Mental Wellbeing

How To Stop Overthinking And Relax – 7 Powerful Ideas

how to stop overthinking and relax

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Do you want to learn how to stop overthinking and relax?

Do you want to stop spending time going over and over conversations in your mind?  
How about the hours you spend going through the pros and cons of a problem, becoming so stuck that you can’t come to a decision?  
I feel your pain!!
Overthinking is one of my ‘flaws’
I know from first-hand experience how hard it can be to stop going over something in your mind. 
(My personal favourite is going back over things I’ve said that I think were stupid and beating myself up about them).

What Is Overthinking?

The definition of overthinking is to think too much about something in a way that is more unhelpful than helpful.
It can also be defined as excessive thinking about details and losing focus on the big picture.
An over-thinker’s brain is a bit like that of a two-year-old, ‘constantly seeking answers’.
We are dying from overthinking.  We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think think think.  You can never trust the human mind anyway, it’s a death trap – Anthony Hopkins

Why Do We Overthink?


how to stop overthinking and relax


The thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to think about the past and the future.

Sometimes I envy my cats who live totally in the present moment.  Our ability to do a spot of time travel in our heads has, however, been an important part of human evolution.

Without this ability we wouldn’t be able to analyse and learn from past mistakes.

Nor would we be able to plan for the future.

All of our innovation and creativity would not be there.

It’s when this type of thinking becomes obsessive and stops us from taking action that it can become an issue.

It’s also unhelpful, not to mention a wasteful use of precious time to spend time going over and over things that actually, you cannot change.


What Are The Symptoms Of Overthinking?


Some signs and symptoms that you may be overthinking include:

If you are experiencing any, or all, of these, don’t worry, I have some powerful ideas for you to try in order to stop overthinking and relax.

The first thing I will say is that none of these are quick fixes, they all take practice.  They are all useful things to have in your ‘toolbox’.

If one thing doesn’t work, you may well find that something else does.  It might not be immediate, these tips become more powerful with practice.


1.  Change Your Environment




woman in woods


How many times have you stopped working on a problem and taken a break?  Then the solution pops into your head half an hour later?

That small shift in focus can give your brain more space for a solution to become obvious.

Simply getting up off your chair and going into a different room can help.

If possible, go outside.

In particular, try to take a brief walk amongst trees.  I love this research which talks about ‘forest bathing’ and how good this is for your health.

If you can’t get outside, why not bring the outside inside with some lovely house plants?

If it’s raining, go to a coffee shop or the library.


2.  Write It Down


Set a timer for ten minutes and write down everything about the situation which is concerning you.  I find it also helps to write down some positives alongside the bits that are worrying me.

For example, I was recently at a meeting where the discussion didn’t go as well as I thought it could have.

I was going over and over in my mind, what I’d said and what I thought I could have done better.  I wrote this down, along with some learning points for next time.

What I also did was write down the positives from this hour-long meeting.  I noted that there were a number of points that were resolved

I also noted that we had come away from the meeting with some concrete actions to take forward.

The process of carrying out this exercise helped slow down my racing brain!

If it’s a future event that you are overthinking, then try writing down your possible courses of action and the pros and cons of each.

If it turns out to be something outside of your control where you can’t do this, then try to let it go.


3.  Meditate To Stop Overthinking


There are a couple of particularly powerful meditations I find helpful when I’m stuck in the overthinking ‘loop’.

The first one is to focus on my breathing (check out this beginner’s guide to this type of meditation).

The second way is to focus on sounds and thoughts.   Justin Brown from Ideapod explains this type of meditation in the video below:

If you would like to try a quick guided meditation which focuses on sounds and thoughts, I use the one below all the time.  (I find it helps me get to sleep at night too as a useful side effect!!)


If you don’t have time to watch the videos right now, here is a brief overview of how to do this meditation.

  • Focus your attention on what you can hear
  • Try not to name the sounds
  • If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to focusing on sounds
  • Don’t worry or judge yourself if your mind does name the sounds, this is just your thoughts trying to stay active
  • After a few minutes, shift your attention to your thoughts
  • Try not to get caught up in your thoughts, just notice them.
  • You can imagine them as images which come and go on a screen
  • Notice how both sounds and thoughts arise, stay for a little while and then disperse
Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation?  Claim your FREE  comprehensive 54-page e-Book ‘The Calm Mind’


4.  Create Different Identities


Another idea from Justin Brown at Ideapod which resonated with me was the notion of creating different identities.

Justin says that this might ‘ sound a little crazy’ but that it does work.  He says we need to create different identities in our mind and then fully embrace them.

