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6 Ways To Stop Overthinking

Ever feel like you have no control over your thoughts? You lay in bed and just replay something over and over and over and OVER again? You WANT to just let it go but feel like that is impossible? You start to feel exhausted, frustrated, maybe even angry, which only exacerbates the mental fatigue. You are not alone (not even a little). This overthinking cycle is called rumination and is often associated with anxiety.

I am going to share 6 little tricks to start moving your brain from restless to restful. But first, I am going to ask you to trust me, and to not give up. Anxiety is GOING to try to pull you back, to trick you into thinking it isn't working, that these ideas are foolish. Old patterns die HARD, so it takes resilience to break them. There is a reason we say "meditation practice", for instance. Yogis recognize that learning the skill of meditation takes MAJOR practice. Coping skills work like that too. So... if some of this feels silly, keep going anyway. Not only is the effectiveness of these skills empirically studied, but as someone who previously suffered from hellacious overthinking and now is cool-as-a-cucumber, I can personally attest to their value.

1) Get Grounded: When I was a kid, I was a dancer. They would teach all little-ballerinas-to-be to pick a focal point on the wall before we were allowed to start twirling so we wouldn't get dizzy. This visual often comes back to when when I think of how grounding mechanisms work. In essence, it is a way to intercept a thought before it takes off uncontrollably and makes you dizzy. If you have ever been to therapy, you are probably going to guess the one that I am about to suggest, as it is quite the crowd favorite among us cardigan-wearing therapists. Grounding Technique #1: 5-4-3-2-1: Look around your immediate surroundings and quickly, name the first 5 things you can see, 4 you can hear, 3 you can touch, 2 you can smell and 1 you can taste. Grounding Technique #2: ROYGBIV: Same sentiment as above but use the colors of the rainbow.

Yes, I realize this might come off as infantile, arbitrary or just plain ridiculous, but it WORKS! Imagine your thoughts are like snowballs going down a hill. The farther down the hill they get, the more they build momentum, power and speed and the harder they are to stop. Grounding mechanisms are like chucking items at the snowball in order to get it to slow down. If you find yourself back to overthinking (and you will), that's totally normal. Do it again. The more you practice intercepting your thought cycles, the easier the skill will become.

2) Change Your Temperature: Ever wonder why we say "hot headed"? Well, it's partly because when we are emotionally triggered, our temperatures literally rise. Lowering your body temperature not only can get you to cool down, but can also offer some relief and distraction from cyclical thoughts. Hold ice cubes. Take a chilly (or hot) shower. Go outside. Use a cold compress or ice roller.

3) Drop and Do Push-Ups: Nothing breaks thoughts like physical movement. Drop and do a push-up. Quick fire 5 squats. Do 15 jumping jacks. This doesn't require a major work-out, just enough movement to break thought spirals. Need to do it a few times? No problem.

4) Walk Through a Door: Ever leave your bedroom and go to the kitchen to get something and forget what you needed? There is some research that shows just the act of walking through a door reboots thoughts as your mind recognizes a small reset when entering a new space. I'd like to think that even if it is BS, just moving is helpful and this trick is both accessible and easy... so give it a shot.

5) Visualize: If you are creative, this might just be the one that works for you. Imagine that your thoughts are cars on a train. See them passing and understand that although you can get on the car, you can also just let the thought train roll on by. Not all thoughts deserve us hopping on board. Alternatively, imagine that thoughts are clouds, just simply something to observe and let float away. My personal fave is putting a thought in a red balloon and that letting that sucker go.

6) Lastly, challenge the thought. Simply asking "is this thought helpful?" can bring in some awareness and intention to the process. Reflection is a beautiful thing, but it comes with "aha!" moments. Rumination is just repeating the same thought over and over and over again with no real utility.

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