How to Stop Overthinking

If I could go back and teach myself one thing before I started ‘adulting’ it would be to stop overthinking. I know that many overthinkers are constantly told to, “stop worrying about xyz” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” People who don’t understand what it’s like to have thoughts literally keep you up at night, are telling you to just let it go. Well, if you are like me, in that regard, then this is for you.

What is overthinking anyways? Well, it’s defined as “…the process of constantly analyzing and anguishing over one’s thoughts. It may include rumination, in which an individual is stuck mentally rehashing their past or present decisions and/or actions.” There is a normal amount of thinking that is actually healthy and non-detrimental that people engage in, but overthinking is when you go beyond that point.

I have actually wondered why I overthink or rather why other people don’t. I did a quick google search and found out that overthinking can be caused by a variety of different things such as traumatic experiences, anxiety, stress, etc. I also read that ‘Type B’ personalities are more inclined to overthinking than ‘Type A’ personalities. Makes sense!

While we cannot stop thoughts from crossing our minds, we can find ways to help manage them just like any other bad habit.

Understanding what triggers you to overthink

Figure out what events, stressors, or situations cause you to get worked up. Once you get to the source of your overthinking, you’ll be able to recognize it for what it is, and hopefully, stop it before it begins. Or, at the least be aware that it is happening. Start with how you’re feeling in that exact moment, ask yourself:

  • Are you projecting your fears?
  • Is it the events of the present or the past?
  • Is it a relationship you have that makes you feel this way?
  • Are you comparing yourself to others?
  • Self-doubt? Overwhelmed?

For me, it’s usually fear or anxiety. I am an imperfect semi-perfectionist (definitely made that up) but in some instances, a single mistake can consume me with negative thoughts that take over. I remember my first job out of college I was working on a project that had high visibility to the entire company. The project was going to simplify the processes for so many other jobs/teams, and I handled the communication plan for that project. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of my role in that project. Long story short, I sent an email to the ENTIRE organization about an update on the project. I’m talking the 10,000+ employees vs. the 500 or so people it was supposed to go to. While there was really nothing wrong with the email, nor did it make it to all of those inboxes… but, I had made a mistake. A big one at that. Now that I look back, I can laugh and think about how silly it all was. But in that moment I was so disappointed in myself. It was my first real job in my career field and I had convinced myself that I blew it within a couple of months. I remember feeling depressed about it for weeks. I worried that my manager, peers. and colleagues thought I wasn’t fit for the job. I felt like an idiot and more than anything I felt vulnerable. That set the bar for the rest of my time there in that job. I began to overthink EVERYTHING I did; in fear that I would make another mistake.

Even today I get a little anxious when I have to send emails out to a large audience. It’s because it highlights my insecurities of making another mistake. Once I get in my head, it’s like my emotions pass the baton to my thoughts, and they legit race back and forth nonstop.

Now I am able to recognize those moments for what they are, and how they affect my ability to think clearly. I understand my triggers.

Calling Out Your Thoughts

This one is for that little voice in your head that makes you second guess yourself. The one that tells you that you aren’t enough, that you aren’t loved, that you aren’t worthy of all the things you are destined for. Tell that voice that enough is enough.

The one thing we forget about that voice is that we can talk back to it. When a negative thought crosses your mind, answer it with a question. For example, I start to self spiral when I think about the goals I have set for myself and the reality of me not achieving them yet. It starts with the, “You will never make accomplish that” or “It’s too hard” and oh, can’t forget the “It’s too expensive, you can’t afford that.” I have to turn around and respond with, “…Why can’t I accomplish that? What’s hard about it? What are you scared of? Are you going to let a temporary financial situation dictate your future?” Yep, that’s right I catch an attitude with my own thoughts. When you get caught up on a thought that consumes you, stop it in its track. Fight back. When you go back and forth for a while you realize how irrelevant those negative thoughts are in the first place.

If you do have a hard time with this method, try reframing your thoughts from a different perspective

  • “How are you going to make that work?” turns into “How can I make this work?”
  • “You’ll never get that promotion” turns into “What do I need to do to get this promotion?’
  • “You’ll never find the right person, you’re going to be single forever” turns into “Why can’t I find the right person? “What do I need to do to make sure I attract the right person?

Turn those negative thoughts into actionable items!

Dedicate a Time Frame to Overthinking

This sounds crazy but seriously give this a try! The key to this is to give yourself a 10–15-minute timeframe every day (or whenever you need it) to allow your thoughts to roam wild. For example, let’s say that your time frame is between 7-7:15 PM. If you have something on your mind and it’s noon… tell yourself “I will worry about this later.” Just hold your thoughts. It’s self-manipulation! That can’t be so bad right? When 7 PM rolls around you let the worse of it come, but when that clock hit 7:15 you have to shut it down!

If you find that you are unable to stop thinking; then use distractions. Maybe a tv show, YouTube video, exercise, listen to music, call a friend, grab a bite to eat. Do whatever you can to distract yourself.  If you get yourself in this habit, you sometimes may even forget about the worry completely by the time it’s time to think about it.

Final Thoughts

No change worth having happens overnight. Chances are you will never be perfect, but what matters is that you make a constant effort at bettering yourself. Overthinking can affect your productivity and/or your relationships. Don’t let your mind be in control, it is YOU who has the power to control it. ?

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