Jeri Coast, LCSW spoke with the U.S. News and World Report on 13 expert-approved tactics to stop your unproductive thoughts in their tracks.
As humans, we’re hardwired to think our way out of problems and away from predators. However, that can often result in catastrophizing when we play out different scenarios in our heads and spiral. Overthinking in the short term may help you feel in control, but in the long term, it can disturb your sleep cycle and ruin your day, according to Linda Sapadin, a clinical psychologist in Long Island.
“Worrying and overthinking is part of the human experience,” explains Jeri Coast, director of clinical operations at Lightfully Behavioral Health. “Anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress when presented with potential danger. or anticipating a future threat.” The reaction is normal and happens to all humans. However, sometimes anxiety becomes a chronic problem. In those cases, when it’s not problem-solving, but rather just spinning wheels, it becomes counterproductive.
The thirteen tactics include catching yourself, setting a deadline, taking a breath, listening to tunes, exercising, focusing on the now, and limiting exposure to anxiety-inducing media. Coast suggests that the “next time you find yourself continuously running things over in your mind, take note of how it affects your mood. Do you feel irritated? Nervous? Guilty? What is the primary emotion behind your thoughts? Self-awareness is key to changing your mindset and practicing self-compassion. ”
She adds that struggling with overthinking can make you feel stuck or unable to take action. “It can be hard to get the thoughts out of your mind or concentrate on anything else. When this prevents you from taking action or interferes with your daily life or wellbeing, this is when speaking with a mental health professional would be beneficial.”