Tips to Combat Overthinking

By: Fajr Zahid, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Well-being Leader

Overthinking is something that most of us have probably experienced at some point in time, whether it has been related to our personal lives or professional lives. While it is normal to reflect on and revise certain negative situations, experiences, or feelings from time to time, constantly engaging in negative thought cycles can be detrimental to your well-being. Mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, may especially be perpetuated by dwelling on distressing emotions and events. Therefore, it is important that you try your best to keep yourself and your negative thoughts in check.

If you consider yourself to be an “overthinker,” remember, there are plenty of strategies and techniques that you can incorporate into your life to prevent yourself from getting engulfed into uncontrollable negative thoughts. Here are a few:

1) Distract yourself – shift your focus from any negative thoughts you are having to engaging in an activity that you find joy and relaxation in. This is a great way to get your mind off whatever is bothering you, and instead helps to create a positive atmosphere for yourself and your mind.

2) Take deep breaths – while this may be hard to believe for some, practicing breathing exercises, or even just taking deep breaths during challenging moments, can be very beneficial in calming your mind down. By relaxing your breathing, you are calming your nervous system down, and bringing your mind and body to a state of relaxation, which can help relieve you of any distressing thoughts.

3) Learn to prioritize your thoughts – ask yourself if what you are overthinking about is worth the time, effort, and struggle that your mind is putting into it (the answer is usually no!) and focus your energy into other, more productive thoughts that will benefit your overall well-being.

4) Acknowledge the positive – while it is easy to focus only on the seemingly negative parts of your life, or yourself, doing so only draws you further into the cycle of negative thinking. When you find yourself overthinking about the things that you believe have gone wrong in your life, remind yourself of all the positive experiences in your life, as well as your successes and accomplishments.

5) Ask for help – don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, family member, or a mental health professional if you need help with managing your thoughts. It can feel very relieving to have someone to listen to you express your thoughts, and to even help you rationalize these thoughts. If you’re looking for someone to talk to on campus, you can make an appointment with Counseling Services.

I hope you found these tips to be helpful, and that you can incorporate them into your own life if you ever find yourself overthinking in a negative way. Remember, your thoughts do not define you, and you are more than capable of overcoming any mental struggles you may experience 🙂