How to Stop Overthinking in 2024: Know Cause, Signs & Symptoms, #19 ways to overcome

May 8, 202411 min
how to overcome overthinking a lady with anger due to overthinking

Have you ever wished that your brain had a shutdown button? 

If you have, it is because you might be overthinking.

What is Overthinking?

Overthinking is ruminative, intrusive, and anxious thoughts that you might dwell on for a long time. Handling it becomes difficult because overthinking is a sneaky little thing that can silently crawl and establish itself in your mind. 

Let's take the example of Aryan:

In the coming few days, his results for the CA finals will be out. Aryan had performed very well in the examination but unfortunately ended up reading an article on how tough the exams were this year. This acts as a trigger.

The thought of performing poorly in the exam enters his mind. He tried to brush it away. However, he cannot keep it at bay and lets the thought of poor performance plant in his head.

The thought now begins to amplify - thinking of all the negative things that will happen as a consequence of his poor performance. His thought progression might lead him to spiral and think about all the worst-case scenarios. The spiraling looks like

“What will happen if I fail?” 

“I will be a failure”. 

“How will I find a job with such low scores?”

“How will I support my family?”

“My life is ruined”

And there it is - the manifestation of overthinking. 

But is overthinking a mental disorder or illness? The answer is no. Although, it is associated with various psychological conditions like anxiety and depression. Overthinking can be crippling if not controlled or tackled correctly.

It can affect a person’s personal as well as work life. It is also accompanied by loneliness and isolating oneself. It is extremely crucial to control overthinking to curb all the symptoms it might cause.  Here are 19 ways in which you can stop, know the cause, and identify signs and symptoms of overthinking.

What are 3 Types of Overthinking?

Many people think that overthinking is a single unit, but it is of three types:

  1. Rumination: It is a mental loop where you dwell on past thoughts and mistakes. The feelings associated with it are usually negative ones. 
  2. Future tripping: This type of overthinking is associated with trying to think of what lies ahead. The uncertainty amplifies and aggravates the thought process, thus transforming into overthinking.
  3. Overanalyzing: Overanalyzing stems from the efforts to try and seek solutions to every problem placed in your way. One might descend into a phase of seeking invariably negative insights into every situation.

Why Do People Overthink Everything?

Overthinking can be set off by multiple reasons. It can be after a setback in the career, uncertainty of the future, breaking up a relationship, inability to fulfill your own expectations, etc. 

What are the 4 Main Causes of Overthinking?

Overthinking can stem from various reasons. Different reasons can lead to overthinking in various people-

  1. Coping mechanism to control the situation causing stress or anxiety
  2. History of emotional trauma
  3. Association with mental health conditions
  4. Amygdala hijack- This occurs when the amygdala activates the flight or fight response even when there is no serious threat. It hijacks the ability of a person to respond rationally to a threat. This can happen as a result of prolonged stressful situations. 

If you have been overthinking for a while, it can become a habitual pattern that is difficult to break out of. 

As much as it is important to know the causes of overthinking, one cannot ignore the signs and symptoms of overthinking. They are of a wide range and vary for every individual.

What are the 12 Signs and Symptoms of Overthinking?

  1. Inability to think about anything else
  2. Practicing perfectionism to the point that it impacts you mentally
  3. Thinking about the things that are out of your control
  4. Second-guessing your decisions
  5. Mental exhaustion
  6. Inability to relax
  7. Constantly reminding yourself of your mistakes
  8. Trying to find hidden meaning behind everything
  9. Dwelling on unimportant thoughts
  10. Difficulty in sleeping
  11. Thinking of worst-case scenarios
  12. Catastrophising

What Type of Person is an Overthinker?

There is no definite tag to a person who can be an overthinker. Most of us have probably engaged in overthinking at one point or another. The reason for everyone is different and so is the degree of overthinking.  

Overthinking can sometimes co-exist with other mental health difficulties such as

  1. Mental health disorders like anxiety, depression
  2. Eating disorders
  3. obsessive-compulsive disorders
  4. Difficulties with emotional regulation

Best #[19] ways to stop overthinking and Negative thoughts and be relaxed

1. Acknowledgement:

Whenever we descend into a space of overthinking, a lot of us might think that it is an overthinking disorder that we need to get rid of by all means. Well, that might work for a while but it is futile in the long run. Overthinking is like a boomerang. It comes back with a force. 