For example, I’ve identified ‘anxious Alison’ who likes to think about all the things that could go wrong. 

I’ve also identified ‘angry Alison’ who gets very frustrated and irritated with things!

What Justin says to then do is to listen to those different identities and hear them out.  Don’t try to block out what they are saying.

Doing this can help us to feel more separated from that identity and for us to realise we are not our thoughts.


5.  Take Action


.action clipperboard



Identify one small thing that you can do right now and then do it!   This can help you feel more in control of the situation.

For example, writing the problem and your options down could be your first action.

Maybe you’ve identified that you need to make a phone call – so, now go and do it, right away, don’t put it off.

A couple of pointers for identifying the action you can take.  Writing things down can help but you may want to look externally for some advice.

By all means, discuss your problem with others to help you identify what action you need to take.  Be wary of having a discussion with too many people however, as this could confuse you even more!

The same thing applies to Googling for answers.  I’m guilty of letting this get a little bit obsessive and it ultimately doesn’t help!


6.  Exercise


Overthinking can lead to anxiety and puts us in a ‘fight or flight’ mode.  Very useful if your problem is you are about to be eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger…not so useful in the 21st century!

This fight or flight reaction leaves us with pent-up energy which has to go somewhere.  If we don’t do something to release this it will stay in the body and mind as tension.

A gentle walk outside for half an hour is enough to help release pent-up energy.  Ideally, if you can, then do something a bit more energetic that raises your heart rate a little.  I guarantee you will feel better.


7.  Distract Yourself




woman doing laundry


Mundane household tasks such as doing the dishes, a spot of decluttering or folding the laundry can help break the overthinking cycle.

You could also try the following:

  • Focus on the room you are in.  Name one thing that you can see, one that you can hear, one that you feel and so on through the five senses
  • Keep an object with you.  For example a paper clip or a coin.  When your mind is racing, pick up the object.  Concentrate on how it feels in your hand.  Is it smooth or rough, cold or warm?  Look at it, focus on its colour and shape
  • Immerse yourself in a hobby. For example, painting, reading, knitting, crafting – whatever takes your fancy

The ideas above can be really powerful in breaking the cycle of overthinking.

Some do, however, rely on it being daytime!

What about at night?  At 3 am when your gut is churning and your mind racing?

For this, you need something even more powerful.  Here are 7 little known tricks I use which can really help!


How To Stop Overthinking And Relax Right Now


To avoid overwhelm, I’d suggest choosing one or two of the ideas listed above to start with.

For example, try changing your environment the next time you catch yourself overthinking.

Or get your journal out and write down what’s on your mind.

I’d love to hear if you have tried any of the ideas I have covered and also any other successful methods you have to stop overthinking.

Leave me a comment and let me know!

Other related posts:

15 Practical Tips That Will Stop Your Mind Racing

5 Valuable Resources for a Positive Mindset

How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

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  1. Loniesha

    I think everyone has been a victim of their brains overthinking at some point. These are some awesome tips that I’ll be putting to use.

  2. Anonymous

    I have definitely been a victim of overthinking! I’ve used most of these techniques but I have never heard of the creating a different identity. Sounds like it could be a little weird, but I think I’ll give it a shot! Lots of love, Lavrax
    lavraxlondon.com xxx

  3. Marie

    I believe there are many people who could be helped by this. Your blog is just awesome. Marie XX

    1. Alison

      Thank you Marie, that’s so kind 🙂 I’m hoping that my blog will reach and help many people x

  4. Geraldine

    I still do this ALL. THE. TIME. It’s so hard not to! I appreciated the vids you added here. i love the tip about distraction and having a change of scenery :))

    1. Alison

      I still do it all the time too Geraldine although I am improving. Work in practice!! Glad you liked the videos 🙂

  5. Aimee

    Creating different identities is really an awesome idea! If you listen with empathy to that different version of yourself, you’re likely to give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself! It’s not necessary to beat yourself up over anything. Recognize your triggers and reactions, look for the lesson the moment is trying to teach you, be grateful for that lesson, and move forward!

    1. Alison

      I love this Aimee, yes create those different identities but also treat them with compassion 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    Great Post. Some fab ideas. I always find writing it down works for me, get it out of your head and onto something you can walk away from and come back to if necessary later. I liked the identity idea too.

