“Sometimes the worst place you can be is in your own head.” How true, overthinking is sometimes compared to a prison of the mind that can be paralyzing. The overthinker tends to create problems that weren’t there to begin with. It can feel like you are carrying a magnifying glass through the day, zooming in and examining every aspect of life to a point where it's hard to function. The simplest decisions can feel monumental because the mind can turn deciding what to eat into food poisoning. Some overthinkers will go in circles over situations from the past that can’t be changed. Regardless of how you overthink, we could all agree that the words “what if?” trigger the mind's anxiety alarm. I’ve had someone describe their mind as feeling “heavy” from overthinking. Here are some tips for unloading the emotional load:
Self-Awareness: We covered this in another blog, “self-awareness is power” -- you cannot change what you are unaware of. The more aware you become of your own thought patterns, the easier it becomes to work towards changing them. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great way to gain self-awareness and practice healthier thinking.
Flip your thoughts: Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario, remind yourself of the best one.
Turn it off: Overthinking can go on and on… try setting a time limit for how long you will process a situation. See this as a boundary you are setting for yourself so that you can go on with your day and be present in the moment.
Let go of perfection: Nobody is perfect and perfection does not exist (if you struggle with this, read my blog on Perfection). Overthinking imperfect aspects of a situation over and over is not productive. Changing your perspective on imperfection can go a long way.
Take a break: Allow your mind to rest and do things that make you happy or spend time with people who do.
Practice focusing: Look at something and take in every detail of it from the color to the texture.
Acceptance: Much of overthinking comes from fear within, not trusting how a situation was or will be handled, not trusting one’s own ability, or overall not feeling good enough.
Overthinking can become a pattern over time that is hard to break. When you overthink your way through life, you end up missing out on what is in front of you. Excessive overthinking about the past or future is like punishment in the present. It takes you out of the moment and into a vicious cycle of unproductive thoughts. If you can relate to this blog and are the “overthinker”, remember that like everything else in life, you can break the cycle. And who knows, maybe once you put down the magnifying glass, you may just enjoy everything that is right in front of you!
“Worrying about how things might go wrong doesn’t help things go right.”