Racing thoughts, stress from the day, and anxiety about tomorrow are all common reasons why you may find yourself staying awake at night. Overthinking is a common trap that almost everyone finds themselves falling into, especially when the rest of the world is asleep. Thankfully there are some things you can do to ease your mind and relax.
Why Some People Overthink at Night
In today’s fast-paced world, most people are overstimulated and rushed from one thing to the next. We don’t really have time to process everything, which is one reason why overthinking at night is so common. Your brain pretty much goes into overdrive trying to make sense of everything from the noises, smells, sights, and anything you experienced during the day.
Add in external stressors like a hectic schedule, relationship problems, or financial worries and you have the perfect storm for overthinking. Even internal stressors like negative self-talk or unrealistic standards for yourself can cause you to overanalyze at night.
How to Stop Overthinking at Night So You Can Sleep
There are some ways to clear your mind of racing thoughts and worry so that you can finally relax and fall asleep.
Talk to Someone You Trust
Sometimes just talking it out can clear your cluttered mind and help you process things more effectively. If you have a friend you trust and who is open to hearing you out, try talking to them about what you’re thinking and feeling. Be sure to let them know if you’re wanting advice or just want a listening ear.
If you don’t have anyone in your life to talk to or you’d rather discuss things with a professional, there are convenient options like online therapy. Many of them let you message your therapist whenever you need to get something off your chest, which can be really helpful.
LIke talking it out, journaling has its own benefits. You can write about what happened during your day, what’s worrying you, or what you’re looking forward to. Whatever you need to get out of your head, write about it and see if it helps or not.
If you’re new to journaling, these guided journals can help you get the hang of it.
When you’re overthinking you’re either worried about the past or the future, but not the present moment. Meditation helps bring your attention back to the here and now by chasing away your anxious thoughts. While there are many ways to practice mediation, the easiest way to get started is to sit comfortably in silence, with your eyes shut, and focus on one thing. It could be a word, an image, a sound, your breathing, or something else.
Intruding thoughts are normal, so instead of repressing them or feeling negatively towards them, just acknowledge each one as if you were saying hello to it and then imagine it gets whisked away in the wind. Go back to what you were focused on, and rinse and repeat for as long as you need. For more meditation ideas, read this post.
Acknowledge the Things and People You’re Grateful For
Gratitude increases overall happiness and can help bring your attention back to the good things in your life instead of everything you’re worried about or overanalyzing. Simply stating three things that you’re grateful for can make a massive difference in your current mood and state of mind. Take it even a step further and express your gratitude out loud or use a gratitude journal.
Use Visualization Techniques
You already use visualization when you overthink so you can use it to ease your anxiety and relieve stress, too. By focusing on more positive and calming images or experiences you can stop overthinking in its tracks. Imagine your happy place, or somewhere like the beach, and pay close attention to the scenery, scents, sounds, and sensations until you feel calm.
There are more in-depth visualization techniques that help reduce anxiety symptoms that you can try, too.
Practice Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are incredibly effective at relieving stress and calming the mind. Try out one or two at a time as part of your nightly routine and even when you’re in bed. Something as simple as breathing in slowly for five seconds and then releasing your breath out through your mouth for five more seconds can slow your thoughts.
Write Your To-Do List
If you’re experiencing anxiety around a specific project or what you have going on the next day, try writing it all out as a to-do list. Getting it out of your head and onto paper can help you relax knowing that you won’t forget about it. You can take it a step further and break down any of your projects (no matter how big or small) into digestible tasks so they don’t seem so intimidating or keep you circling your thoughts.
One of the best ways to alleviate stress and cure overthinking is by practicing yoga. According to Mayo Clinic, it can even help you manage symptoms of depression and anxiety since it requires both physical and mental components. There are a lot of different specific yoga poses you can try, but these yoga poses for stress are a great start for clearing your mind and alleviating stress.
Walk It Out
Sometimes the best thing to do for a racing mind is to walk it out. Moving your body gives you something else to focus on while also tiring yourself out and helping your mind decompress. Exercise has been proven to improve sleep and reduce insomnia but should be done a couple of hours before bedtime since it’s stimulating and increases heart rate.
Turn off the Screens
As tempting as it is to distract yourself with social media or TV, doing so will only give your brain more to process and encourage overthinking. Plus, the blue light from the electronics has been proven to be disruptive to sleep. Prevent insomnia by turning off the screens at least an hour before bed and choose a relaxing activity instead.
Set Up a Relaxing Environment
Having a calming environment where you feel cozy and safe can help your brain relax and ease your anxiety. Simple things like using an essential oil diffuser, turning on a sound machine, and cuddling up with your favorite blanket can prevent you from spinning out in worry.
Make Peace with Your Day
If you’re overanalyzing something that happened (like if you said the wrong thing or looked foolish in front of someone), try to make peace with it. Playing the situation over and over like a broken record won’t change anything or help fix it. Accept what happened, learn from it, and remind yourself that what’s done is done...and that everything will be okay regardless.
Stop Telling Yourself That You’re Overthinking
As easy as it is to shame yourself for overthinking and going on about how you need to stop, it’s counterproductive. It puts focus on what you want to stop doing (overthinking) which just makes it harder to overcome. Instead, choose to give yourself grace and try some positive affirmations that put your mind at ease.
Know When to Get Support
If you’ve tried everything under the sun but still can’t seem to shut your brain off or calm down, try talking to your doctor or a sleep expert. They may be able to identify underlying reasons for your insomnia and suggest some solutions.
Other Ways to Prevent Overthinking at Night
It’s important to accept that you can’t cure overthinking completely. As humans, we will always wonder about the what if’s and have some level of anxiety about something. There are additional ways you can prevent overthinking at night, though.
Implement a nightly relaxing bedtime routine that’s full of relaxing activities that help you decompress and transition to sleep
Learn how to get things off your mind in a healthy way and before they cause overthinking
Properly manage your stress throughout the day
Schedule in “worry time” where your only goal is to do a brain dump and then how you’ll address those things
Figure out what’s worth your worry and how to stop worrying about things that don’t matter
Unfortunately overthinking is something you’ll experience at different points in life, especially during periods of high stress. There are ways to calm your thoughts, though, so you can focus more on what really matters and actually get some sleep.