Breaking the Cycle of Overthinking: Advice for People With Anxiety & Depression

by | Apr 12, 2023

Overthinking is an all-too-familiar experience for people with anxiety and depression. But it doesn’t have to be your way of life.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of thoughts and emotions that are constantly swirling in your head, but it’s important to recognize that overthinking can be detrimental to your mental health. The good news is, there are things you can do to break the cycle of overthinking and find relief from your anxious or depressive thoughts.

In this article, I’m going to share a few tips on how to break the cycle of overthinking and start living a calmer, more balanced life. We’ll discuss strategies for understanding and managing your thoughts, as well as techniques for staying in the moment and cultivating self-compassion. So if you’re looking for practical advice on how to stop overthinking, this is the place for you!

Understanding the Cause of Overthinking

Understanding the cause of overthinking is the first step to breaking out of this cycle. While each individual’s experience with anxiety and depression is unique, it’s common to be overwhelmed by worries and doubts that you can’t switch off.

At its core, overthinking is a way of avoiding negative emotions. Anxiety can take many forms—fears of the future, intense worry or panic attacks—while depression can be characterized by feelings of helplessness, guilt and worthlessness. When we experience these hard-to-bear emotions, our instinct is to attempt to escape them; we switch into analytical mode, trying to make sense of our experiences. But although this strategy may provide temporary relief from feeling overwhelmed, it ultimately cannot resolve the underlying issues that are causing distress.

The key is to be mindful of your thoughts without judging them; when negative thoughts arise take a moment to observe them without judging yourself for having those thoughts in the first place. Once you can recognize when your mind is getting caught up in analytical thought patterns, you can begin taking steps towards changing your behavior.

Adopting Healthier Habits to Break the Cycle

If you’re someone who struggles with overthinking, breaking the cycle can feel almost impossible. But with some effort and a willingness to make healthier habit changes, you can gradually gain control back over your thoughts.

To start, take a look at how much time you spend on electronics. Many people turn to their phones or computers for distraction, which can keep the mind focused on small details that ultimately trigger more worrying and ruminating about negative thoughts.

Make a conscious effort to reduce the time spent scrolling through social media or watching YouTube videos. Cut back and replace that time with something else, like going for a walk outdoors, doing some creative writing or learning something new. This will help to refocus your thoughts away from the unhealthy rumination and give yourself some much-needed mental space.

Try healthy lifestyle habits like exercising more often and getting enough sleep every night. Exercise helps to release endorphins—the feel-good neurotransmitters that boost mood—while sleep helps the body and mind to rest and recover from stress. These activities can indirectly reduce overthinking by calming your brain’s response to stress while improving your overall physical health and stability of mental health.

Implementing Self-Care Practices to Manage Stress

One of the best ways to break the cycle of overthinking is to implement self-care practices into your life. Self-care helps to manage stress – which can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression – and therefore can be an important tool for helping to manage these conditions.

Self-care includes a variety of activities and practices aimed at maintaining mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Some examples of self-care activities include:

  • Exercise – Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and relieve tension. It has been shown to help with symptoms of depression, while also releasing endorphins (the hormones associated with happiness).
  • Healthy Eating Habits – Eating a balanced diet is key for maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Healthy meals can help you stay energized throughout the day, while also boosting your mood and improving mental clarity.
  • Connecting With Others – Socializing with family or friends is an important way to manage stress and gain support in times of difficulty. It can be helpful in creating meaningful connections that can improve your sense of happiness and contentment.
  • Relaxation Techniques – Taking time out from daily tasks for relaxation activities such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery or deep breathing can be beneficial for managing stress levels.
  • Get Enough Sleep – Ensuring that you get enough hours of sleep each night is essential for mental wellbeing. A lack of sleep has been shown to negatively impact mood and cause feelings such as irritability or fatigue.

By taking time out each day to engage in one or more self-care practices, you will be able to take steps towards reducing stress levels—and breaking the cycle of overthinking associated with anxiety and depression.

Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation for Clarity

Are you ready to step out of your head and start seeing things more clearly? Practicing mindfulness and meditation is a great way to start reclaiming control of your thoughts.

Mindfulness means being aware, present, and intentional about your thoughts and feelings in the moment—it’s about recognizing them, yet not getting caught up in them. It’s about observing what comes up for you without judgment, and accepting that this is how you feel in this moment.

Meditation can help you break the cycle of overthinking by teaching you how to let go of your thoughts without getting wrapped up in them or worrying too much about the future. It also helps to increase your focus and clarity. All you have to do is sit still (or lie down) for a few minutes, close your eyes, and observe your breath. Try counting each inhalation and exhalation or focusing on a certain phrase or mantra that resonates with you—anything that helps get rid of the chatter in your head.

By practicing mindfulness and meditation regularly, it will become easier for you to identify when the cycle of overthinking is starting to take hold so that you can take control over it more quickly.

Learning How to Reframe Negative Thoughts

It can be hard to break the cycle of overthinking, especially when it’s been a lifelong habit. But it’s definitely not impossible! One way to start is by reframing the way you think about your negative thoughts. The goal is to learn how to identify your negative thoughts for what they are—thoughts or stories you are telling yourself—and not necessarily facts.

This can involve:

  1. Recognizing the triggers that lead to negative thinking
  2. Analyzing them objectively and dissecting the evidence behind them
  3. Replacing the negative thought with a more balanced view of the situation
  4. Reminding yourself that these thoughts and feelings are only temporary and don’t define who you are
  5. Practicing self-compassion by speaking kindly to yourself in moments of distress

Once you start becoming aware of your inner dialog, you can then work on challenging those thoughts and replacing them with more positive, productive ones that reflect reality better. This can go a long way in helping you break the cycle of overthinking and get out of the rut of rumination.

The Power of Positive Visualization

It’s easy to focus on the negative during times of anxiety and depression. But here’s something you can try that, believe it or not, works: Positive visualization.

We all know the power of positive thinking, but positive visualization takes it one step further. Positive visualization is when you imagine yourself overcoming your problem or completing an important goal. It’s a way of creating a mental roadmap for success – and many people find that it works.

Think about it: When your brain sees an image of something that you want to do, it actually encourages yourself to make those choices so you can create the desired outcome in real life. Visualization doesn’t just push yourself in a positive direction – it also shows your brain what is possible and achievable with effort and dedication in the future.

Here are some tips on how to practice positive visualization:

  1. Find a comfortable spot and relax your body and mind
  2. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths
  3. Visualize yourself achieving something important to you (this could be anything from passing an exam, getting into a new job, having healthy relationships with others)
  4. See all the details – how does succeeding feel? What does it look like?
  5. Focus on the positive outcome for a few minutes until you feel energized and motivated
  6. Open your eyes once feeling refreshed and ready to take action!


The key to breaking the cycle of overthinking is to take small steps and build new habits over time. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you have the inner strength and resilience to do this. Take a step back and create some distance between you and your thoughts. Accept them, but don‌’t attach too much importance to them. Create a distraction to help you manage your feelings and emotions. Talk to someone about what you’re going through and seek professional help if necessary. With practice and patience, you can make a positive shift in your thought patterns and regain control of your life.

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