How to stop overthinking, according to experts
We are always thinking about something, be it doing a task at work, planning what to have for dinner or remembering to set an alarm – we have lots of thoughts everyday.
But there may be times when a thought gets stuck like a record, and we find ourselves overthinking things, particularly in these uncertain times during a pandemic.
Making a habit of overthinking has been known to have very real impacts on our mental well being, leaving us often dwelling on negative aspects in our lives.
But is the act of overthinking itself a mental illness?
Is overthinking a mental illness?
Overthinking is not a mental illness, but it can be a symptom of another underlying mental health issue.
Dannielle Haig, Principal Psychologist from DH Consulting, told Metro.co.uk that ‘overthinking and excessive worrying can certainly be a debilitating problem however, it’s not a disorder but a symptom of various disorders such as Anxiety, Depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).’
Overthinking tends to happen if you are worried about something in particular – the mind will overact and spend excessive amounts of energy on looking for solutions to problems, real or imagined, which can often prove to be exhausting.
We are all guilty of overthinking from time to time, but if it is becoming excessive then it’s important to start taking control of your thoughts.
Lyni Sargent, Trainee Art Psychotherapist from Starleng Arts, also believes that those with a diagnosis of mental ill-health may find they overthink as a symptom of the illness, but also points out that many people overthink without an illness.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘It is important to not assume that we have an illness because of one symptom, however medical attention must be sought if we find that we can’t cope and we experience more symptoms of a mental illness.’
How to stop overthinking: what the experts say
There are many ways that you can address your habit of overthinking, ways that aim to calm your mind and help you think more clearly.
Danielle Haig shared that the most important thing to do first is to be self-aware: ‘You must catch yourself overthinking to stop yourself.
‘A great way to do this is to say out loud, “Stop!” it really helps to verbalise this to break this loop of worried thoughts.’
A lot of people who overthink often distract themselves with unhealthy habits like drinking or binge eating – Haig recommends other forms of healthy distraction such as reading, exercising, mediation, dancing or listening to music.
Ryan Hodgson, health and lifestyle coach, echoes this approach of addressing aspects of your lifestyle, and recommends the following:
- Ensure you’re getting enough sleep
- Be active at least 30 minutes a day
- Eat a nutrient dense diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Get out in the fresh air and in touch with nature
- Try and do things you know bring you happiness
- Take a look at the stresses in your life, are there perhaps triggers to your suffering?
Irene Moore, founder of wellness brand Light Garden Shop recommends the use of a journal as a tool to write down your thoughts and worries or to simply scribble in for pleasure.
Allocating time for thinking is also beneficial, says Moore: ‘Start small by allocating daily ‘thinking time’ either first thing or just before you go to sleep so that you can wrap your head round everything that is coming up for you and ways you may be able to prioritise what to focus on first.’
If you find that self help measures aren’t helping, then it is important to reach out to someone close or a healthcare professional .
Seeking help and support for our mental health is incredibly important – If you find yourself, or someone you know in a mental health crisis then please do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to call your local doctor, Samaritans on 116 123, or text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.
Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover
This year, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Metro.co.uk has invited eight well-known mental health advocates to take over our site.
With a brilliant team that includes Alex Beresford, Russell Kane, Frankie Bridge, Anton Ferdinand, Sam Thompson, Scarlett Moffatt, Katie Piper and Joe Tracini, each of our guest editors have worked closely with us to share their own stories, and also educate, support and engage with our readers.
If you need help or advice for any mental health matter, here are just some of the organisations that were vital in helping us put together our MHAW Takeover:
- Mental Health Foundation
- Rethink Mental Illness
To contact any of the charities mentioned in the Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover click here
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