    Steph x

    1. Alison

      Hi Steph, I’ve found writing things down useful too, wish I had discovered that tip years ago! Thanks for stopping by x

  7. Ashley

    This post is so helpful – I have just started to meditate to try and chill myself out – I will be following your other tips, such as walking outdoors – I can imagine it’s really helpful 🙂

    1. Alison

      Hi Ashley, thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 Hope you find the tips useful as you put them into practice. I will be posting more about mindfulness and meditation over the coming weeks, watch this space

  8. Cat

    Lately I’ve been overthinking more than usual and it has to do with the fact that I’m feeling the pressure to be great in college, every day I work and work and try to improve. But having low-esteem can ruin that sometimes. I’ve never meditate, but it’s something I should try. I really need to calm myself. This is a very interesting and informative post, that actually helps. I’ll keep it in mind and keep the videos you shared. Thank you!

    1. Alison

      Hi Cat, thank you so much for stopping by, I am so glad you found the post useful. I definitely recommend trying meditation. I find the sounds and thoughts one very helpful when my brain is racing. I would also recommend the app insight timer which has tons of free guided meditations (look for beginners ones to start). I would also ask yourself honestly who is putting you under most pressure to succeed? I often find that it’s me that’s trying to achieve everything and others don’t really mind if I don’t! Be kind to yourself x

  9. Sharon

    Learned so much from this post!
    Loved “The definition of overthinking is to think too much about something in a way that is more unhelpful than helpful” . I pinned this post as well ❤️.

  10. Kate | All The Trinkets

    I’m definitely an overthinker and though, I’ve only now come across the term ‘catastrophizing’, it is utterly familiar to me 😅 Definitely will try out one or two of these ideas you’ve shared! 🌻

  11. sab

    Thanks for sharing these. There are some great ideas I will try to follow in the future. Hope I can start soon with point 1…. fingers crossed.

    1. Alison

      Thanks Sab, hope you find the ideas helpful. They are tried and tested on yours truly so I can confirm they work!

  12. Nikki

    This is a great post! I’ve never read #4 before and it’s the best tipI’ve read on how.to separate from our thoughts! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Ts

    What you all said is true and it really works I just wanna know how did you find out all this and what I would like to add on the distraction list is PRAYING like some of us watch movie spend our day on our phones and stuff like that to stop thinking. it just distracts for a little time so why not pray and let it go well it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t care about it but we will not be anxious at least

  14. Ts

    What you said is all true and it really works I just wanna know how did you find out all this and what I would like to add on the distraction list is PRAYING like some of us watch movie spend our day on our phones and stuff like that to stop thinking. it just distracts for a little time so why not pray and let it go well it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t care about it but we will not be anxious at least
    And also thanks it was helpful

  15. Cate

    I’m also an over thinker and appreciated this article so much! I was still stressing thing morning about something that I said last night (that’s how dumb my mind is haha). Writing things out really does help me though, get it out of my mind and move on.

    1. Alison

      The daft thing is that the other person probably doesn’t even remember what you said! And yet we still do it to ourselves…Glad I could provide a timely reminder 🙂

  16. Heather Ritchie

    That guy above saying I said that stupid thing 5 years ago is me! Overthinking can really be paralyzing so I’m so glad I found this article. I’m going to try meditating and writing it down. Writing things down is the perfect way to get things off your chest. Thanks for these great tips.

    1. Alison

      Ha, yes he is me too! I’m not quite as bad as I used to be but can still get stuck in that loop from time to time…Meditation and writing things down definitely help.

  17. Jen

    I love this list and especially how you talk about taking action. That’s so important to be able to accomplish anything, otherwise you get stuck in analysis paralysis

    1. Alison

      Thanks Jen. Yes, sometimes it’s hard, but taking one small step of action can help get you unstuck 🙂

  18. Jenny

    Wow, what I needed today. Such a weird time in life and I sometimes don’t know what to do with the mental racing and energy. Yesterday, I took a loooonng walk and listened to a great podcast that taught me something new. I felt so much better after and was able to relax. I feel like writing things down helps, too. That is the perfect suggestion. Grabbing a pen and paper now.

  19. Sonia Motwani

    This post was so super helpful especially now when I am lost due to my overthinking. I can feel this to my heart. Thank you so much for listing out all the helpful resources. Sending you love and light.

  20. Gail Williamson (Found and Bliss)

    Hello Alison, I found you on the CircleSquareOval site of Favorite Positivity Blogs. Thanks for this valuable post which is a good reminder to all of us. I have also followed you on Twitter.
    I write about Mindfulness in the Everyday shared through stories from the side streets of Life. https://foundandbliss.blogspot.com and will be sure to return for more of your words. Have a mindful day!

  21. Dharma Rocks

    I am a chronic over thinker, so I found this really useful, thank you!! I love the idea of detaching yourself from your emotions and seeing them as another “you” to understand. Deffo going to give that one a go! 🙂 xX

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