After a new poll tracking global emotions revealed record levels of stress, anger and worry, a psychologist has explained how you can stop yourself from overthinking.
The annual Gallup global emotions survey found that people in most countries are experiencing record levels of stress, anger and worry, marking an ‘all-time record-high’.
Coming at just the right time, Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of virtual psychology clinic, My Online Therapy, has offered some explanations and potential solutions to prevent overthinking.
Speaking to The Independent, Touroni suggests some reasons as to why we overthink, how overthinking affects our wellbeing and how to keep it from occurring.
Touroni explained how it’s possible to overthink ‘situations that are both actual and hypothetical’.
She said: ‘The way people start to overthink is in the guise of “preparing” for a situation. While this is normal and can be helpful, it’s when the preparation turns obsessive that we may find ourselves in the unhelpful overthinking phase.’
The worst time for overthinking for many is often at night. Touroni explained: ‘When your mind is idle, it’s more likely to obsess about topics that it wouldn’t be considering if you were doing something engaging.’
While overthinking can sometimes be a positive process in helping work towards a goal, Niels Eek, a psychologist and co-founder of wellbeing app Remente explained: ‘If you find that you are often fixated on small and insignificant things in your life, leading to heightened feelings of anxiety, perhaps it is time to step back and reassess what it is that is causing you to overanalyse.’
Overthinking, while having its occasional perks, can subsequently be damaging to your mental wellbeing if it occurs too often.
Touroni noted: ‘Finding yourself unable to stop playing images over and over again can lead to trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating on the situations you’re actually in. This in turn can cause irritability, more stress and anxiety.’
To prevent overthinking from occurring, Touroni suggests ‘distracting yourself with a favourite hobby or by doing some exercise. Focusing on trying to do those last five reps in the gym, knitting, painting, reading a book or playing an instrument really takes concentration, therefore pushing unnecessary self-destructive thoughts out of your head.’
Physical activity is not the only preventative activity for overthinking, however. Self-care, being kind to yourself and general mindfulness all aid in keeping overthinking at bay.
Touroni shared: ‘Mindfulness is almost the antithesis of this. The premise being mindfulness is not overthinking.’
Touroni also advises writing thoughts down, ‘when we write things down, they feel more manageable. Once the thoughts are written down, make sure you do something that’s going to divert your attention elsewhere.’
Ultimately though, if you are really struggling with overthinking and finding it hard to cope alone, then Touroni recommends speaking to a therapist ‘who can help you with tools and techniques for managing it.’
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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