Have you ever found yourself awaiting a text or response from someone anxiously? Do you have a tendency to create a thousand possible scenarios in your head and try to over-analyze everything?
Have you ever worried that you might say something ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’ in a meeting? Either when you reflect back on the past meeting and concern that you might said something that you shouldn’t have, or you worry that you will say something ‘stupid’ in an upcoming meeting.
If you find yourself in either one of these scenarios, know that these are signs that you are overthinking.
Overthinking is thinking too much about a situation to the point that it holds you back from doing something productive. Keep in mind that thinking and doing things are not the same. When you analyze, comment, judge, or have an idea and you repeat them over and again, instead of acting on it, you are overthinking.
Your mind can trick you. Don’t believe everything you have in mind. Things are not always as what they seem to be.
“Overthinking can bring negative impact on your well-being. It consumed a lot of your energy, makes you feel continually worried, stressed, restless, anxious, and it can disturb your sleeping habit.”
People perceive things differently. What we think and perceive of a situation doesn’t mean that other people think and perceive that situation the same way as we do.
Those unread or never replied to text messages that you’ve been worrying about maybe have been left like that for several reasons. Perhaps, it’s none of the scenarios that you created. Although, it might be one of them too. There’s no guarantee.
And the thing that you think it was a ‘mistake’ or something that you shouldn’t have said in a conversation in the past, there’s a chance that they don’t remember or even realize that you made a ‘mistake’.
Furthermore, how do you know for sure that you’re going to make a ‘mistake’? What if you’ll do just fine?
Sometimes overthinking can bring positive impact. It encourages us to prepare something ahead. For example, you’re overthinking how you are going to perform in a meeting, and that makes you feel anxious and restless. Then, you take an action by preparing and studying the material needed for that upcoming meeting. Since you’re prepared, you’ll feel more in control and more confident.
“it is necessary for you to come back to your thoughts and pay attention to what you actually overthinking about. Sometimes we fail to take care of ourselves and give the attention needed.”
However, overthinking can also bring negative impact on your well-being. It consumed a lot of your energy, makes you feel continually worried, stressed, restless, anxious, and it can disturb your sleeping habit. Thinking too much also wasting your time, makes you lose focus, and end up missing opportunities.
So, how do we know if our overthinking brings us more advantages instead of disadvantages?
A moderate amount of ‘overthinking’ will help you to think ahead, to be more prepared, more cautious, and help you in everyday life without draining so much of your energy and threatening your well-being, if you take an action thereupon. In other words, your thoughts are enough to give you heads-up but you still are the one who controls yourself.
On the other hand, it causes more harm than good when you realize that overthinking is starting to control your life, instead of you being in control of it. You become worried all the time, stressed, anxious, and feeling restless. It started to take most of your energy, ruin your mood, and disturb your quality of sleep.
There are many ways to stop overthinking. One of them is to distract yourself and focus your attention on something that is more important, useful, and helpful. However, for some cases it is necessary for you to come back to your thoughts and pay attention to what you actually overthinking about. Sometimes we fail to take care of ourselves and give the attention needed. Once you understand what the actual problem is, it’ll be easier for you to decide what to do from there.
Here are some activities that I suggest to help you stop overthinking:
This is my current favorite self-care ritual. Every time I catch myself overthinking, I color one or two drawings. It really helps to stop me from overthinking unnecessary thoughts.
Coloring has similar effect to meditation. It trains your brain to focus on the present moment; on the activity that you are doing. Since coloring requires repetition and attention to detail, you’ll be more focus on the activity, rather than your worries. Hence, it gives you a calming effect and relaxes your brain from the daily stress of life.
#2 Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is observing and becoming aware of what’s happening in the present moment, including the awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and senses. In other words, focusing on one thing at a time.
Two main components of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance.
Awareness: Be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensation, e.g. your breathing, as it happens. When you become aware of your thoughts, don’t stop them. Instead, notice them and let it flow in your head.
Acceptance: Let the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you notice be observed in a non-judgmental manner.
For example, if you notice you’re anxious, simply tell yourself: “I notice I am feeling anxious” or if it’s a thought of something that’s bothering you, you can state “I notice I am having the thought of ….” And put these thoughts into categories like:
- Worry thoughts
- Planning thoughts
- Critical thoughts
Do it without giving any judgement (good vs bad) or an attempt to change the feeling. The skill that you learn here is to tell the difference between a thought and a fact.
“Keep on practicing to gain control over your mind. The truth is you can train your brain to do what you want it to do.”
Take a note on what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling as a result of that overthinking. You can write it on a book or on your phone, whatever makes you feel comfortable. The idea is to be aware of the overwhelmed thoughts that you’re having and let them out of your head to make you feel more relax. When your head is clear, you’ll make better decision.
It might be helpful to include the following details:
- Identify the occasion, including if there’s any people involved, in which you begin to indulge patterns of overthinking. For example, you may notice that you tend to overthinking when you are alone; in a party surrounded by a lot of people; or before giving a presentation in front of class.
- Do it in non-judgmental manner. The most important thing is to acknowledge that you are ‘having the thoughts’ again.
Writing will help you to process your thoughts, analyzing patterns of your thinking, and finding ways to move past those thoughts.
#4 Sing your favorite song
Music can change your mood in a positive way. So, instead of wasting your time and energy in overthinking, sing your favorite song! Invite your friend, family, or your pet to sing with you. It’s a better activity to spend your time and energy, plus you can get the chance of bonding with them.
Again, don’t overthink and over-analyze on how you sing. You’re not in a singing contest, so it doesn’t matter if you can’t sing like Beyoncé or Ariana Grande. Just sing! There’s no need to judge yourself.
#5 Get yourself a hobby!
Get yourself involved in a useful and healthy activity. Knitting or sewing, photography, playing music, writing, painting, you name it.
Find what comforts you and grounds you in the present moment and use that activity as often as you need to.
If you’re a believer you can also pray. Praying can give you a sense of peace and it has comforting effect, said a psychologist Crystal Park, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs (via everydayhealth.com). Praying will make you reflect and stop yourself from making destructive decisions, and at the same time will help keep the negative, unwanted thoughts at bay.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t stop overthinking. Over-analyzing and overthinking is a habit. Everybody knows it is not easy to change a habit that has been there forever. So, don’t set yourself up for a failure with an unrealistic expectation since you can’t change a habit overnight.
Keep on practicing to gain control over your mind. The truth is you can train your brain to do what you want it to do.
You can choose one of the above steps to work on. Just be mindful in every action that you take. You are in charge of your yourself and your mind. Trust yourself to get the job done and don’t let your overthinking dictate your decision. Don’t let it prevent you from doing anything that you’ll almost certainly regret it. Success only occurs when you take action.