As much as being cheated on by a beloved partner is outwardly devastating, it’s the internal struggle—ruminating, overthinking, and analysis paralysis—that can be another wrecking ball in the cheating catastrophe.
Figuring out how to stop overthinking after being cheated on can lead to even more overthinking.
The rumination can lead to a host of mental and physical health issues now and in the long run, so getting out of your own head is one of the fastest ways to heal your broken heart and improve your overall health because you’ve got some tough decisions to make.
Why Do You Overthink After Being Cheated On?
In its simplest form, overthinking is our brain in a frozen fight-or-flight state trying to resolve stress, trauma, or anxiety.
Of course, nothing about overthinking is simple, but let’s not overthink it.
There are a few forms of “being stuck in our own heads.”
- Stages of Grief: A loss is a loss, whether it’s a death or breach of trust. Our overthinking can happen during any phase of the grief process but can evolve between the denial, anger, depression, and bargaining phase.
- Ruminating: This overthinking process is a vicious cycle of either repeating trauma or imagining something past or future in your mind.
- Intrusive Thoughts: These thoughts can happen on a loop if you don’t pull yourself out of them, such as wishing harm to the mistress or financially devastating your spouse.
- Triggered Overthinking: Even in a good headspace, we can be triggered by the dress we wore when we found out about the cheating or the smell or sound accompanying the devastating information.
- Mental Health Issues: People who already struggle with anxiety or depression can be more prone to overthinking in any situation, with exacerbated thoughts while getting over cheating.
At the root of overthinking is your brain balancing how emotionally adept you are at handling the trauma while figuring out how to escape the adrenaline rush of anxiety, fear, or anger.
17 Ways to Stop Overthinking After Being Cheated On
Only Elsa can “Let it Go,” but there are some ways you can put your thoughts to better use during this challenging time.
1. Schedule time to overthink.
To avoid falling down a rabbit hole of despair and having the overthinking process distract you during the work day, schedule a time to permit yourself all the overthinking you want. Schedule a start and end time and set an alarm. It can at least get you through intrusive thoughts that come up during an important meeting.
It will help to do this in a space where you feel comfortable, like a walking path at your favorite park or in the bathtub during a relaxing soak.
2. Write down what you’re thinking.
Putting the chaos of overthinking onto paper can give your brain a task, meaning there’s a finish line. You have no grammar or punctuation rules here. Write in a stream of consciousness to purge the feelings from your head. Like any good writer, you sometimes just need to get the information out of your head and onto paper.
In the end, either save the paper to review later during your healing process or burn it. It’s up to you.
3. Speak to spiritual leaders.
The moral and ethical side of cheating comes into play, especially when it comes to forgiveness. Whether you have a trusted pastor or want to explore other spiritual disciplines and beliefs, you’re moving forward instead of circling the drain in your head.
Even a professor of ethics or attempting a Buddhist temple service can help get the brain on the right track.
4. Make yourself leave the house.
Who cares if you’ve been crying and your eyes are puffy? If you get out of the house, even if it’s just to go on a long drive, you still have to redirect your thoughts to traffic and stoplights. Go to a play where you’ll get engrossed in a storyline. Visit your favorite store and try on clothing.
Taking the first step out of the house is the hardest thing, so perhaps you schedule a carpet cleaner to come by, so you’ll feel inclined to leave.
5. Try EDMR to redirect how your brain processes trauma.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) is specifically designed to help you heal from trauma and avoid the gut punches of emotions that can be triggered during that healing. Eye movements are paired with memories to help the brain heal itself, which allows you to reduce the physical effects of overthinking.
While EDMR can be self-taught, it helps to seek a trained counselor as this is a newer coping mechanism. After a few sessions, you can likely move forward on your own.
6. Stop, calibrate, and listen to your body.
When you know you’re overthinking yourself into a nervous ball, channel that energy into a full body scan. Start at your toes and work your way up to the top of your head. Is your jaw clenched? Are you twirling your hair? Does your stomach hurt?
Once you are more in touch with your body and how an overthinking mind physically impacts you, you can re-focus that energy on more beneficial things, like stretching the tension from your neck.
7. Break stuff like Limp Bizkit.
The brain is worked up, and your body is screaming for a release of the adrenaline rush. Look for a Rage Room or other safe environment where you can smash things to bits. Nobody was ever caught overthinking with a mallet in their hand.
Boxing is another great outlet for stress, and the physical benefits are helpful too. Feel free to bring a photo of your cheating spouse and tape it to the bag.
8. Reframe your thoughts if you can’t stop overthinking.
When the mind is hellbent on overthinking, try turning the tables. This is especially important if you’re (understandably) insecure after being cheated on. Instead of wondering, “What is wrong with me?” dive into what is wrong with your spouse that led to this.
You can also turn, “This is going to ruin my life,” into “What do I want from my life moving forward?” At least in this cycle, you’re focused on future options and not past mistakes you can’t control.
9. Eat, Pray, and Love your way through a week or two.
You don’t need to go to India or Bali to find the touchstones of your soul that exist with or without your partner. Plan specific activities during the next few weeks that are meant to heal and nourish your mind, body, and heart.
This could include things like acupuncture, a road trip to nowhere, trying new ethnic cuisine, or finally learning Italian. The more out of your comfort zone, the better. You’re looking to grow from an experience, not be stuck repeating a tragic one in your head.
