How to stop overthinking in 9 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 October 2022

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Advancing your career takes time and typically requires that you invest a lot of effort into improving your skills and knowledge. Although it's always rewarding in the end, it can also be stressful at times. Not knowing how to deal with stressful situations at work can lead to feelings of anxiety and thinking too much about your performance. In this article, we discuss what overthinking is, present a few signs that can indicate that you're an overthinker and give you tips on how to stop overthinking to increase productivity at work.

What is overthinking?

Overthinking is a thought pattern that involves ruminating and incessant worrying. It makes you repeat the same thoughts again and again and become stuck with thoughts about things that you have no control over. In other words, if you're overthinking, you're thinking about something too much for too long. While it's normal for people to worry about something from time to time, when it stops you from enjoying your life or work, this is when you may want to overcome this by seeking professional help or introducing some positive mindfulness and relaxation practices into your life.

By avoiding overthinking, you can relax, increase your happiness, eliminate stress and improve your career. People who don't overthink typically find it easier to make big decisions because their thought pattern is clearer and allows them to look at their work or life objectively.

Related: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working From Home

Signs you're an overthinker

Overthinking can be a common issue for employees who have great problem-solving skills but don't know how to distance themselves from work after hours. Instead of finding the solution, they often dwell on the problem and let it influence their personal lives. Here's a list of signs that may indicate you're an overthinker and some solutions to overcome these issues:

You often relive embarrassing moments from the past in your head

You need to remember that your past doesn't define your future. Feeling judgemental about some of your actions or behaviour from the past only means that you've changed to be a better version of yourself. In the end, change is a natural thing that often signifies growth.

You constantly think about your mistakes

Obsessing over your mistakes may make you feel embarrassed and limit your potential at work. You need to know that making mistakes is something that cannot be avoided. Instead of thinking negatively about those situations, try to analyse them objectively and see how to prevent those mistakes from happening again in the future. Be sure to treat yourself with kindness along the way. You're probably the only person who remembers those mistakes.

You're obsessed with what your employer or co-workers think about you

It's natural to want others to think highly of you and consider you polite and professional, but obsessing over it can lead to serious overthinking. To prevent it, you need to remember that work is not a place where people go to judge others. Work can make people anxious or stressed and, as a result, they may seem more tense. But that doesn't mean they're not friendly. Don't let their comments or behaviour affect you negatively.

How to stop overthinking at work

Learning how to stop overthinking can positively impact your career and enable you to improve your success rate at work. If you'd like to know where to start, here's a list of steps that people often bring into their lives to stop overthinking:

1. Find the cause of your overthinking

Finding what causes your overthinking is often the first step to clearing your mind. There are some common things that cause overthinking, particularly stress and anxiety. If you think about stuff too much, you may also feel like your self-esteem has lowered or that you've been doubting yourself more than usual lately. Try to spot any changes in your behaviour or thoughts that may have caused it. Overthinking can also be caused by important events in our lives, such as changing careers or new relationships.

Related: 12 strategies to help you overcome procrastination

2. Work on your confidence

Building your confidence takes time, but it's one of the most effective self-help practices that can help you stop overthinking. If you want to find a way to believe in yourself, be sure to start by identifying your strengths and talents. Remember the good things that others say about you when they're satisfied with your work.

Some people find it easier to build confidence at work if they introduce a long-term self-care routine into their lives. For example, you can take care of your mind and body by surrounding yourself with positive people that inspire your good actions. Consider trying out meditation or working on having a regular sleep schedule.

Related: How To Build Confidence at Work

3. Define your goals

Instead of setting one big goal for yourself, choose to have many smaller tasks that you can accomplish daily. For most, it's easier to successfully complete one small thing per day than working on something big for weeks or even months. By setting your goals like this, you can closely monitor and celebrate the small successes that help with your professional growth in the long run. Be sure to reward yourself for these efforts and remember that even the tiniest step forward gets you closer to the finish line.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help You Achieve Your Goals

4. Have a good start to every day

The first few hours after waking up can impact your mood during the day. If you spend your morning the right way, you can eliminate stress and get ready for the day's challenges. Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before and wake up early enough to give yourself enough time to prevent the need to rush.

Also, try not to reach for your phone the minute you open your eyes in the morning. Instead, read a book or watch an episode of your favourite show to put yourself in a good mood.

Related: What is optimism? Plus how to be optimistic

5. Have a routine to your day

Although this may seem hard at first, working on having an organised daily routine can get you through the work week with a purpose. Having a to-do list keeps you busy and doesn't allow negative thoughts to push through. As a result, you can minimise the risk of overthinking. This method can also help boost your performance at work because you won't be wasting time on thinking about the things you can't control.

Related: Time-Management Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips for Improvement

6. Take time for yourself

Taking time for yourself to do things that you enjoy the most is an important step to building your confidence and eliminating negative thought patterns. For example, you can dedicate an hour or two for yourself every day to read, listen to podcasts, take a long bath, go on walks or study. Doing this may help you get to know yourself and your needs better.

7. Practise gratitude

Being grateful for the things and people around you is another useful method to stop overthinking. To achieve this, you can start a gratitude journal. Use it to write thank-you notes to yourself, your friends or even co-workers, or write down things you're grateful for every day. Accepting the reality you're in can make you feel satisfied with your life or career.

Read more: How to Practice Gratitude While Working Remotely

8. Think positively

Many people don't realise that positive thinking can be a learned behaviour. To practise it, remind yourself to focus your thoughts on the good things that happened to you during that day or week. Use positive affirmations to tell yourself that you're alive, well and there is no danger that your brain would need to focus on. Be sure to do something nice for someone, as their reaction can add some positivity to your day.

When it comes to practising positive thinking, you can plan, complete and repeat. Permanently introducing these practices to your life can help you restructure your thought patterns and strengthen your memory for positive information.

9. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness involves focusing your full attention, emotions and thoughts on the present. Try to slow down and notice every little thing that surrounds you. Live in the moment and do one thing at a time. Remember that to feel connected to your positive thoughts, it's beneficial to treat yourself like you'd treat your friend and stop judging your past. Consider adding short mindfulness sessions to your day. You can practise it during your work break or at the start of each day, the moment you sit at your desk.

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