Thinking is a wonderful skill. With it, we’re able to solve complex problems, imagine many possible outcomes, and tackle complicated ideas.
Overthinking, however, can be a setup for developing an anxiety problem. Even though planning, worrying, and catastrophizing may help us deal with immediate anxiety, overthinking keeps us stuck, feeds the anxiety cycle, and leads to procrastination and mental fatigue.
Here are three actionable steps to stop overthinking using ACT and Exposure Therapy skills:
1) Shift Your Spotlight of Attention
When you find yourself overthinking, try shifting your attentional spotlight away from thoughts that invite more worrying. Try to throw your attention into the present moment, again and again and again.
This small shift can help you build a stronger attentional muscle, make you better at ignoring unhelpful worried thoughts, and will put you on the path to stop overthinking.
2) Stop Judging Your Thoughts
You are not your thoughts. Your brain is a pattern-making machine that feeds you information in the form of automatic thoughts.
Some thoughts are helpful, like the ones based on accurate patterns derived from your experiences. Other thoughts- maybe based on faulty patterns or steeped in emotion- may be totally unhelpful or downright absurd (just think of the many thousands of strange, random thoughts you’ve experienced over the course of your life).
Just because you’re having thoughts about something, it doesn’t mean the thoughts are true, important, or worth spending time on. What is does mean is that judging your thoughts is often a fruitless exercise.
The better you’re able to catch your thought judging, the better able you’ll be to stop overthinking before it starts.
3) Stop Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth– what we call multitasking is actually the rapid shift of the attentional spotlight between various focus points. This is an inefficient and cognitively exhausting practice.
If you find yourself constantly multitasking, try to bring your attention to a single task in the present moment. Instead of turning on a podcast AND watching YouTube videos while you take your lunch break, try just focusing on eating lunch.
Practicing bringing your attention to a single task- again, again, and again- in a mindful, nonjudgmental way. This flexes your attentional shift muscle and invites present-moment awareness, which is the antidote for anxious spiraling.
You can learn to stop overthinking using simple techniques from ACT and Exposure Therapy. Practice shifting your focus, stop judging your thoughts, and drop the multitasking habit.
Whether you’re looking to control anxiety or seeking relief from constant thoughts, these strategies can help. Remember, it takes time to conquer overthinking, but with these straightforward methods, you can lead a calmer, more resilient life without letting anxiety rule your mind.
Learn more about how we can help with Overthinking and Anxiety Treatment.