Life

6 Tips to Keep You From Overthinking Everything

Overthinking can make you feel like you have no control over your mind. Thankfully, with the right tools and techniques, it's possible to ease your brain's overactive thoughts and find some peace.

Overthinking can make you feel like you have no control over your mind. Thankfully, with the right tools and techniques, it’s possible to ease your brain’s overactive thoughts and find some peace.

What is overthinking?

Overthinking is a common issue that everyone struggles with from time to time. As its name suggests, “overthinking is the tendency to think too much.” This familiar problem consists of repeatedly analyzing negative thoughts and is often accompanied by a failure to take action. Instead, overthinkers go over the same idea in their minds over and over, studying every little detail. The process of overthinking things means that your brain cannot translate ideas into actions because it is so fixated on the small, unimportant details. This pattern has happened to everyone at some point, but what distinguishes overthinking from simply thinking is rumination.

Rumination means to turn a thought over and over in the mind.[i]

Overthinking is characterized by a lack of action and a focus on the negative. While reflecting and analyzing information or situations is perfectly normal, a fixation on these aspects that holds you in place is not standard.  

What causes overthinking?

It is Saturday afternoon, and you are trying to relax, but your mind is spinning in circles and putting you on edge. Did you send that email? Did you finish that assignment? Are you going to get the new position you applied for at work? 

Overthinking is a part of what makes us human. Unfortunately, it leads to anxiety, poor judgment, and elevated stress. When left unchecked, worrying can quickly drive you mad. Your thoughts are a powerful tool – they can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Consistent negative thoughts can lead to decreased self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. It is easy to get caught in this trap, and getting out is often tricky. So, what causes overthinking, and how can you stop it?

Some people are born overthinkers. We have all known that one person who over analyzes everything. However, most of us have not been this way our whole lives, and even if we have been, we may find that it gets worse at times. Two common causes of overthinking are stress and anxiety. Social distancing, for example, may increase your stress levels and lead you to overthink your actions. The purpose behind overthinking is to keep you alerted to danger, and it is ingrained within us all. High-stress or high-anxiety situations may increase our tendency to overthink.

Another aspect that may cause overthinking is trauma. Those who have experienced trauma may be especially prone to overthinking because their mind is trapped in a hyper-vigilant state – awaiting danger.

Overthinking is also common in people with obsessive tendencies, such as perfectionists or those who struggle with control issues. People who are afraid of judgment may also fall into the trap of overthinking what they said or did in a situation due to insecurities.

The Top Causes of Overthinking Include:

  • Work
  • Money
  • Social Gatherings/Interactions
  • Health
  • Conflict
  • Self-image

Overthinking can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. However, high-stress or high-anxiety situations tend to perpetuate this issue and cause it to escalate.

Overthinking itself is not a mental disorder. However, overthinking can be a symptom of other mental health issues. Many anxiety disorders, for example, are accompanied by overthinking. Other conditions that often include an inability to ‘turn off’ excessive thoughts are, PTSD, trauma, agoraphobia, panic disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, substance-induced anxiety disorders, etc.

How to Stop Overthinking

We have all heard the saying ‘let go of yesterday.’ Unfortunately, for those who suffer from a chronic overthinking habit or anxiety disorder, this is easier said than done. Daily rituals and destructive thought patterns become the norm, and this type of thinking turns into a downward spiral. In extreme cases, a simple question from a friend or colleague (such as ‘How was your day?‘) can spark a worry cycle that profoundly impacts a chronic overthinker.

Stopping the cycle of overthinking and curbing this behavior requires overcoming obstacles to improve the quality of life, one small step at a time. Below are some tips, tricks, and tools that will help you stop this problematic behavior and achieve a different perspective on your life experiences.

Tools to Overcome Overthinking.

Take Charge:

The most valuable lesson I learned in life was how to take charge of my emotions. Chronic worriers are often concerned about unlikely events. I was one of those people, allowing my limiting beliefs to hold me back from having a real life. I was always worried about making the wrong decision or doing the wrong thing. I lacked self-compassion, and this was reflected in my thoughts and lack of action. Accepting that feeling my emotions was alright and learning to control them changed my life in so many ways.

There is nothing wrong with worry. It is not a weakness. In fact,  anxiety may be an evolutionary trait that has helped our species survive. However, you need to switch those negative thoughts off and take action. An indicator of an overthinking habit is the inability to overcome thoughts and act.

Stop tossing catastrophic predictions around in your mind and start doing things that will help to prevent them. Taking action to take control of your life is the best way to achieve the outcome you desire.

Take Risks:

Albert Einstein once said, “fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.” These wise words should be inspiring. Life without risks is like a summer without sunshine – miserable. Taking risks, trying new things, and making mistakes are what cause us to grow and flourish. Without them, we remain trapped in one place. 

Test the waters:

If you are an overthinker, the idea of jumping from a plane may be out of your comfort zone. Instead, aim to start small. Taking a small step in the right direction is much easier than leaping in feet first. Sure, things may go wrong when trying something new, but these thoughts are merely assumptions. Things are just as likely to go right as well.

Understand the What If’s.

Your insecurities may lead you to question things that require no questioning. You don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to engage in overthinking, and it can creep up on you without warning. Worrying about a job promotion or deadline, stressing about the emails in your inbox, or focusing on worst-case scenarios can impact your mental health.

Understand your concerns by looking at issues from different angles. The worst possible outcome is only one possibility – It is essentially a single drop in a full glass of water.

Make a Plan:

Chronic overthinkers are not usually spontaneous people, and that is okay. You can still succeed in life without waking up and deciding to quit your job on a whim or packing up and moving to Bali on the weekend. Having a solid plan can help you achieve your goals and make you just as successful. Sit and think about your biggest fears and find ways to combat them. Create a plan that includes concrete actions. List tools and tricks that help you cope and get you motivated.

Turn to Others for Support.

Rely on good friends for guidance during difficult times. Your friendships should be your compass in life. Your friends should lead you in a positive direction and keep you grounded when you need it most. Put an end to repetitive thinking and sleepless nights by talking with the people who care about you most. Friendships are an essential aspect of our lives. Why not utilize them to your benefit? When you find yourself worrying about an issue or overthinking a situation, look to your friends for support. Chances are they will be happy to talk you down off your ledge and will eagerly help you to get back on track.

Overthinking is a common problem that almost everyone has experienced at some point in their life. Putting a stop to overthinking and getting back to your day-to-day life may seem like an impossible task. However, this is one situation that you do not want to overthink. Taking charge of your life and putting a stop to ruminative thoughts is possible. Remember, overthinking is often a byproduct of anxiety and can be treated. Consider the root causes of your overthinking, and find real reasons to move forward with your life. Let go of procrastination and make a conscious effort to make a change. You will be happy that you did.

Life is far too short to live on the sidelines watching the game.  

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