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9 ways to stop over-thinking when you’re stressed at work

Don't worry, it's something we all do - overthink and take life too seriously (well most of us anyway).

It’s a natural thing to do, especially if you’re conscientious and ambitious. There are far too may expectations we put on ourselves and far too may reasons for us to think life is so serious.

It’s something I’ve been tackling recently and it’s certainly not fun to feel. So if you’re an over-thinker – this is REALLY going to help!

We all go through cycles in our life, sometimes we’ll feel amazing and like everything is going to plan, and other times we’ll doubt ourselves and convince ourselves we’re not capable or worthy of achieving great things. It’s a fact of life, and it also weaves in with our hormones, sleep, diet, external situations and everything else that seems to be going on.

There are certain days where you’ll wake up with intention, and some days where you will question everything you’re doing. Whether you’ve just started out from uni, you’re a committed manager, or self-employed – there are always going to be ebbs and flows in your career and life. It’s all about managing and handling the tough times, so that the good times feel great and the bad times feel neutral and not like the worst is happening. It’s all about implementing certain strategies to make sure you keep your head in a happy place. Your life and career can be an astounding, exciting and amazing place to be if we look past the stress.

Here are 9 things you can do right now, to stop over-thinking when you’re stressed at work or in your career:

  1. Start your day right. Start with intention and set the day up as if you mean to carry on. Start with gratitude, your main goal and something you’d like to tick off your ‘I get to’ list. Seeing your day as an opportunity rather than a chore helps you to stay focused on the day at hand and not following the thoughts that cause you distress. Here are 4 things successful people do every morning to tackle stress and prevent over-thinking.
    1. Along with that, remember to take breaks throughout your day (I schedule in a morning break at 10:30, 12 and 3:30. Put an alarm on to remind you to give yourself a break!)
    2. Use your time throughout the day effectively – block times out in your day where you check emails and social media. Use your thinking for those things only at certain points in the day. Checking them obsessively only leads to our thoughts being caught up there.
  2. Get your time-limit on. If the task at hand that is causing you stress only takes 5 minutes, (e.g. replying to an email, making a call, planning your day ahead) do it straight away, or make the decision in 30 or so seconds whether you’re going to do it there and then, and then put the task to sleep. No need to focus on it for another hour without doing anything about it – it just means we’re using up our thoughts on inconsequential things!
    1. If the task is a bigger one, time 30 minutes, write down everything you can and come up with as many solutions as you can.
  3. Turn into Action Man/Woman! A really powerful way to stop over-thinking when you’re stressed at work is to actually get moving and doing. Putting things into action stops over-thinking in it’s tracks. Break down your project into the first 3 steps you can think of and focus only on them. You cannot predict what will happen once you’ve made the 3 steps, so tackle that then and only then.
  4. Realize you cannot control your whole life. Positive thinking sets you up and notice the good in life, and move on from the bad but you cannot manifest absolutely everything into your life, the easiest way to live life is enjoy what’s happening and be excited for what is to come. I know this is easier said than done but focus on what is happening now, and on the next 3 steps and remind yourself the future is exciting – imagine having even more amazing things happen than you thought was possible.
  5. Stop and just no: Sometimes when we’re hungry or tired (literally just happened to me now), we can’t think straight and we end up going into default negative over-thinking mode. This is really detrimental and is very easy to avoid. We can choose to stress over it and think and think and think without actually getting anywhere, or we can choose to stay STOP and think about it when we’re better equipped. Go and have some food or think about it again in the morning.
  6. What’s the worst that can happen? Honestly, if what you’re over-thinking about and stressing about happens to end in the worst case scenario, how bad actually is it? It’s likely that it’s very manageable and you’ll survive one way or another. So you can’t finish everything you’ve set out to do today, it’ll get done tomorrow. So what if not everyone falls in love with your project or presentation? They’ve got their own things to over-think and they won’t be focusing on you.
    1. Work out whether what you’re thinking is already the worst-case scenario, re-frame it to a realistic scenario and then re-frame it to a best-case scenario. Focus on the last two.
  7. Be in the now: Easier said than done, my love I know, but practice and it honestly gets easier. We tend to run from one thing onto the next, type fast, click fast, move apps fast and all this rushing just causes more stress and anxiety. Make your movements a little slower and calmer and it’ll all feel easier.
    1. Describe what it is you’re doing, when you’re doing it. Driving your car? Remind yourself and tell yourself you are driving a car. Making a coffee? Printing things? Putting your washing out? For anything and everything describe to yourself what you’re doing. Our brain has a tendency to keep talking as a way of making our exterior world make sense internally, and by doing this we have to listen to this constant chatter. Simplify the chatter by describing what you’re doing and only what you’re doing.
    2. Focus on your senses. Slow down even more when things get tough and focus on how your legs feel on the chair, your feet on the floor, the breeze on your skin, the smells around you, anything and everything. Pausing and focusing on what IS allows you to drop what ISN’T (what’s to come and what has been).
  8. Force yourself to stay simple: When we start over-thinking, it’s usually because we’re overcomplicating a simple issue, so stop this from happening with a really simple phrase. I use ‘KEEP THINGS NICE + SIMPLE’ and it makes all the difference. Having something there in-front of you as a small reminder can be the difference between wandering off into your thoughts and focusing on what is actually in front of you, the facts.
  9. Look at the bigger picture. Is the thing you’re stressing about going to make a difference in 5 years time? Or is it something that is totally manageable and will probably not affect things as hugely as you might think in this moment?

Those are 9+ things I use every day to stop my thoughts from wandering and to stay in the present moment. Over-thinking when you’re stressed at work can be super challenging, and there are going to be days that feel easier than others, but on those tough days, use these strategies to pull yourself out and you’ll be winning. I promise 😉

For more coaching strategies + to learn how to build wellness into your life, check out my services at www.helensianindia.com

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