What is Overthinking?
We can all beat ourselves up about mistakes we have made or worry about something that is yet to happen. However, overthinkers are literally plagued by such thoughts, and their inability to get out of this destructive cycle and quiet those thoughts leads to a state of constant anguish.
Whether ruminating about something that has already happened e.g. ‘I wish I hadn’t said that in the meeting this morning. Everyone thought I was stupid’ or worrying about something that might happen in future e.g. ‘I’m dreading the interview I have tomorrow. I just know that I’m going to say something stupid or forget my words,’ overthinking is a blight and can take a serious toll on physical health and mental wellbeing.
Sometimes overthinkers conjure up images – envisaging a car going off the road or replaying a distressing event in their minds like a movie.
Many overthinkers resort to unhealthy coping strategies such as excessive alcohol or food consumption, in order to ‘escape’ their distress. We also know that overthinkers find it hard to ‘switch off’ their thoughts, leading to fewer hours of sleep, with any sleep they do manage to get being poorer in quality.
1. Notice When You’re Thinking Too Much
• Start paying attention to the way you think
• When you notice yourself replaying events in your mind over and over, or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge that these thoughts aren’t productive or helpful to you in any way
2. Challenge Your Thoughts
• It’s easy to get carried away with negative thoughts but before you start catastrophizing, acknowledge the fact that your thoughts might be exaggeratedly negative. Calling in sick is not going to get you fired; breaking up with someone is not going to mean you’ll end up single for the rest of your life
3. Keep The Focus On Active Problem Solving
• Whilst dwelling on problems isn’t helpful, looking for solutions is
• Ask yourself what steps you can take to learn from a mistake or avoid a future problem
• Instead of asking why something happened, ask yourself what you can do about it
4. Schedule Time For Reflection
• Taking time to think about how you could do things differently or thinking through potential pitfalls to a plan can help you ‘do better’ in future
• Try and build in 20 mins of dedicated ‘thinking time’ into your day to day schedule. Use this focused time to worry or mull over whatever you want. When the time is up, move onto doing something more productive
• If you find yourself overthinking things outside of the 20 min slot, remind yourself that you’ll think about it later
5. Practice Mindfulness
• Try to be in the ‘here and now,’ what’s happening in the present moment
• Mindfulness is one way to live in the present – it takes practice but over time it can help in decreasing your overthinking
6. ‘Change the Channel’
• The more you try to avoid the thought from coming into your head, the more likely it is to keep popping up
• Keeping yourself busy is the best way to ‘change the channel,’ whether that be exercising, talking about something else or starting on a project that will distract your mind from all the negative thoughts