminders on your phone or put aside a block of time to focus on what the present offers. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and focus on your needs. Be aware of your surroundings, pause, and take a look and think about what’s going on around you. Enjoy being where you are. 

2. Find a distraction

Distractions are useful at redirecting the mind’s attention and overthinking process toward something else. By distracting yourself with uplifting and healthy positive alternatives, you can stop thinking about the pressing issue causing you to overthinking. Activities such as meditating, breathing, dancing or exercising are useful. Pick up a new hobby like learning an instrument, knitting, drawing or painting, can help distance your mind. Try setting time, perhaps 30 minutes every day, to explore your chosen distraction activity. 

3. Acknowledge your successes

By acknowledging your accomplishments, no matter how small you may think they are, you can feel more confident. Focus and appreciate what you are good at, what you have achieved, or those you have helped. When you recognize you are overthinking, stop, and write down or take notes. What are the five things you have accomplished? What’s gone right? What goals have you met over the past week? What role and influence have you played in them? Simple achievements of meeting your goals are huge; sticking to a weekly coffee budget, completing tasks at work, doing house chores, or cleaning your car. These minor accomplishments add up, and take on a cumulative effect, and can be helpful in feeling confident with yourself, thereby building you up and fostering resilience for when your overthinking tries to take hold.

4. Recognize automatic negative thoughts

Negative thoughts can become overwhelming, and it’s easy to get carried away in those thoughts. Automatic negative thinking may make you feel things will never change, that you are destined to feel miserable. By learning to recognize and replace negative thinking, you are able to minimize the stress and anxiety you may feel. Acknowledge your negative thinking and that it may be exaggerated. Use a notebook to record the event or situation that is giving you anxiety, the mood or feelings you are experiencing, and the first thought that comes to you automatically. Evaluate why the situation is causing negative thoughts; break down the emotions you’re feeling and try to identify what you are telling yourself about the situation. Try to change the original thought, for example: replace “I am going to fail this test” to “I will try my best”. 

5. Take action

Sometimes you are overthinking because you are not taking action about a certain situation. Be proactive and think about how you can achieve your goals, resolve an issue, or change certain situations. Try asking yourself what steps you can take to learn from mistakes, how to avoid future problems, or how you can grow and learn from others. This can minimize overthinking and channel your energy into actionable steps. 

If you need additional help and support with your overthinking and self-talk, please reach out to us to schedule an appointment. or call us at 510-619-2597.


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