Worry is part of everyday life. But if your anxious thoughts have snowballed into overthinking, you may need some help.
It's natural to worry about an event like an exam or a driving test. Being nervous shows you care about the outcome. Once the event is over, anxious thoughts usually disappear.
Overthinking is when you continue to worry. You may think you are just problem-solving, but it's actually far less helpful than your brain would have you believe. Rather than using your thoughts to improve your life, you can get stuck in a vicious cycle of anxiety.
When we feel vulnerable or uncertain about what's going to happen in our lives, overthinking can begin to take over. This can lead to a domino effect of increasingly catastrophic thoughts. For example:
I made a mistake at work > Will I lose my job? > How will I afford the mortgage or rent? > Will I become homeless?
This sort of thought pattern can quickly spiral out of control.
Self-reflection is useful when it helps us consider how we would act in the future. But continually thinking about how past outcomes could have turned out differently may not be helping your mental health.
In a recent survey of our MyHealth app users, 40% picked 'Anxious thoughts' as the health topic most relevant to them.
1. Set aside time later: if you're obsessively thinking about something, schedule a time later that day to do nothing but that, for example 6pm – 7pm. This can help break the cycle of overthinking.
2. Reframe your thoughts: Instead of thinking "I'm a bad spouse" rephrase it as "I notice that I'm thinking I'm a bad spouse". This changes your thoughts into beliefs. And beliefs are something your brain accepts can be changed.
3. Do something active: Move your body, even if it's to take a short walk. It's been proven that spending 20 minutes a day in nature nurtures our wellbeing (Source: Harvard Health) [open link in new window to https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/a-20-minute-nature-break-relieves-stress]. This doesn't have to be in remote countryside. Just try to step outside and connect with your environment.
4. Listen to music: Music taps into a different part of our brains and is a great way to disrupt negative thought patterns. Choose something which is the opposite to how you feel. Sing or dance along if you can.
5. Limit your social media: Social media can sometimes act as a trigger for anxious thoughts. Remove notifications from your phone and reduce the number of times you check-in each day.
Sometimes you need someone to support your journey back to good mental health. Our 24/7 GP service is here to care for you and your family.
We offer diagnosis, recommendations about treatment such as medication or therapy.
Discover more in our Anxiety section.