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How to Recover from Overwhelm and Overthinking

When you think too much, it overheats and may start displaying error messages or perform a sudden shutdown.

I felt like that many times, and that’s why I’ve tried all sorts of things to quiet my mind and restore my peace before I would fall into a state of depression.

I’m going to show you the best methods to take control of your thoughts.

Don’t worry. It’s just a temporary error

Don’t worry. It’s just a temporary error

Table of contents

What is in your control?
Break down unhelpful thoughts
Other things you can try
Final words

What is in your control?

This simple method works wonders when you have an avalanche of worries and the sense of helplessness cripples you.

Here are the steps:

  1. Take a piece of paper and a pencil.
  2. Draw two separate circles – one is for what you can control, and the other for what you can’t control.
  3. Think objectively and write down what comes to your mind.

Here’s an example.

Maria is worried that her son is not going to return safely from his trip. Every 5 minutes, she checks the plane’s status on a website she trusts and can’t stop thinking about what could happen to her son. (This example comes from a real case, by the way. I once knew a lady who did just that.)

Here’s how the circles would look like:

what I can and can't control

what I can and can’t control

Alternatively, you can do this exercise on your PC, by writing in a blank document two lists.

Break down unhelpful thoughts

A very effective exercise that will quiet even the loudest chatter. Sometimes you just need to stop thinking for a while and then you can make the best decision.

The first steps

  1. Sit down and take a deep breath.
  2. Take a piece of paper and a pencil.
  3. Look around you and identify three white objects, then three that are green, three that are blue or red (you can choose any color you want).
  4. Write a few things about them: their shape, their utility.

After you’re done, follow these steps:

  1. Pick some things you can touch or feel around you, like your fingers, the desk, chair, etc. Write them down.
  2. Notice what you can hear around you and write them down (max. 5 sounds).
  3. Now, identify what you can smell around you. If you can’t smell anything, name your two favorite scents.
  4. Name one thing you can taste or what was the last thing you ate today.

Take a deep breath and notice how you feel now. Hopefully, you’re at least a bit better now and ready for the second part of this exercise.

You’re calm and strong

You’re calm and strong

The Second Part

  1. Set your timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour all your thoughts on paper (or in a Word document) until you’ve run out of time. Write why you’re feeling overwhelmed, upset, worried, etc.

Don’t edit anything, not even a typo. Be honest with yourself and don’t blame yourself for anything. You’re not looking for solutions now. You just need to get those thoughts out of your head.

Come back to this document after you finish.

Writing down your feelings = instant relief

Writing down your feelings = instant relief

The Third Part

Now that you’ve unleashed your thoughts and feelings, you can look at everything from another perspective and make a decision.

Identify the key problem and think of solutions, then choose the most practical one.

If it’s a problem that repeats itself, and you’ve already tried some solutions that didn’t work, try thinking of doing something that’s counterintuitive.

Here are three questions to help you:

  1. What is the first thing I want to do when this happens?
  2. Is it useful?
  3. What other things could I try?

Remember to not blame or judge yourself harshly while you’re thinking of solutions. At this stage, you’re only looking for solutions.

You are stronger than you think

You are stronger than you think

Other things you can try

These are some of my favorite quick fixes:

  1. When you don’t have much time, you can try counting objects around you for a quick break.
  2. Go out for a walk – usually, the longer, the better, but no less than 20 minutes.
  3. If you’re on a bus or in a car, count how many red cars you see or how many houses have a red roof, etc.
  4. Look at the clouds and let your eyes follow their contour.
  5. Sit down, close your eyes, and pay attention to everything you hear and everything you feel.

Final words

I hope you found something that resonated with you and had a positive impact on your life.

From my experience, learning to be good to yourself helps the most over the long term. You were probably taught to beat yourself up for every mistake, but that’s not the solution. By punishing yourself with self-criticism, you only waste your energy and make yourself feel miserable.

Be a good parent to yourself and learn about self-love. It will change your life for the better.