Sometimes we’re swept away on the chaotic current of our frantic thoughts. Our minds can cary us inward, away from presence, as we mentally race to find solutions to our problems. “What am I going to say to say? Will I have enough time? How can I fix this problem? There’s nothing I can do here…” At times this mental chatter can be useful, but there’s a very fine line between problem-solving and overthinking—the latter of which exhausts your mental resources and causes more harm than good. So, how do you stop this internal battle once it begins? Here’s my favorite exercise to help you stop overthinking, pull back to presence, and regain your calm (and clarity of mind).
Notice Your Body Language
Our body language can reflect our stress, whether we’re consciously aware of the fact or not. A clenched jaw, tight fists, furrowed brows, and haunched shoulders can be a physical manifestation of spiraling thoughts within. Next time you catch yourself drifting into overthinking, take note of your body language and breathe a little space into any tense muscles. This process opens a door between those rampant thoughts and your physical reality; by setting the intention to relax your muscles, your mind will follow your focus, recognize there is no current threat, and pull you back to the present moment.
Here’s an exercise to stop overthinking by noticing your body language:
1. Uncurl your fists and fingers and turn your palms upward, facing the sky, to signal to your brain that there are no active threats against you.
2. Then, work your way through your body and relax your muscles from head to toe with the intention of opening up and releasing tension. Relax your eyebrows, tongue, jaw, shoulders, arms, legs, stomach and feet.
3. Pause here for a moment as you breathe and encourage your body to relax. You can listen to your breath throughout this process, using the sound of your breathing as an anchor in your physical reality.
4. Once you’ve broken free from unhelpful, spiraling thoughts and you’re grounded in the present moment, decide if you’d like to continue to problem-solve, or not…
Know When to Step Away
Sometimes—oftentimes—it’s in our greater good to stop thinking. Stop Searching. Stop problem-solving. Habitual overthinking and anxious problem-solving is often nothing more than our own desire to control what we cannot control. Instead of focusing on the people, situations, and past/future moments we can’t control, we’re better off grounding into the present moment and trusting our own abilities to handle whatever comes our way.
Remember—problem-solving on a foundation of calm and clarity will always yield greater results than frantically seeking answers in a cluttered, distraught mind. When you stay grounded and steer yourself away from overthinking and spiraling thoughts, the answers come quicker and with more assurance. As a result, you learn to trust your ability to navigate life’s challenges and free yourself from the illusion that overthinking is a useful strategy.
So what are you thinking? If you’re at all like me and tend to slip into overthinking from time to time, I hope you find this exercise helpful. Noticing my body language never fails to pull me back to reality and helps me take back my power when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I sincerely hope this trick also helps you reclaim your calm in those stressful moments, so you can take on the world with the confidence you deserve.
If you enjoyed this exercise, try my free Yoga Nidra meditation to take your relaxation up a level. Head over to Insight Timer to begin.