Overthinking is something that everyone experiences from time to time. The good news is that you have choices. This is about deconstructing that helpless-feeling state, and giving you ways to deal with it, so you can resume your life and feel better. Let's jump in.
What is overthinking?
First, it's important to make a distinction: Unlike problem-solving which is geared toward thinking about a solution and taking action, or self-reflection which is about looking deep in order to gain new perspectives, overthinking is being trapped in an incessant mental loop and feeling like:
Overthinking, which is also sometimes called rumination can feel like your mind is stuck in overdrive, going in circles, and you can’t slow it down, or you have entered a vortex of all-consuming thoughts and don’t know how to climb out. If you’ve ever felt like you were literally stuck in your head, you know what this experience is like.
Why does this happen?
According to psychologist David Carbonell, “Because we feel vulnerable about the future, we keep trying to solve problems in our head.” It makes people think they’re taking action by trying to solve it. But when thoughts go into overdrive, they can become obsessive, and anxiety and depression tend to go hand-in-hand. The end result is that it can deplete your energy, and make it harder to make decisions. Analysis paralysis is real.
Actually overthinking, if unchecked, can become a habit, and today we’ll talk about how to break it:
1. Awareness is the first step – When you are aware that you are overthinking, then you have choices. Awareness opens the door to change because otherwise, you would not realize that something is off - you'd be too enmeshed in it. So this is victory #1.
2. Create a plan – once you know that certain situations trigger rumination, you can plan around it - this is powerful as it puts you at the helm of your life. Here are a few strategies you can put in your plan. Choose which ones resonate most for you.
3. Break the state with action: go for a walk, exercise - get our of your head and into your body. "When you're actioning a problem, you're putting yourself in control rather than feeling it's all happening to you and you have no control." Through action, you are short-circuiting the cycle of overthinking. What is one action you can take when your thoughts are looping?
4. Change the channel in your mind: Immerse yourself in a project. Have that conversation, do a puzzle, watch a movie, go to the grocery store now. instead of going down the rabbit hole with a certain fear, distract yourself and redirect your attention to something else that requires focus.
5. Attune to your sensory awareness. - Use mindfulness to notice your feet on the ground, the wind on your face. Another related strategy is to start naming what you see out loud - the window, the shades, the pen on the counter (if you are in a public place, you can write it down... this will move your attention from the inside out.)
6. Schedule a set amount of time to worry. You might try a half-hour a day. Pick a consistent 30-minute time slot to worry and put it in your schedule every day. If you catch yourself worrying outside your designated time, just remind yourself that you'll worry later. (you can even jot it down in the moment to refer to later). When you reach your worry time, set a timer for 30 minutes, and think or write it in a notebook - give it all you got! You'll find that warding off your worries gets easier over time.
7. Have a mantra to help you. Remind yourself: "I am not my thoughts or you got this." Psychologist Amy Morin, when faced with "I hope I do OK today, reminds herself, "Make it happen. It reminds me I'm in control of my actions.” When thinking about something out of her control "I hope it doesn't rain on Saturday," tells herself, "I can handle it." Talk to yourself in the first person – that helps too.
8. Supplements: Some people report significant changes with Magnesium and Ashwaganda – of course, check with your medical team first.
9. Worst and best case scenario: What are you afraid will happen? Write it down. What would you do, how would you cope? Chances are this will never happen, but you have taken away the charge. Also, consider the good that could come out of a situation too.
10. Focus on what you want , not what’s keeping you stuck. I’m stuck in a rut to what is one thing I can do to move forward. So instead of I can’t believe I’m in this same old situation to what can I do to prevent this from happening again? Or I don’t have good friends to what steps can I take to enhance my friendships and find new friends too. Switch from a victim to an explorer.
Though overthinking can show up when stress rises in everyday life, there are ways to deal with it. See what works for you, and you will shorten the time in that state, and eventually be able to identify it before it takes hold. You have more influence than you know.
Q: Which ones will you try, or what works best for you?
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