Although it doesn’t have to be like this all the time. The first step towards stopping overthinking and negative thoughts can be by acknowledging them in the first place. When you acknowledge that you are overthinking, you take your power back from the feeling of fear that has been ruling you for so long. It helps us calm ourselves down or at least gives us the power to tackle it effectively. 


2. Adopt a third-person point of view

. Dr. Julie Smith talks about using this practice in her book “Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?” Adopting a third-person point of view simply means perceiving the situation as an outsider. 

For example, you are somebody who deals with relationship anxiety. Dr. Julie Smith suggests that taking yourself out of that situation can help you to analyze the situation better. Observe the situation as a person who is not a part of this relationship. This allows you to give your partner a benefit of doubt and not react as strongly as you might have done in the past.

3. Train your attention 

Purposely diverting your attention towards something away from overthinking reduces its effects tenfold. When your attention is diverted towards something else, your mind cannot pay attention to overthinking. It effectively helps the thought from spiraling. 

For example, Tanisha used to complain about being unable to sleep at night due to overthinking. Seeing how badly it was consuming her life, Tanisha decided to purposely focus on things that would make her happy or use neutral diversions. She would count tables of 7 till she reached 1000. Doing this helped her focus her attention more on thinking about the numbers rather than overthinking. 

Training your attention to progress in a better direction is difficult but definitely possible. 

4. Set an MRP

Ever heard about Maximum Retail Price (MRP)? It is the maximum price that can be set for a product. We can apply a similar theory to our thoughts as well. This MRP will be the MAXIMUM RUMINATION PERIOD - the maximum period you will allow yourself to feel everything. Setting an MRP on your thoughts can help you bounce back from a situation that pulled you into overthinking. 

5. Filter your social media

The “Feel-Good” chemical Dopamine is usually linked to pleasurable activities like food, sex, and social interaction and motivates us to repeat them.  Unfortunately, social media has a similar effect on our brains.

It produces the same “Feel-Good” feeling in our brains. Social media can provide you with all the rush one has to feel in their lives but it also comes with a big wave of comparison, anxious feelings, and feeling inferior. Social media displays the perfect life for many but that is seldom the reality. 

To tackle this, you can filter your social media accounts. Consuming media that uplifts you can help you with ways to stop overthinking. 


6. Be present in the moment

Overthinking takes you on a long stroll down a very wrong path. If you are an overthinker, you might agree with the fact that there are times when you are present at a place physically but your mind is wandering in a different direction. 

Practicing mindfulness can stop you from wandering and not fixating on a single thought for long. 

You can practice mindfulness by bringing yourself back to what you are doing in the moment. For instance, if you are walking, try and focus on the sights and sounds around you. 

7. Meditation

“Oh darling, you should just try and meditate.” Overthinkers are tired of hearing this, aren’t they? 

However mundane it sounds, it is effective. Studies have shown that meditation leads to a reduction of the effects of the Amygdala hijack and brings back our prefrontal cortex (the rational center that helps regulate our thoughts and emotions). The effects of meditation hold steady even after one has performed it. Surely, mastering the practice of meditation takes time but it is extremely effective even when you have just started. 

Doing this simple exercise can help you relax and improve the quality of your thoughts. You can also use guided meditation to help you get started with meditation.

8. Breathe in….and breathe out

Breathing has also been shown to be effective in calming oneself at the biological level which further helps to calm down our thoughts. Like others, this is also a practice that gets easier to do with regular practice.

Here is a simple 4-7-8 breathing exercise- 

  • Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. Make sure you are in a comfortable position. 
  • Inhale for 4 seconds 
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds 
  • Exhale the air for 8 seconds

9. Observe and identify your Negative Thought Patterns

Every negative thought has a trigger. You can actively recognize the patterns that have been repeated in the past and this can help you to stop yourself from slipping into a phase of overthinking. 

For example, you dealt with constant anxiety to perform well & deliver exceptional results. Whenever you fail to do any of these things, a string of negative thoughts is tugged. This can be stopped by observing the patterns.

Ask yourself questions like:

  1. In which situations do I start to overthink?
  2. What can be the possible cause of overthinking?
  3. How does my body react to it?
  4. How do I usually handle this situation?
  5. What impact does my reaction have on the overthinking?

Answering these questions might lead to identifying a common source and behavioral pattern. Knowing about your negative patterns can help to identify when to mobilize strategies to stop overthinking and negative thoughts. Reflecting on your responses to overthinking and whether they are helpful or unhelpful can also point you in the direction of what is working in your fight against overthinking and what isn’t. 

