Sometimes when you are overthinking it can be helpful to get up, move around, and move away. A change of scenery can be just what we need to give our brain a break and give it something else to focus on.
But, there are plenty of times when you may not be able to just get up and leave or go someplace different. Maybe you’re at work, in a vehicle, or at a conference, someplace where it isn’t easy for you to simply slip away to gather your thoughts.
Taking a break from what you are working on or thinking about can help you come back with fresh eyes. Even if you don’t have much time, taking a short break can help boost productivity and concentration.
If you are stuck in a cycle of overthinking and can’t get away, there are a few techniques that you can do right where you are that can help center your mind.
Find a picture to focus on
When your mind is racing or stuck in an unproductive thinking cycle, looking at pictures can help you feel a sense of calm. When we look at things that make us happy or bring back positive memories it helps us slow down and focus on one thing at a time. This gives our brain time to get away from the barrage of thoughts that make us feel stuck or stressed. The pictures you look at can be anything from ones you have found searching online to photos you have on your phone.
What you can do
Find a picture to look at. This could be a landscape image from online, such as a National Geographic Photo, or simple a picture from your phone of a scene, person, or pet that makes you happy.
Focus on how the picture makes you feel. Does it bring up memories that make you smile? Is it a place you hope to someday go? Does it simply make you feel content when you view it? Fully immerse yourself in the picture and all the feelings that come along with is.
Don’t limit yourself to just one picture. Maybe looking at pictures of lush green forests reminds you of how much you love to be out in nature and how calm it makes you feel. You don’t need to find just one picture and stick with it, go down a rabbit hole of pictures that help you go on a short escape in your mind.
Keep track of pictures. Whether it’s bookmarking webpages or creating a folder on your phone of photos, keep track of the pictures that make you feel calm and content. The next time you are overthinking or feeling stressed or anxious, go back to your pictures to help ground you.
Write down everything in your head
Journaling can have a positive impact on our mental health by giving us an outlet for our fears, emotions, and ideas. It allows you to make order out of the plethora of thoughts and feelings taking up space in your brain. By getting things out of your head and into written words we are then able to see them in a new way and start to organize them. Once they are written down it can be easier to see which thoughts deserve a place in your head and which ones were just taking up space.
What you can do
Choose your writing medium. Don’t worry too much about what you use to write, it can be whatever is around you. Maybe a piece of paper, a note on your phone, or a text document on your computer. Choose whatever is easiest for you to use so you can get down to writing.
Start writing. Your overthinking brain may hesitate as it doesn’t know where to start, but you can start anywhere. If the first things that come to your head are more mundane or superficial thoughts, that’s completely fine, go ahead and write them down. Maybe it’s your grocery list or the tasks you plan to do after work. Once your start writing the words will flow.
Don’t restrict your thoughts. You may feel the need to fully think through what you are going to write or try to make it sound good. Try to resist putting structure on your writing and instead allow yourself to write whatever comes into your head.
Check in with your body and breathing
Overthinking can lead to anxiety and stress as our mind works overtime thinking about possible situations and outcomes. We can get so focused on our thoughts that we don’t realize the affect overthinking can have on our body. Maybe you’ve been tensing your shoulders, picking at your cuticles, or contorting your body in uncomfortable ways. Checking in with your body and breathing can help clear your head, making it easier to work through your thoughts. Even if you are not able to get away from where you are, there are still things you can do to reconnect and take care of your body.
What you can do
Focus on each part of your body. Start at the top of your body and make your way down, checking on each body part as you go.
Notice if any parts are uncomfortable. See if any parts of your body are uncomfortable or in pain. How does you back feel? Is there any pain in your feet? Does your jaw ache? Are your body parts sitting naturally or are you forcing any to be in an uncomfortable position?
Find ways to get comfortable. Move any body parts you can to a more comfortable position and work to relax any muscles that have tension.
Find a guide or tutorial to follow. If you are having trouble relaxing any parts of your body or you just can’t seem to get comfortable, there are sites that can walk you through stretches you can do at your desk or in your workspace.
When you find yourself overthinking and you don’t have the ability to leave or move around, there are still ways to help calm your brain and reset your thoughts. By focusing on something else other than what you are currently working on, you give your brain a chance to work through things on its own time. Taking breaks from what you are working on is just as important as doing the actual work. You can be more productive and efficient when you allow yourself to step away before coming back to refocus. Once you have been able to relax and get to a better physical and mental place, you can come back to what you were working on with fresh eyes.