Are you overthinking it?

While it’s part of human nature to take time to deliberate about certain decisions or evaluate a situation, it becomes overthinking when you can’t get it out of your head. Overthinking may also cause ‘paralysis by analysis’, meaning you are so afraid to take the wrong action, that you take no action at all.

But overthinking and worrying can take a serious toll on your mental wellbeing and can elevate stress levels and cloud your judgment.

If you’re now realising that you are a chronic overthinker then good news! You weren’t born an overthinker – this is simply a pattern to your behaviour that can be just as easily unlearned with a few helpful tips.

In fact, overthinking isn’t entirely a bad thing, as those who overthink are likely to be more sensitive than those who don’t. They have more active brain circuitry and higher levels of neurochemicals in areas related to mental processing, which means that their minds not only take in more information, but also process that information in a more complex way. This becomes an issue however, when one allows it to get out of control and becomes too overwhelmed.

So here are some practical steps you can take to help stop the endless cycle of repetitive thinking:

  1. Find a distraction: It can be hard to start a new activity if you feel overwhelmed by your thought. Going outside and getting some fresh air always helps. Getting away from the computer where you might feel overwhelmed and instead catching up with a friend or going on a run will help clear your head and allow you to come back to that daunting task with a fresh mind.
  2. Look at the bigger picture: Although some decisions and problems are worth mulling over, others are not. If you’re worried about making the wrong decision, try the 10/10/10 test. If the prospect of getting it wrong paralyses you. Think about how you will feel about the decision in 10 weeks, 10 months and then 10 years from now. It’s likely the choice will be inconsequential. Putting these things into perspective will help you take the action quicker.
  3. Acknowledge your successes: If you’re in the middle of an overthinking spiral, take out a notebook and write down five things that have gone right over the past week. These don’t have to be huge accomplishments, but as tiny as sticking to your gym routine. When you look at it on paper, you might be surprised at how these little things add up, and make you feel better about yourself.
  4. Sleep on it: Sometimes sleeping on a big decision is the best way to find your solution. During sleep, your brain processes information learnt during the day, and transfers it from the short-term memory bank, to the long-term memory bank (view another article on this) When you wake up with a clearer head, you may find the solution to your problem is clearer than you originally thought.
  5. Lastly, ask for help: You don’t have to go it alone! If a problem feels bigger than it should be, tell someone – after all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

So, to stop yourself wasting hours in unproductive mental loops, ground yourself and look at things from another perspective. You might find the problem is not as big as it seems.

Recommended Links

How to Stop Overthinking: 14 Strategies

8 ways to stop overthinking everything | Tony Robbins

How to Stop Overthinking Everything