10. Enlist your friends to battle your brain.
Give your friends permission to interrupt an overthinking occurrence by showing up whenever they want or forcing you to go for coffee. Even texting funny memes or telling a crazy bar story could be distracting enough to stop the rumination cycle.
This is also an excellent time to go through old photos with your friends and remember that you are a whole person with or without your cheating partner.
11. Make a meal plan for the next month.
Natural-born overthinkers or those new to the craft know that the cycle can impact our eating habits. Restless nights can do a number on our guts as well. Watch some YouTube videos or find frugal menus where you can meal prep and always have a healthy snack or sandwich ready to go.
If your body is fueled with healthy food, your mind is better prepared to handle intrusive thoughts.
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12. Put a rubber band on your wrist.
This is an oldie but a goodie. Your sneaky mind will start overthinking even if you’re in line at the grocery store. Connect a physical action with overthinking. Every time a thought headed down a rabbit hole pops up, snap the rubber band on your wrist.
Your brain wants to overthink but doesn’t want to experience that snap again. In theory, your brain will eventually avoid the intrusive thoughts to protect against the snap. Huna Bands are specifically designed for this, with one of the core beliefs being “energy flows where the attention goes.”
13. Yell at yourself to stop overthinking.
Let that inner voice sound loud when you feel trapped in your own mind. If you try too hard to avoid overthinking, you’ll inevitably end up there anyway. Make yourself aware when it’s happening and proudly say, “You are overthinking, my beautiful brain, and I’m not having it. Please focus on something else.”
If you need to, get nasty with your brain, “Look. We’ve been thinking about this for hours, and there’s no resolution. SHUT UP!”
14. I can start overthinking as soon as I…
Bargain a different way during this grief-stricken time of being cheated on. Negotiate with your brain to perform a challenging task, and then you give yourself permission to ruminate. For example, you must say all 50 states in reverse alphabetical order before you can obsess about the affair (no Googling allowed!).
You can also perform a physical bargaining task to wear out your body to get better sleep and avoid overthinking. “After I do 50 burpees, I can think all I want.”
15. Talk about it with the cheater on your timeline.
Most overthinking happens when it comes to “What if,” “Why,” and “What did I do wrong?” Whether you choose one big talk, a once-a-week meeting, or five minutes of conversation daily, choose the timeline that works best for you. Start with setting boundaries for yourself. Do you want to know her name? Intimate details? Just the facts?
Information, in all its forms, is healing, but your goal is to get information that calms intrusive thoughts, not exacerbates them.
16. Let your brain be itself.
Some people, like those on the autism spectrum or with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cannot control their brains like neurotypical people. If you struggle with these issues, you have to allow yourself space to let your brain be your brain in all its beautiful madness.
Stress, anxiety, and depression can also alter the chemicals in our brain, turning it into an overthinking factory when it was once an assembly line of problem-solving. If you practice breathing or meditation to calm stress and anxiety, you could also ward off overthinking.
17. Try EFT tapping to redirect energy.
Tapping is a trendy way to calm overactive minds and reduce anxiety. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping is a Chinese medicine-based therapy that involves targeting the meridian points (energy thoroughfares in our body) and tapping them to stop rumination or intrusive thoughts.
It’s also shown to reduce anxiety and stress while having the luxury of being performed on yourself and by yourself.
Why Do People Cheat on Someone They Love?
Sometimes it’s as simple as why Adam ate the forbidden fruit—because it was exciting. Other times it gets more complicated, but what’s really important to know is that it’s rarely about the person who was cheated on. That’s yet another reason to stop blaming yourself or letting your self-esteem suffer.
Some of the top reasons people admit to cheating are:
- It was an escape. People who become bored or stagnant in a marriage can sometimes misdirect those feelings into something new while still holding on to the love that exists with their partner.
- It was a lack of self-esteem. The selfish part about this is a spouse who doesn’t feel attractive gets hooked on someone new who adores them while not realizing how self-esteem-crippling the affair will be for their partner.
- It was attention-seeking. Whether intended or not, women seek emotional support, and if they aren’t getting it at home, they might seek out a cyber affair. It helps if you and your spouse set clear boundaries about what is or isn’t considered cheating.
- It was a moment of weakness. Alcohol, willpower, and opportunity all lead into this labyrinth of cheating.
Does the Anxiety and Pain of Being Cheated on Ever Go Away?
The consensus from marriage counselors is that true healing from cheating can take up to two years. However, you choose the timeline and the pace that works best for you. There are too many variables to run a stopwatch on it.
If you look back at your life and betrayals or traumatic experiences, you can gauge how well your healing process works and where you get hung up. We also have new tools to cope with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which is what cheated-on spouses deal with, that can help further healing.
You’ve survived every other pain you’ve had, so there’s no reason to think you can’t heal from this. You must be willing to let go of anger, truly forgive, and re-establish boundaries with your spouse. It’s a long road, but if there is true love here, it can be worth it, and open lines of communication that didn’t exist before.
Seeking the help of a professional is a significant first step toward a double-dip of dealing with PTSD while curbing the overthinking. When your brain is in that fight-or-flight mode, it’s helpful to let someone else take the wheel for a while to get you on the right track.