Can't Stop Overthinking? 5 Powerful Tips for Neurodivergent Brains

Restful Brain
4 min read

Ugh, overthinking.

That mental loop where you replay conversations, dissect scenarios and get stuck on repeat. It can feel like you’re a hamster on a never-ending thought wheel.

And when you’re neurodivergent? You’re more likely to have an overactive mind. And even though more research is needed, this is likely due to neurological differences.

You might be extra sensitive to sensory input, have high pattern recognition, or tend to get fixated on details.

While these unique traits can sometimes be strengths. They can also contribute to overthinking cycles that leave you drained and overwhelmed.

The good news? There are ways to break free from overthinking and reclaim your mental space.

Understanding Overthinking

Overthinking isn’t just about dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

It can include repetitive thinking, analysis paralysis and internal arguments. And many factors could lead to overthinking. Here are some common triggers:

  • Trauma: Past experiences can leave you hypervigilant, replaying scenarios and trying to predict the future to avoid getting hurt again. It’s like your brain is stuck on a loop, trying to prevent the same thing from happening twice.
  • Sensory Overload: The constant barrage of sights, sounds, and smells can be overwhelming. Which could lead to repetitive thinking as a coping strategy.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Stressful situations can trigger overthinking because your brain is trying to find a solution. But this can also lead to a loop of constant analysis and self-doubt.
  • Boredom: Without enough stimulation, your mind can easily begin to wander and start overthinking as a form of distraction.

Recognizing the Signs Of Overthinking

Cat stares out from underneath a white blanket with illustrated spiky lines over the top

Here are some signs you might be stuck in an overthinking spiral:

  • The Neverending To-Do List: You spend more time planning and re-planning than actually doing. It’s like you’re stuck in the “planning stage” and never quite make it to the “action stage.”
  • Analysis Paralysis: Making decisions feels like an impossible feat. You weigh every possible outcome and get stuck in a loop of “what ifs?” that prevents you from moving forward.
  • Rumination Nation: You can’t stop replaying past conversations or situations, dissecting every detail and reliving the awkwardness (or worse!). It’s like a broken record playing in your head.
  • Sleepless Nights: Overthinking keeps you awake at night, leaving you exhausted during the day and making it even harder to focus. It’s a vicious cycle!
  • Negative Self-Talk: Your inner critic becomes a constant companion, whispering doubts and insecurities that make you feel even worse.

5 Ways To Stop Neurodivergent Overthinking

Here are five actionable strategies to combat overthinking. Remember, the key is finding what works best for you, your unique brain, and your specific triggers.

1. Breathwork

Overthinking often goes hand-in-hand with shallow, rapid breathing. Breathwork techniques can help calm the nervous system and bring your focus back to the present moment, interrupting the overthinking cycle. Here are three techniques to try:

  • Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold for four – repeat for several cycles.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: Close one nostril with your thumb, inhale deeply through the open nostril, hold your breath, then close the other nostril and exhale through the open one. Repeat by inhaling through the previously closed nostril and continuing the cycle.
  • Extended Exhale: Inhale for two seconds and then exhale for four seconds. Repeat this cycle a few times to feel yourself center and relax. Animation of circle inhaling for a count of 2 and exhaling for a count of 4

You can try all these guided breathwork tracks inside the Restful app!

2. Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy works with the mind-body connection to address the physical sensations associated with overthinking.

By focusing on bodily awareness, you can learn to identify the early warning signs of overthinking and develop coping mechanisms.

Here are two ways somatic therapy can help:

  • Body Scans: Focus your attention on different parts of your body, and notice any sensations of tension, tightness, or discomfort. Bringing awareness to these physical sensations helps you release them and interrupt the overthinking cycle.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. By contrasting the physical sensations of tension and relaxation, you can learn to recognize and release physical tension associated with overthinking.

2. Cognitive Reframing

Close up of woman's hands holding a pen and writing in a journal sitting cross-legged on a bed

Overthinking often involves negative thought patterns. You might blow things out of proportion, predict the worst-case scenario, or jump to dramatic conclusions.

Cognitive reframing is a technique to challenge these unhelpful narratives.

Here’s how it works:

  • Identify the Thought: Catch yourself in the act of overthinking and write down the specific thought causing you distress.
  • Challenge the Evidence: Is this thought realistic? Are there other perspectives to consider? Write down evidence that contradicts your negative thoughts.
  • Reframe the Thought: Rephrase your thought into a more balanced and helpful one. For example, instead of “I’m going to mess up this presentation,” reframe it as “I’m prepared and I’ve practised. Even if I make a mistake, I can recover.”

Journaling is a great tool for cognitive reframing. By writing down your thoughts and actively challenging them, you can gain a new perspective and break free from negative thought patterns.

3. Sensory Oasis

Sensory overload can be a major trigger for overthinking. Overwhelming sights, sounds and smells can make it harder to focus and control your thoughts.

Here are some ways to create a sensory-friendly environment:

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to block out distracting sounds.
  • Fidget toys can be a lifesaver, providing a tactile outlet for your energy and helping you focus.
  • Dim the lights or use blue light filters on your devices to create a more calming atmosphere, as harsh lighting can be overstimulating.
  • Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to de-stimulate. Take a walk outside, stretch, or engage in calming activities like colouring or listening to meditones.

4. Movement and Play

Woman in purple top & long black hair dances with eyes closed

Physical activity isn’t just good for your body; it can also be a powerful tool for reducing stress and interrupting overthinking cycles. Exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more grounded.

Here are some ideas to get your body moving:

  • Yoga or dance: These activities combine physical movement with mindfulness, making them a double whammy against overthinking.
  • Going outside: Immersing yourself in nature can be incredibly calming and help clear your head.
  • Find an activity you enjoy: Whether it’s swimming, playing a sport, or simply dancing around your room, find a physical activity that brings you joy and helps you de-stress.

5. Creative Expression

Journaling can be a powerful tool for processing your thoughts and emotions in a safe space. Writing down your worries and anxieties can help you gain perspective and release your mental grip on them.

But journaling isn’t the only form of creative expression. Consider activities like art, music, or writing that allow you to express yourself in a non-verbal way.

Sometimes, getting your thoughts and feelings out in a creative format can be incredibly cathartic and help break the overthinking cycle.

Building an Overthinking-Reduction Plan

Now that you have this toolbox of strategies, it’s time to build a plan that works for you. Here are some tips:

  • Identify your personal triggers: What situations or events tend to send you down the overthinking rabbit hole? Once you know your triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid them or manage them more effectively.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations: Don’t expect to eliminate overthinking overnight. Focus on progress, not perfection. Celebrate your small wins and be kind to yourself on those days when your brain feels stuck on repeat.
  • Build a support system: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your struggles. Having a supportive network can make a big difference in managing overthinking.
  • Self-care is key: Prioritize healthy sleep, a balanced diet, and restful self care. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally will give you the strength and resilience to manage overthinking.


Overthinking can be a real drag, but remember, you’re not alone. Neurodivergent people often experience overthinking more intensely, but there are ways to manage it and reclaim control of your thoughts.

From breathwork and somatic therapy, reframing your thoughts and calming your senses, to play and creative expression. Add in some some self-compassion, and you can break free from the overthinking cycle to create a calmer, more focused mind.

Restful is a growing library of meditones to help calm your mind, effortlessly. Get it for free today on Google Play or the App Store.