Would people call you a worrier? Your friends? Family? Are you that person who gets stuck in their thinking? Well, you’re not alone. One problem that often comes up in coaching sessions is overthinking. What is overthinking, and how can we stop it? We live our lives through our thoughts. Inevitably, we will all get sucked into patterns of overthinking, especially when life is so busy.
What is overthinking?
Though overthinking is not a medical term, research shows it can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing. If you find yourself obsessively ruminating and fretting for long times, it’s a habit and caused in part by destructive thinking patterns. This vicious cycle can lead to a decline in mental health and depression.
Overthinking leads to fewer hours of sleep. Overthinking is tiring. Research shows that overthinking elevates stress levels, reduces creativity, clouds judgment, and removes the power to make decisions. Overthinking can prevent you from getting anything done and can play havoc on your emotional state.
While we all overthink situations from time to time, some people are plagued with a constant stream of thoughts all the time. Overthinkers tend to rehash conversations, second-guess decisions, and imagine disastrous outcomes all day, every day. (themuse.com).
Yet everyone overthinks sometimes. Some people do it more than others. Some of these people could suffer from anxiety disorders, but not everyone does. If we change our thinking, we can increase optimism, positivity, energy, and overall happiness.
Recognise you are overthinking
The first challenge is to acknowledge that you are overthinking in the first place! It’s only by realising that you overthink things that you can even do something about it. Your thoughts become your reality.
Whatever you think about over and over in your life is what you become. Now, you need to interrupt your thinking habits and focus on what you can control.
Focus on What You Can Control
When worrying, take a minute to examine what you can do. First, acknowledge what’s on your mind. Second, broaden your perspective. Make a list of all your worries. Split the page into two. On one side – ‘Things I can’t control’ and on the other ‘Things I can’. Writing helps us with metacognitive thinking – making connections between our topics and patterns and ideas in our heads. Making time for writing can be hugely helpful to our wellbeing.
Write down some goals related to what you can control instead of worrying about what you can’t and what concerns you. Think of ways to cut and eliminate expenses instead of worrying about paying your bills. Then ask what else you can do to earn extra money or do differently. Take action in real life and get out of your head by shifting your attention from what you can’t control to that what you can.
It helps to take things in small steps and focus on one of them at a time to see progress. When you catch yourself overthinking, refocus on your list and goals to snap yourself out of the overthinking.
Is your brain always expecting the worst?
You, like most of us, are hardwired for pessimism. Don’t worry; it doesn’t make you a bad person! Pessimism is a throwback to a bygone era from prehistoric times, wired into our very DNA for our survival. But this can trap your brain in a cycle of constant over worry. Trying to control your thoughts is a surefire way for the idea to pop up again.
If you notice that your mind is going into overdrive, do something else rather than sit around – maybe exercise, do something creative, or talk to a friend or family member.
Get good quality sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our mood suffers, and we find ourselves having more negative thoughts and feeling anxious. Lack of sleep can also increase depression, robbing us of our power to make decisions. It’s essential to have good quality sleep. Keeping a notebook by your bed is an excellent way to make sure you don’t have anything racing through your head.
Learn to breathe – properly
Just a few minutes of meditation, silence, and free thought a day can work wonders for your state of mind.
It takes practice to clear your head, but you’ll see the benefits and improve your health if you do it daily.