Do you ever find yourself in the grip of relentless thinking, obsessive thoughts that go round and round in your head, keeping you awake at night and never reaching a resolution?
If you've had a loss or a major change in your life that's filling your mind it's too easy to get caught up in the cycle of overthinking. One client told me: 'I don't seem to give my head a break from worrying about how I will manage in the future,' while another told me about her wish to break free of constantly '...analysing thoughts and feelings'.
This kind of obsessive thought spiral can have a negative impact on your overall mood.
If you already feel sad, it can make you feel sadder, as well as leaving you less able to solve problems, sapping your motivation and leaving you feeling powerless and pessimistic.
It's time to get control over your thoughts and build a positive and energising mindset.
How to do it? Try these tips.
8 TIPS TO HELP YOU GET CONTROL OVER OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS
Realising when you're overthinking is the first key to making a shift. Be alert to your thought patterns and when you get that awful, 'here we go again' feeling as your thoughts take off down a well-beaten and negative track, stop right there and go to Step 2...
As soon as you can, immerse yourself in an activity which is absorbing enough to fill your thoughts and stop your ruminations.
If it's something you enjoy, all the better, but any activity that stops your brain chuntering will do. Make your distraction active and healthy, so not cake-eating, wine-drinking or telly-watching (unless it's a programme that stimulates positive thoughts and, ideally, action). You could: do some work, tidy a drawer, make a phone call, attack your paperwork or emails, go for a brisk walk or run, put on music and dance, spend time on a hobby, call a friend, groom the dog - anything that puts your mind elsewere.
Take a few minutes now to make a list of things you could do that would take your mind off your anxieties. Is there anything you'd need to get going on these? Get your resource kit ready, whether it's the right music on your iPod, knitting wool, new trainers, recipe ingredients.
It takes a very short time to distract yourself, and you don't need to do your chosen activity for hours (although by all means do if you wish!). The pay-off can be huge, both in breaking the cycle of rumination and in fostering more positive thoughts by taking action.
3 SAY 'STOP!'
Yes, say it out loud - even shout it.
When you notice your thoughts creeping back into over-analysis - and this can even happen during a distracting activity - say or think 'STOP!'
What could you do, to remind yourself to stop overthinking?
4 SET TIME ASIDE TO THINK
A simple but effective way to trick your mind is to say to yourself that you'll have 'thinking time' for a set half hour every day, and that's when you'll do your mulling over and analysing. When thoughts crop up at other times, set them aside to attend to at 'thinking time'. The chances are when that time arrives, you'll either forget to do it, or the thoughts won't seem as troubling as they did earlier on.
5 TALK OR WRITE ABOUT YOUR CONCERNS
Getting your worries out to someone with a sympathetic ear (but not someone who will rev you up into a worried state again - choose your listener carefully), or journalling about them can be a good way to clarify your thinking and get a fresh perspective on your worries.
6 STEER CLEAR OF TRIGGERS
Take note of when you're most likely to get caught up in obsessive thoughts, and take steps to avoid the triggers or shift the thoughts. For example, I used to find my mind going into overdrive when I was walking down into town. Now, I aim to observe the colours of the trees and sky, listen to the sounds around me and be more aware of the moment I'm in, than off and away in the realm of all that may never happen!
7 ASK A QUESTION
And the question is - will this matter in a year from now? Life has a habit of sorting itself out, and the future will unfold whatever we do, so take a fresh perspective and look back on today's worry as if from a year hence. How much does it really matter?
If you feel that it will be important in 12 months time, what can you learn from it? What are the possibilities here?
8 WORK TO BUILD YOUR SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE
The better you feel about yourself and the more confident you are about how your life is working out, the less likely you are to get sucked into overthinking.