How to Stop Obsessive Thinking

Is obsessive thinking keeping you up at night? Maybe you wake up at 3 am and you keep thinking the same thoughts over and over, imagining the worst-case scenario and you can’t get back to sleep.

You might have uncontrollable anxiety, your stomach in knots or your heart may be pounding. Perhaps you’re wondering why you can’t just calm down and go back to sleep.

If that’s you, you’re not alone.

There was a time when I was obsessed with anxious thoughts, drowning in worry and fearful “what ifs” about the future. All I wanted was to calm down, be able to sleep, and get control of myself. I wanted to be able to think clearly rather than be overwhelmed by scary images of what could happen.

I needed to stop my obsessive thinking. I needed to get clear about what was really happening. With help, I was able to calm down and think clearly.

Here’s what I discovered: My obsessive thinking was driven by the assumptions I was making about what might happen. That’s right – my thoughts were focused on what might happen… not reality! ASSUMPTIONS were killing me!

What Is an Assumption?

Simply put, an assumption is something that we accept as true or as likely to happen without proof.

Where Assumptions Come From

Assumptions or prejudgments develop throughout our lives. Childhood experiences shape our beliefs about everything. Throughout our early development and into adulthood we absorb thinking patterns modeled by significant others. These thoughts become our assumptions and they create thinking patterns.

How Assumptions Act

Assumptions act as “filters” for everything that happens. These “filters” pop up automatically in our thinking. Based on a lifetime of developing assumptions, our minds jump to conclusions that actually have no basis in reality.

This can cause us to have worry and fear. We make assumptions about all kinds of things. We automatically accept assumptions as true when they’ve not been tested by reality. This results in worry and overwhelm.

What assumptions are you making right now? How are these assumptions making you anxious?

How to Let Go of Assumptions Causing Anxiety and Obsessive Thoughts

Ask Yourself

How true is this assumption, really? How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen? Take time to become aware of thoughts automatically surfacing in your mind. Then reflect on these questions honestly and carefully.

Getting clear and practical about the situation you’re anxious about provides a new perspective. Taking a “matter-of-fact” approach generates a sensible, authentic thought pattern. It helps you think logically and calms you down.

Create a Blank Space in Your Thinking

Pausing to reflect on what’s really true in a worrisome situation, produces a void or empty space. Hold the empty space. Avoid allowing more assumptions to crowd your mind. Keeping an open mind is difficult. It means consistently throwing out automatic, harmful thoughts.

It means patience and offering kindness to yourself as you do the work of keeping an open mind. Keep asking yourself if what you are thinking is true. What evidence do you have? When you do this, you can stop that cycle of thinking about the same thing over and over again and focusing on the worst-case scenarios. You can begin to calm down.

Personal Example

Testing assumptions is one way to stop obsessive thinking. It’s a technique I use, and my clients have learned to use too. Several months ago, I worked with a woman who was overwhelmed by anxiety about a situation in her family. She couldn’t stop thinking about the problems.

She was losing sleep and unable to function. We talked about the thoughts that were troubling her. We sorted out what was really true in her confused thoughts, and I helped her see where she was making false assumptions. She got clear about what was really going on and that helped her calm down.

You can identify your assumptions and stop obsessive thinking too! I hope you follow these steps to get clear about what’s really going on in order to stop your anxiety and obsessive thinking.

But if you are truly struggling with obsessive thoughts keeping you up at night, imagining worst-case scenarios, and you can’t get it to stop, watch my Free 10 minute video on How to Stop Anxiety to learn the exact 3 steps you can take to become anxiety free.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What assumptions are you keeping you up at night? Have you stopped to think them through? Do you think you can follow this exercise and take control of your assumptions?

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