10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety and Overthinking
If you struggle with anxiety and overthinking, you aren’t alone. More than 3% of the U.S. population (6.8 million adults) struggles with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Yet, only 43.2% of that number are receiving proper treatment.
In turn, many go through everyday life while unable to grasp how to deal with anxiety and overthinking.
While traditional forms of treatment, such as medication and psychotherapy, are extremely effective, there are other ways to curb your anxiety. Throughout this article, we’ll lay out 10 tricks to stop overthinking.
1.) Take a Step Back
Do you find your thoughts often repeating themselves? Do you find this rumination is negative and leaves you feeling worse than you did prior?
Such thinking is common among people with anxiety. For example, someone with social anxiety may play out a conversation they had previously and consider every way in which they made themselves feel awkward.
Naturally, such thinking can be highly detrimental to your mental health. And it’s time to stop these thoughts in their tracks.
When these thoughts inevitably arise again, take notes. How is this affecting your mood? Are you irritated? Nervous? From there, you can consider the reason you’re experiencing such emotions and work to move past those inflictions.
2.) Develop Distractions
With these negative thoughts, it’s important for us to distract ourselves with positive actions. Such actions will look different for everyone, but a few examples include:
- Developing a new hobby, such as writing
- Going to the gym
- Learning new skills, such as playing the guitar
- Volunteering with local organizations
It’s important to incorporate these kinds of distractions into your life daily for about 30 minutes. This will ensure you have something to look forward to and to take your mind off the stress.
3.) Practice Breathing Exercises
Whenever thoughts are running through your head without your control, it’s important to institute breathing techniques. This will initially help to calm down physical anxiety and overthinking symptoms, eventually easing the mental ones as well.
If you’re not sure where to start, it can help to simply remind yourself to take deep breaths the next time you’re experiencing anxiety.
However, if you’d like to learn breathing exercises, many forms of meditation have been shown to ease anxieties and stresses. Some of our favorite includes:
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Belly breathing
- Body scan
- Guided meditation
- Walking meditation
While this may not be an option for everyone, practicing meditation daily may just be the 30-minute distraction you’re looking for!
4.) Move On From the Past
It’s common for people with anxiety to mull over the last 5 to 10 years and take deeper looks into where things went wrong. In some cases, such reminiscing is important in order to work past certain things, like trauma in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, as you can imagine, constantly going over the past (especially in a negative light) isn’t healthy for our mental health. And many readers may simply be reading to understand how to stop overthinking the past.
The truth is, many of the other tips within this article are designed exactly for that. For example, distractions or breathing exercises may be a key way to simply forget what happened to you.
Even more so, one of the most important things you can do is change the story you tell yourself. Chances are you look back on the best in a very negative light. If you were to go about this in a positive manner, you’d learn to appreciate things from the past and have an easier time moving on.
5.) Help Someone Out
With anxiety and overthinking, it’s only natural we spend so much time thinking about ourselves. But have you ever considered thinking about someone else as a means of distraction?
As mentioned, anxiety is extremely common and chances are you know someone else struggling with it. Even if not, everyone is going through their own struggles and a helping hand is always a welcoming sight.
Consider your friends, family, and those you think could use an extra hand. Maybe your mother needs help picking up the groceries because she’s been sick for some time. Or maybe your recently divorced friend needs someone to watch their children for a few hours?
When you consider other people’s needs, you’ll realize you’re not alone in your endeavor. Furthermore, doing something nice for someone else can be a great way to get perspective on what those around you are going through.
6.) Battle Negative Thought Patterns
While it’s briefly been discussed already, it’s important to better understand what negative thought patterns are and how they’re affecting you.
Medical professionals refer to this as automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Simply put, these are negative thoughts you experience suddenly, sometimes without origin, and often feel little control over. They’re usually centered around the emotions of fear or anger.
Chances are ANTs are causing much of the anxiety you experience on a day-to-day basis. And until you identify and address these thoughts, they’ll likely continue to plague you with overthinking.
In order to address ANTs, it can help to record them in a notebook when they appear. This can be something as simple as the first thought that appears to be something more complicated, like the core of these emotions.
Regardless, you’ll want to write down as much detail about ANTs as possible and really break down the emotion. From there, you can work towards finding alternate thoughts.
7.) Live in the Moment
“Living in the moment” is a loose term often used to justify loosely thought actions, but we’re not using it in this regard. By “living in the moment,” we’re talking about simply enjoying what’s already around you.
For example, if you’ve been working all day behind a computer and find yourself frustrated and stressed, why not simply unplug the computer and take some deep breaths? Observe what’s already around you and ground yourself in the here-and-now.
8.) Consider Other Perspectives
One of the biggest difficulties with anxiety and overthinking is the fact that we don’t often consider other people’s perspectives. While this isn’t healthy for obvious social reasons, it also causes us to get locked into our own point of view.
Taking a step back and looking at both your life and the world around you from someone else’s eyes can be liberating. For example, you may be worried about an upcoming event and your place in it if you have social anxiety. However, have you stopped to consider the fact that others are excited about such outings and, more importantly, enthusiastic to see you?
Beyond events surrounding your own life, you may feel anxious about things happening all around you - from rising inflation to the lingering effects of COVID-19. In such cases, it’s important to consider that others worry about these things, and your lack of control in these situations is also theirs.
9.) Embrace Your Fears
It may sound strange at first, but if you can come face-to-face with your fears, chances are you will feel better afterward. This is referred to as exposure therapy within a medical setting and has been found effective in helping people overcome their anxieties.
The simple reason is we often play up our fears by overthinking. In actuality, these fears are nothing to be too scared about.
For example, if you fear heights, it can help to partake in something that places you in a higher position. Or, if you struggle with social anxiety, it may be beneficial to force yourself into social situations.
Embracing your fears isn’t easy. Even more so, getting yourself to do these things on your own can be difficult. For this reason, it may help to bring along someone you can trust.
10.) Treat Yourself
When we try to figure out how to deal with anxiety and overthinking, we often forget to reward ourselves. Anxiety often plagues us with the idea that we don’t deserve to treat ourselves, but this is anything but true.
While embracing everyday mental wellness, it’s important to give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. This doesn’t have to be anything huge; a simple trip to your favorite restaurant or purchasing that video game you’ve wanted for some time is all that’s necessary.
As long as you remember to treat yourself - that you’re working towards something - the journey to overcoming anxiety and overthinking will be all the easier.