Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

How to Be Present and Peaceful When You Can’t Stop Thinking

As popularly said, 

“Too little or too much of anything is harmful.” 

 The saying holds, even for your thoughts! 


Ruminating is a part of human nature. It’s when we repeatedly dwell upon the same thoughts or situation to the point where we feel we are trapped in the thought process and it takes a toll on our well-being.

We can either ruminate upon the past or be worried for the future and honestly, neither of them help! 


Jessica Foley, a licensed psychotherapist in Waltham, Massachusetts, says, “the hallmark of overthinking is that it is unproductive”


Some common negative or unhealthy thoughts are based on the following:

  • Reliving the embarrassing moments repeatedly.
  • Trouble sleeping as you feel that your brain just won’t shut off. 
  • “What ifs” are a common category of questions in your mind.
  • Always trying to decipher a hidden meaning of someone else’s actions or words. 
  • Regretting saying or doing something to someone or wishing to say or do something.
  • Not being able to focus on the present could mean you are dwelling into the past or the future. 
  • Worrying about stuff you have no control over


Being an overthinker, you must have wondered, why do you do this to yourself? Why would you think about the same thing over and over again only to find yourself hurt in the process?


So here we are, with the answer to the above questions. There can be a variety of situations that make you an overthinker. Some of which, include:


  • Trauma is a potential cause of overthinking. Neuroscience tells us that after experiencing trauma, like childhood abuse or neglect, our fight-flight-or-freeze response stays on high alert, scanning for any possible danger. In this state, we may experience obsessive or intrusive thoughts.
  • Those who have perfectionist or obsessive tendencies, as well as those who struggle to gain control could also find themselves spiraling fast. They constantly think about the mistakes that they made in the past or may make in the future.   
  • Anxious people may focus on future worries about things they can’t control like whether they’ll get sick or die. Someone with low self-esteem may ruminate on whether people like them or whether their partner will leave them.


If you don’t fit in any of the above, don’t worry, there are other causes that can make you overthink. It is important to understand the reasons and the symptoms of being an overthinker. It is also important to know how one can free oneself from the shackles of ruminating


Another important fact you must know about overthinking and anxious thoughts are that your amygdala plays a significant role in it. Your amygdala is part of the limbic system of your brain. It is involved in your reactive memories. Did you know that fear is also a lasting memory that repeats itself making you relive the trauma every time you have anxious thoughts? The survival instinct in your brain then activates in the presence of this dangerous threat, which is not always the case or a direct threat to you at the moment. This response stems from our ancestors and is a part of our monkey brain. Learning to adjust this response may help in developing the skills to regulate your nervous system. 


Nightmares are a leading cause of trauma memories reliving themselves. How do we get rid of the nights spent crying over things that aren’t in your control or the days where you just can’t focus because your mind is someplace else? Well, here are a few things you can do to help the brain focus on the present rather than dwelling upon things out of its control. Practices like somatic experience and brain reprogramming can assist in rewriting your memories so you are no longer controlled by them. 


1) Keep track of triggers and patterns

A little mindfulness and attention can go a long way towards getting a grip on overthinking. Keep a journal and write down particular moments that trigger you to overthink or worry. After a while, you’ll start to observe patterns and understand overthinking triggers before they happen. This will assist you to develop a coping method for conditions you already know will cause overthinking.


Daily rituals like journaling, meditation, or writing one line per day assist you to retain control over your mind. They additionally lessen stress, enhance focus, and increase self-awareness.


2) Let go of the past and the future

You need to remember, The past can not be changed — but you may change the meanings, lessons, and views and the way you perceive all of the above. Being present isn’t easy. It calls for practice. But every time you notice your thoughts ruminating about the past or wandering into the future, try and bring it back to this moment and think:

“All I ever have in my control is this present moment. I am the creator of my now and that is the only thing in my control.”


3) Manage Your Stress: Move, Unplug, Spend Time in Nature

Plenty of studies demonstrate exercising may improve depression, anxiety, and different mental health disorders. Exercise also helps you avoid chronic overthinking. Physical movement can also assist in shifting your nervous system out of fight-flight-freeze mode. This may assist to calm any trauma-associated thoughts you’re experiencing.


Stress and trauma live in the body long after we have been through it. It is important to notice where your stress lies. For instance with war veterans or people in accidents, the stress lies in the minute memories just before the incident happened. If and when you are ready you can find what hurts and where it hurts to know what exactly you have to restructure. 


A 2008 study revealed that the mind will become both calmer and sharper after someone spends time in a quiet setting near nature. Even a 5-minute stroll in the park may have an instantaneous calming impact on the mind. As anxiety is a reaction of thoughts, any physical activity will refocus your brain in another direction and give your brain a chance to breathe metaphorically.


Silence and solitude are most often the keys to silencing your negative thoughts. It is of significance to know that pain doesn’t define you.  Unhealthy thoughts may cloud your judgment. It is how you deal with the trauma and pain to become a healthier individual that matters. 


4) Practice Being Present

In the heat of overthinking, it is important to realize all of your energy is associated with unhealthy thoughts. This may make it difficult to refocus, but you can aim to focus on three things you can touch, three things you can hear, three things you can taste, and then gently bring your focus back to three memories that made you happy. Breathe. Focus. Where are you? What do you feel? What’s in your mind? What’s stressing you out? 


5) Seek help from a professional 

If ruminating appears to be taking over your mind more than you’d like, it is probably excellent to consult a mental health expert. 

If left unchecked, the stress related to overthinking might also cause physical health problems that should not be left unchecked:


  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems like nausea or diarrhea 
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hormonal Imbalance in men and women
  • Hypertension
  • Hard to maintain a healthy routine
  • Social anxiety
  • Trigger associated trauma causing severe anxiety


As an overthinker, we may feel that it’s easier said than done, and yes, we might find it difficult in the beginning to practice the above-mentioned steps to stop overthinking, but do always remember,

The word impossible itself says, “I’m possible.”

So try harder each time. As you may have heard, 

Life isn’t about falling 7 times, it’s about getting up seven times and standing sturdy for the 8th time!


Dear overthinkers, 

It’s going to be okay. Healed People Heal People. No, your past doesn’t define you, and neither is the future going to be unbearable. 


Life sometimes may not be worth living, but it always gets better, every phase you are in is just that… a phase. There are different directions you can always explore. So don’t think you are wasting time, or that you are running out of time.  You will always be on time. You’ll do just fine. 


Those you care about value your smile, A smile goes a long way, it can make someone’s day. It can change the world. 

It is going to be okay.

Sending lots of hugs! 

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash