Do you struggle with overthinking? Maybe you find it nearly impossible to make decisions. Or maybe your brain keeps you up at night with a constant stream of worst case scenarios.
Maybe you even have frequent headaches, stomach issues and are absolutely exhausted. All the time.
You’re definitely not alone! Overthinking is a habit which steals joy and paralyzes you with fear and indecisiveness.
Whether it’s ruminating on that dumb thing you said 5 years ago or worrying about the dumb thing you fear saying in 5 minutes, overthinking is the worst!
Although it can be a tricky habit to break, you can find freedom from obsessive thinking. But it does take some effort on your part. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
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What is Overthinking?
The most basic definition of overthinking includes thinking either too much or too long about something. But if you’re reading this and are looking for solutions, I’m guessing you already have a solid understanding of the word!
Overthinking can take several different forms. And although it may have started as one form, it can quickly spread to other areas of your life. Regardless of the form, overthinking is a destructive thought pattern which destroys inner peace and your sense of self.
The first form involves obsessing about things which have happened in the past. This may involve regrets, broken relationships, or any number of your less-than-stellar moments. Unfortunately overthinking the past hardly ever involves your highlight reel!
Ruminating on the past is all too easy to do. For me, it often occurs after a difficult conversation such as a fight with my husband. Even after the conversation has ended, I find myself replaying the interaction over and over again. It’s almost as if I’ve convinced myself that spending brainpower on the altercation afterwards will somehow change the outcome.
Or allow me to take back the incredibly hurtful or stupid thing which came out of my mouth.
No such luck.
Ruminating on the past can also be intense dissatisfaction with various choices you’ve made. Maybe you even spend hours upon hours regretting those choices and desperately wishing for a different outcome.
No such luck there either.
Overthinking the future often revolves around decisions. This form has also been a significant struggle for me throughout my life. I’m constantly second guessing myself!
Whether it’s what I should cook for dinner tonight or whether I should take that alternate position recently offered to me, decisions are difficult!
And it feels as if time spent deep in thought should ultimately reveal the correct decision. As if I’ll somehow stumble upon the correct answer after hours upon hours twisting and turning between the various options.
But it never quite turns out that way.
It instead leaves me second guessing EVERYTHING and no closer to a final answer.
Going Outside Your Comfort Zone
Other than the past and the present, there are plenty of scenarios which can trigger unhealthy doses of overthinking. In my own life I have found anything which triggers fear also triggers overthinking.
It could be the most fabulous opportunity in the world but if it involves going outside my comfort zone, my brain goes into overdrive. Almost immediately, every possible worst case scenario pops up in my mind.
It’s almost as if my brain is trying to convince me that nothing bad will happen if I consider each and every possible negative outcome repeatedly. As if somehow spending hours and hours stewing on every worst case scenario is beneficial.
Or maybe it’s simply my brain trying to talk me out of doing whatever it is I’m feeling drawn toward. Either way, it’s incredibly unhelpful and sets me up for a host of negative thoughts to come flooding through.
Yet another form of overthinking revolves around comparison. I truly believe that comparison opens us up to so many negative thought patterns and overthinking is no exception.
When not done intentionally, time spent mindlessly scrolling social media can set up a cascade of overthinking about how we don’t measure up in this way or that.
And what starts as a glance at someone’s post and simple desire to change ourselves in some way ends with self-loathing in multiple areas. Once negativity gains a foothold in your life, it can be difficult to shift back to the positive again because negativity attracts more negativity.
After a while, it becomes second nature for your brain to overthink comparisons between you and everyone else out there.
Although I’ve only listed 4 specific areas in which overthinking dominates, there are many others out there. Now that you’ve had a chance to think about it, which specific scenarios trigger your overthinking tendencies?
Check out this resource for eliminating comparison in your life.
What’s Wrong with Overthinking?
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’m guessing you have ideas about why overthinking is a bad thing. I’m guessing it’s already impacted your life in some way and definitely not for the better!
One of the primary drawbacks of overthinking is that it focuses on the problem instead of the solution. It keeps you focused on everything that’s wrong instead of on all that inner power you have inside. Overthinking tricks you into thinking you’re making headway on solving the problem however you’re doing the exact opposite.
By keeping you focused on the problem, you are virtually guaranteed to never find a solution. It’s a waste of valuable time and energy which could be spent elsewhere.
Not only is overthinking unproductive but it’s terrible for your mental health. There are multiple studies linking anxiety and depression to overthinking because it’s a thought process which keeps you trapped.
It keeps you from making forward progress and convinces you that you are the sum of your problems. Overthinking has you believing that you are a victim and unable to change your circumstances because it locks you into indecision.
And what’s bad for your mental health also spills over into your physical health. There’s a strong connection between the brain and the body and if your brain is suffering, your body also suffers. As a result of overthinking, you are likely not sleeping well at night and may even suffer frequent headaches and stomach upset.
It’s a vicious cycle pulling you further and further from your true self and inner peace.
But enough with the negativity! Let’s figure out how we can reverse the effects of overthinking and be the amazing souls we were meant to be!
How You Can Stop Overthinking
Overthinking keeps you trapped in your head and feeling powerless to change. One of the most effective ways to stop overthinking is to start taking action. In other words, to get out of your head, you have to step into your body.
Physically moving your body is an almost instantaneous way to stop obsessive thoughts. Any physical activity which gets the blood pumping works wonders for your mental health and restores your sense of power.
Running is one of my favorite exercises because it elevates my mood and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also truly enjoy dressage because it’s a physical and mental workout. I’ve found that it’s impossible to ruminate on my problems while trying to cue intricate movements from my horse!
This next one takes a bit of mental practice but it’s completely worth it. In many cases, the mental pain we experience is created by ourselves and our tendency to overthink. We feel like we have to reject anything which doesn’t fit in with our life plan or “the way things should be.”
But this is simply not the case. You can choose to accept anything, regardless of how terrible it is. Acceptance does not mean that you necessarily agree with something. It simply means you choose not to let it steal your joy and peace.
You choose to find the positive of the situation instead of dwelling on the negative.
Check out this resource for finding inner peace.
A few weeks ago, I was looking for something completely different to read and stumbled across a truly life-changing book. Within its pages I found the type of wisdom which is obvious and yet revolutionary. It’s the type of wisdom which you immediately recognize as what’s been missing from your life.
Nothing in this book is complex and in fact, it’s the simplicity which most appeals to me.
One of the most powerful concepts I’ve taken with me is that I can choose my focus. If something is troubling me, I can choose to stop thinking about it.
I’m not suggesting you use this method to avoid responsibility in life. What I am suggesting is that you can use this technique to ignore those obsessive thoughts. You can change the channel and don’t need to keep watching that same old movie you’ve seen 10,000 times. Lock in a new movie and a new thought pattern.
Since overthinking paralyzes you in thought, step out of your brain by taking action. Any action. Whatever will move you forward toward your goals.
Your brain tricks you into believing that overthinking is forward action but nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you’re some type of wizard, nothing was ever accomplished by thinking alone.
Even in those activities which require extensive thinking, some action is required. Writing, for example, is primarily a thinking activity. But action is still required to move those thoughts from your brain to the page.
I know this is a bit of a taboo topic right now but another effective way to stop overthinking is to socialize with others. We all need other people to live full and complete lives, especially when you struggle with getting outside your head.
It’s so good for us to hear the perspectives of others and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Other people have struggles, triumphs, and lessons which we can learn from. And there are other people out there who want to support you through your struggles. You simply have to be willing to reach out.
As a writer, I love this next one! If you tend to overthink the past, consider reframing your own story. Approach your story as an author would. Expand upon the challenges but find the triumph. Be the hero of your own story.
Exploring your past from this perspective allows you the space to both acknowledge your struggle and to celebrate your strengths. It’s entirely possible that your overthinking stems from unresolved issues with your past but by writing it down, you will have the opportunity to finally resolve and move on.
Bonus points for sharing your written story with someone else!
Gratefulness is the ultimate solution to a host of mindset challenges because it forces us to acknowledge the positive. It’s one of the best ways to force yourself to see all that is amazing in your life!
Getting stuck in a cycle of overthinking is incredibly difficult when you’re instead busy expressing thankfulness for the blessings in your life.
Keeping a gratefulness journal is a solid way to get your thoughts on paper and to have something to refer back to when your brain is on overdrive.
Although stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, too much is harmful for your wellbeing. It’s much easier to get stuck into negative patterns of overthinking when you’re stressed to the max.
And unfortunately, our brain responds to stress the same regardless of whether we have a looming work deadline or a grizzly bear chasing after us.
Do yourself a favor and figure out the most effective ways you can de-stress and stop the overthinking loop in its tracks!
It’s Your Turn!
Overthinking is one of the best ways to ruin your mood, destroy your sleep, and set you up for more negativity in your life. Although not mentioned above, never hesitate to reach out for professional help if you’re struggling to stop overthinking. Seeing a counselor or psychiatrist can be life-changing and the key to setting you free from obsessive thoughts.
As someone who also tends to overthink, I truly hope you have found this post helpful in your quest for greater joy and more inner peace in your life! Comment below with what you found most helpful or whether you have a tactic I may have omitted. If you’re interested in learning more about changing your mindset, here are two books I highly recommend. Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and remember that we’re all only getting better!, ,