Stuck Overthinking? 14 Tricks To Recenter Yourself

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Members

Overthinking can be a blessing and a curse. Some of the best leaders are deep, critical thinkers, and while this trait may have helped them reach a leadership position, it can also hinder them once they get there.

To maintain your focus and be productive, it’s important to know how to recenter your mind before thoughtful deliberation turns into analysis paralysis. Here, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the best tricks they know to help professionals and leaders recenter themselves when they can’t stop overthinking.

Featured members share ways to recenter yourself when you are stuck overthinking.
Forbes Coaches Council members share ways to recenter yourself when you are stuck overthinking. 

1. Outline Your Fears, Options And Potential Outcomes

Well, if you can’t stop overthinking anyway, why not run with it for a bit? Get yourself a big blank sheet of paper (or even better, a whiteboard) and let it all out: fears, worries, options, possible outcomes—all the doom and gloom that crosses your hyperactive mind. There’s no need to do anything with it right away, just take a photo you can come back to. This helps you to let go for now. – Micha Goebig, Go Big Coaching & Communications, LLC

2. Put Yourself In Context, Not At The Center

Overthinking a subject is a natural outgrowth of being a thinking person. So, the first step is to acknowledge that you are being normal. If the topic is crowding out other thoughts, I encourage folks to engage in a selfless or servant leadership project. It could be as simple as writing a thank-you note. But getting centered means putting yourself in context—not at the center. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

3. Find A Trigger To Take A Step Back

Find a trigger (or reflect regularly and at some frequency, such as daily) that will remind you to take a step back and not overthink things. Consider developing someone in your organization or network to bounce ideas off of. – Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training – Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers

4. Shift Your Focus To Another Activity

Shift your focus; rumination or repetitive thinking is unproductive, unnecessary and mentally exhausting. A great way to “shake it off” is by shifting your attention to another action or interaction that requires your focus and that you enjoy. For example, listen to a podcast you love, speak to a great friend or get a small “win” accomplished. This will distract your brain and shift your focus. – Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners

5. Take Time To Practice Deep Breathing

It can be so difficult to get unstuck when we find ourselves caught in a cycle of rumination. If you have the presence of mind to recognize when this is happening, take time to practice deep breathing. It often only takes a few minutes of mindful breathwork to calm our minds, get past the anxiety we are feeling, and then have the ability to think more clearly about the challenges of the day. – Jonathan H. Westover, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC

6. List Out Everything On Your Mind

The cure to overthinking is finding clarity. If a professional finds themselves overthinking, a good thing to do is list out everything on their mind. This helps the brain to stop catastrophizing and to focus on what is really taking place. Facts over feelings, always. List, list, list—this will reduce the mental chatter. – Heather Murphy, Authentically: Business & Life Solutions

7. Ask Yourself What You’re Overthinking

Ask yourself, “What am I overthinking?” Is it something from the past? Fear? Are you trying to get clarity? Focus on what you are thinking. How does it affect you? Undertake some simple, short activity to shift the mind, put down on paper exactly what you are thinking, find someone to talk to, or switch your thoughts off through your breathing and by closing your eyes. Reflect on it, and see what you learn from it that can help you. – Dennis Foo, Pu Xin ASPIRA Advisory Limited – Shanghai | Hong Kong

8. Set A Deadline To Stop Thinking About It

Set a timer for how much longer you can think about the issue. This constraint can give you a “deadline” to manage. If you are still thinking about it at your “deadline,” schedule additional thinking time, but make it much later in the day or the following day. The best part about scheduling “worry time” is that the issue often resolves itself in the interim, or it doesn’t seem as pressing anymore. – Craig Dowden, Craig Dowden & Associates

9. Tame The Mind With Mindfulness

Science and spirituality both believe in destiny. Overthinking will not change the course of events. If you have control over anything, it is the mind. Tame the mind with mindfulness and observe—because you are nothing but an observer. You have the movie tickets to life, so sit back and enjoy the show. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

10. Find A Solution With A Diverse Team

The best way not to overthink, or think in the wrong direction, is to consult with a diverse team to understand the problem and find a solution together. When you do this, you save time, energy and usually a lot of money because you typically come up with a much better idea that you would never have found on your own. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™

11. Take Action With One Small Step

The best antidote to overthinking is taking action. We avoid staying stuck in the analysis process by asking ourselves what one action we can take today. Our choices live in our actions. Once we recognize that and keep moving forward, even by taking tiny steps, we can maintain momentum. – Kathi Laughman, The Mackenzie Circle LLC

12. Enhance Awareness And Implement A Process

When you feel overthinking taking control, it is imperative to recognize when it begins and have specific action steps to take to regain focus. Take time to pause so that you can reflect by asking yourself questions such as, “What steps can I take to stop? What do I need to do to get back? How can I regain presence, focus and clarity?” – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

13. Visualize Problems And Solutions

Use visualization! This stops the mind from replaying endless, negative thoughts and refocuses your mind productively. First, visualize everything that could go wrong. Compile solutions for each scenario using if/then phrasing: “If this happens, then I will do this.” Next, visualize a positive outcome. Write down all of the emotions you will feel by achieving this. Now, channel these emotions to take action. – Shelley Hammell, Sage Alliance, Inc.

14. Try ‘Box Breathing’

Try “box breathing” (a.k.a. four-square breathing). We all overthink; the trick is to know when we’re overthinking and then do something to change the pattern. Box breathing, a technique used by U.S. military special forces, calms the mind and allows for clearer thinking. If you have time, take a brisk walk outdoors (no matter the weather) or get coaching from a neutral colleague. Break the pattern! – Gregg Ward, The Center for Respectful Leadership