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Last Updated on September 2, 2019

15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything

15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything

Would people call you a “worrier?” Are your fingernails bitten down to little nubs because you’re constantly thinking about the general “what ifs” of life?

Think about how much you’re missing out on because of worry. Does it take you away from fun social events? Does it impact your performance at work? Does it keep you from getting close to someone in a new relationship? How could having simple resources at your fingertips to stop overthinking so much impact your life for the better?

Worrying itself isn’t a disease. In fact, it’s a problem a lot of people face. But when you let overthinking take over your life, it can eventually turn into anxiety. Thankfully, there are things you can do to stop overthinking about every little thing — That doesn’t mean you ignore the hard stuff, it means you can take a breath and relax a bit more!

Of course, it takes practice and time to stop overthinking after years of making it a habit.

By utilizing some of the tips listed here, you can start to find some peace and freedom from the things that plague your thoughts each day.

1. Realize You’re Doing It

The first step in putting a stop to overthinking about everything is to acknowledge that you’re a worrier. Think it sounds easy? Not exactly.

It’s hard for us, as human beings, to admit we’ve got a problem — big or small. However, realizing that you overthink things is the only way you’ll even have a desire to put a stop to it or make a change.

The next time you catch yourself worrying about something, pump the brakes. You don’t have to dig into the underlying cause of that worry just yet. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you might be overthinking the subject.

That simple “pause” and acknowledgment can help you come back to the reality of the situation and make it feel less scary and overwhelming.

2. See the World — or At Least Your Community

Did you know that travel is scientifically proven to ease anxiety, stress, and depression? Sounds like a perfect excuse to buy that plane ticket and plan a trip to go backpacking in Europe, right?

Traveling can help to give you a new perspective on life. It also gives you something to look forward to, which can be a welcomed distraction from your worries.

To put it simply: a holiday can make you happier. A 2002 study performed by the University of Surrey found that people who know they have a vacation coming up are happier.[1]

It also helps to give your brainpower a boost and increases your overall satisfaction with life. More satisfaction means less time to worry!

The good news? You don’t necessarily have to leave the country, or even your state to take advantage of the benefits of travel. Explore your community, spend a night at a local bed and breakfast, take a staycation or take part in a local tourist attraction you’ve never seen before.

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3. Don’t Believe Every Thought

Don’t believe the lies your own mind tells you.

It seems like a simple enough statement, but it’s hard to do for people who are chronic worriers or who tend to overthink everything.

The truth is, you have the power to take control of your thoughts. When negative self-talk creeps in, you don’t have to believe it. You can acknowledge it — and you should. But you have a choice on whether you let it take over. Just because your own mind is telling you to overthink about something, or be fearful about something doesn’t mean you have to.

Interesting concept, isn’t it? The best part is, you can put this tip into practice every time worry tries to slither its way in and ruin your day.

4. Distract Yourself

You can distract yourself from yourself.

When you overthink things, those thoughts and worries start to take over your mind. You can fight back against them by immediately doing something else that engages your brain.

This could include writing in a journal, doing twenty pushups, reading an article, or calling up your best friend. Whatever you can do to get yourself out of that moment of worry, take action and do it.

You might be surprised at how quickly the thoughts pass through when you don’t give them the power to take over.

5. Confuse Your Senses

Overthinking and worrying are mental activities, so if they start to take hold, do something physical.

You can essentially “shock” your senses by taking the power away from one area of your body and giving it to another. Sounds confusing? It’s not.

For example, if you start to feel fearful about the uncertainty of an upcoming event, splash some cold water on your face, or smell some calming lavender oils. Your brain will start to react to the sudden change, and you’ll have less of an ability to focus on the worrisome thoughts.[2]

Find whatever works for you to shock your senses, and keep it handy whenever possible.

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

You’ve probably heard this expression before, but when you’re an over-thinker, you should really take it to heart.

There are things in life you’re going to be able to control, and things you can’t. Recognize the things you can’t control and accept them for what they are.

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That means you’re going to have to let some things go. It’ll take time and practice, but the more aware you are of the things you can’t control, the easier it will eventually become to stop fretting about them so much.

There will always be bigger, more important things ahead, so don’t let the things that don’t really matter paralyze you with worry.

7. Go Easy on Yourself

You’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be.

That’s more than a motivational speech, it’s a reality. Perfectionism is often linked with overthinking and anxiety, but the two actually work in a vicious cycle. People often pursue perfection in order to deal with worry and anxiety, but that tends to make them even more anxious because it’s impossible to be perfect.

It’s not easy to admit and accept imperfections, but when you realize no one is perfect, you can take baby steps toward letting go of your worrying thoughts and give yourself some slack.

8. Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

Photography, especially nature and landscape photography, can reduce stress and help to distract you from your own worries and overthinking.

Why does it work? When you’re taking photographs, you’re in the present moment. You’re being mindful of the world around you and what you’re viewing through a screen. You won’t have time to worry, because your mind isn’t allowed to wander to your past or future, at least for a few moments.

Photography also allows you to open up your creative side, which is a stress-reducer, and a way to find more balance each day. You don’t have to become a professional — just find what inspires you and start snapping!

9. Get Your Hands Dirty

You don’t have to have a green thumb in order to take advantage of the benefits of gardening.

According to Psychology Today, gardening can provide you with mental health benefits like relaxation and mindfulness. It allows you to vent your worries, your aggressions, and even your excessive thoughts. It also gives you a healthy sense of control, which can offer a nice balance for someone who tends to think too much.[3]

If you’re new to the gardening game, start small and use some simple hacks so you don’t get overwhelmed. Plant some seedlings in eggshells to get them started, and use cooking water on your plants as a natural fertilizer.

Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful garden from all of your efforts, and an outlet to dig your worries away.

10. Listen to Music

Turn up the radio, put your headphones in, and blast your favorite tunes.

Music has many healing properties and psychological benefits. It can improve your concentration, reduce stress, and give your memory a boost.[4]

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Music can also help you to be more self-aware, which makes it easier to identify overthinking habits. When you’re actively engaged in listening or playing music, you’re more mindful of the moment and less worried about everything else.

Choosing to listen to music also offers a welcomed distraction, which brings us to our next point.

11. Get Up and Get Moving

Sometimes, sweat can be the best cure for a worried mind.

There are so many benefits to exercise, including a boost in your cardiovascular health and an improvement in mood. Aside from being a part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise also has psychological benefits.

Exercise allows you to set goals, which will keep you focused (and distracted from worries). You’ll also achieve a sense of accomplishment when you reach those goals. So, not only are you doing something good for your body, but you’re giving your brain a boost and kicking your worries to the curb in the process.

Bonus points: choose to exercise outside as spending time in nature has its own mood-boosting benefits![5]

12. Build a Budget

One of life’s biggest stressors is money.

In fact, according to a study by Northwestern Mutual, it’s the number one source of stress for Americans. On the flip side, the same study also found that most people feel happier and more confident when they know they’ve got a handle on their finances.[6]

If one of your major worries involves how much money you have, a simple solution is to pay more attention to it. Creating a budget, especially for a growing family, allows you to better identify your spending habits and decide where you can cut back and what your financial priorities really are.

Money might be a major worry for some people, but with a little extra time and planning, you can get it under control to the point where you’ll hardly ever have to think about it.

13. Practice Meditation

Meditation has been stereotyped into a corner for years, but it doesn’t have to be what you see in the movies.

Meditation is simply a relaxation technique that allows you to be mindful and focused on the present moment, rather than letting your anxious thoughts take over.

You don’t have to practice any special rituals in order to meditate. Finding just a few minutes a day to sit in silence, focus on your breathing, and let thoughts come and go freely can make a big difference in the overall health of your mental state.

It can take practice to clear your head, even for a few minutes, but try to make meditation a part of your daily routine and you’ll undoubtedly start to recognize the calming effects it can have.

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Here’re some meditation techniques you can try: How Do You Meditate? 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Practice Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is more than just a cheesy saying they told you at summer camp — it’s a necessity for someone who overthinks everything.

The benefits of gratitude range from physical to psychological. It can improve your self-esteem and increase your overall mental strength.[7]

By keeping a daily journal of things you’re grateful for, you’ll have something to reference and look back on in moments that feel overwhelming, or when you find yourself drowning with worry. Gratitude can give you a different perspective on things, so the situations you’re overthinking about become less important.

When you take the time to actually think about what you’re thankful for, you might find that there are fewer things to worry about.

15. Understand What Motivates Your Worry

Have you ever wondered why you overthink and worry so much?

If you take the time to think about it, there might be some underlying causes as to why you struggle so much with excessive worry.

It’s not easy to face your fears, but it’s also not easy to face what might be causing those fears. Find some time and a safe space where you can really look inside yourself to better understand your motivations, so you can take control of them and possibly get the help you need to get rid of them.

It’s not always easy to take back your freedom from fear, but it’s not impossible.

Final Thoughts

Worrying about everything can really take over your life, keeping you from experiences, relationships, and a sense of contentment. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

By utilizing some of the tips listed here and making them a part of your everyday life, you can kick worry to the curb once and for all.

More About Positivity

Featured photo credit: Caleb Frith via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Destroying You Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make) 15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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