Don’t believe everything you think: 3 ways to deal with overthinking

Don’t believe everything you think: 3 ways to deal with overthinking



As the saying goes in Dutch (but translated to English), I can make an elephant out of a bug in my head. Literally. Overthinking could come from a place of anxiety, and is often engrained in one's character. Some people don’t give any situation a second thought, but overthinkers give it too much. Whilst it is simply a characteristic and just part of who you are, it could seriously put stress on (or at times even be detrimental to) certain situations, events, or even entire relationships. But what even for? Thoughts are allowed to be there, but are never a direct representation of reality. Still, tell an overthinker that and they’ll just find a train of thought to prove the opposite. So as a chronic overthinker, and knowing how many of us students struggle with the same, here are 3 tips to help overthinkers steer the thinking train - and keep it from going off the rails. 


1. Distract yourself

When in a downwards spiral of thoughts, the way up again is very hard to find and maintain. Better to cut off the train of thought all-together, and start putting your focus on something totally different. And with that I don’t mean going on TikTok to mindlessly scroll for hours. Even though that might be tempting or easy, the attention span for social media is too short to really keep your mind of the previous thoughts. Instead, go for practical activities like cooking, painting, playing guitar, going to a new workout class, or even doing some knitting. In these scenarios, fixating on one specific activity often leaves no room in your head to focus on other things - especially if that activity is something you have never done before.


2. Write, write, write 

Coming from someone who loves writing, this might seem very niche or inapplicable to you if you don’t. But I’m here to tell you, writing does not have to be your passion to be helpful. When we start overthinking, it is so easy to develop this internal vacuum that keeps harder to get out of. Especially when there is no outlet for it, like talking to someone. But oftentimes when overthinking happens, the deeply personal thoughts are not necessarily something to share with others. In that case, a pen and piece of paper are your best friend. Let the overthinking train happen, but write it all down until you can’t write anymore. In a sense, you literally write something off your chest. And when you see the words in front of you, there might even be a point of realization where you see a lot of it doesn’t even make sense. And more importantly, that most of it is out of your control. So then, why should it affect your life so much? After this, your wrist might hurt, but your head and heart will feel 100 times lighter. And to make it even more ritualistic, you could even burn the piece of paper (safely!) to quite literally crush the thoughts. 


3. Take 10 seconds 

Overthinking could start at any time, wherever you may be. So logically, you might not have time (or perhaps not the energy or willpower) to grab a pen or do an activity. But even then, that downward spiral in your head is not too strong to beat. In those situations, take a deep breath and find one thing to focus on. A specific sound, object around you, or even a feeling. Feeling the wind across your face or even listening to your dog snore, it could be anything. Try to just focus on only this point for at least 10 seconds, whilst taking deep breaths through your core. And if the negative thoughts come back within those 10 seconds, start again from count 1. It might sound simplistic, like counting sheep, but in reality: Focusing on something factual/tangible within your surroundings could draw you out from your head and back into reality. And for that, you don’t even need much time or space. 


I could’ve just said “Stop overthinking,” but I know that only makes the overthinking worse in most cases. Overthinking is not necessarily something you can get rid of, but I have found that it is something to control. Catch it before it gets too bad. And yes, even using simple or drastic tactics, it is a process of trial and error before you find what really works for you. Accept the way you are, and realize that not everything is within your practical control.