10. Positive self-talk

One of the most common signs of overthinking is constant self-criticism and second-guessing your own decisions. But will it do you any good? I guess not! 

Self-criticism and victimization can be tackled by positive self-talk. If you are thinking - cheering for yourself, celebrating your achievements, forgiving, and learning from your mistakes, you are right.

You can also imagine your most confident and fearless persona and start acting like that in real life. Such practices are nurtured over time. When you try to pull yourself out of that zone, you might first think about your achievements only cognitively, but over time, you will learn to celebrate them with much more pride.


11. End Perfectionism

Perfectionism comes with a big baggage of expectations and rules. When these expectations are not met, you tend to feel like you have failed and this sets a definite course for overthinking. You have to accept the fact that a person and life cannot be perfect at all times. You also have to acknowledge that you are constantly growing and learning along the way. It is okay to make mistakes. Remember that mistakes always come with the opportunity to learn from them and progress in the correct direction.

12. Engage yourself

You can shut down your overthinking by engaging yourself in an activity that you enjoy. It can be going back to a hobby you loved in your childhood or learning something new. Instead of thinking about what causes overthinking, engage yourself. 

13. Get therapy

Never think that you are alone in this journey. You can always seek professional help from therapists who can support you in learning tools to identify the signs of overthinking and reduce the symptoms.  

14. Practice gratitude:

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health backs the fact that people with a grateful mindset report higher satisfaction with life, strong social relationships, and more self-esteem than those who don’t. Gratitude can be practiced in multiple ways:

  1. Writing it down
  2. Redirecting your thoughts
  3. Say thank you often 

15. Perform physical activity

What causes overthinking to manifest so strongly is our inability to take any action when we spiral. Exercising in any form can be beneficial to curb overthinking. Exercising helps release endorphins (a type of hormone in our body) which can lead to an improved sense of well-being. 

16. Practice self-compassion

Being too harsh on yourself for the mistakes committed in the past or trying to achieve excellence in every aspect might take you on a terrifying ride of overthinking. Practicing self-compassion eases the additional burden you put on yourself. Self-compassion can also help when situations around you seem unfavorable. 

Here is one way to practice this: 

Think of the person you love the most in the world. For example, your mom or a friend. Now imagine your mother or the friend going too harsh on themselves. How would you feel about them saying bad things about themselves? You’ll feel bad and will want to ease them by saying compassionate words. Try talking to yourself as if you are speaking to a loved one. 

17. Listen to your favorite music

Many people focus so much on how to stop thinking about thinking. The most fun way to tune out of overthinking is to tune into music. Listening to music impacts the psychobiological system of an individual directly. It reduces the levels of stress [cortisol] hormones in our body. So we would suggest you turn on your favorite jam and let music flush out all your clogged thoughts. 

favorite music-can-help-you-overcome-overthinking

18. Put a full stop to comparison

A lot of our insecurities stem from comparisons done around us. It might be unintentional or might be deliberate. And of course, thanks to social media, the never-ending cycle of comparison continues.

Comparing oneself often comes with feelings of inferiority and thinking that your life is not good enough….or worse - you are not good enough.

Here are certain tricks that can put a full stop on comparison. 

  1. Focus on your strengths
  2. Acknowledge and be proud of your journey
  3. Refrain from overly focusing on what is happening in other’s lives.
  4. Develop a grateful mindset
  5. Learn to love enough

19. Face your fears

Seneca, the Roman philosopher wrote -“We suffer more in our imagination than in our reality.” When we are held back by the fear of failing or embarrassing others, the suffering is unimaginable. When you are at a crossroads of deciding between facing your fears or silently retreating, you must choose the first one. 

Of course, this one is easier said than done. You will have to practice daily. Breaking down barriers one by one will help you gain confidence and slowly diminish your overthinking.


The suggestions given in this article can help you overcome overthinking and reduce it to a minimum. However, keep in mind that learning how to manage overthinking takes time. It is a slow process and consistent efforts and practices can help you master it. 

Do not sweat, life is a marathon to be run and not a race to be won. 


  1. Effects of gratitude intervention on mental health and well‐being among workers: A systematic review - PMC (
  2. Neuroanatomy, Amygdala - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (
  3. The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response
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Clinical Psychologist