Have you ever had that habit that you feel guilty about but continue to do all the time?
It’s the one that you try to swear off of time and time again but don’t. It’s one that makes you feel guilty, almost like a dirty little secret.
For me, that habit was overthinking.
To this day, overthinking is something that I deal with on occasion and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. As much as we like to see ourselves in a positive light, we’re pretty quick about demoralizing ourselves.
Particularly when things go wrong.
We jump to conclusions quickly and sometimes those conclusions are thoughts that drag us down.
But one thing to make note of here is the fact that as a former over-thinker, I’ve learned to handle it in my own way. Over the years I spent time uncovering why and how I was overthinking and put a stop to it.
It’s to a degree that I rarely overthink. And if I do, I’m pretty quick in shutting that trail of thought down quickly. Here are the steps that I’ve taken to stop overthinking.
Why Worry About Overthinking?
First of all, it’s important to recognize that overthinking is something everyone does. There is no quick and easy solution to eliminate overthinking. But what I experienced for a long time was something called chronic overthinking.
It’s going through conversations you had recently or that you think about several times. It’s also second-guessing decisions and imagining worse case scenarios for all kinds of things.
In some cases, you’re also inflating problems to the point that any possible option you think of is terrible.
The biggest reason overthinking is such a bother and to be concerned about it is due to the destructive thought patterns that come with it. And overthinking comes in two thought patterns – ruminating and incessant worrying.
Ruminating involves being stuck in the past. Examples of thought process can be:
- Thoughts on what you said or did the other day.
- Thoughts on previous positions or opportunities that you handled.
- Or thoughts on obstacles that keep emerging that you haven’t dealt with. Examples are lack of self esteem keeping you back or that you can’t grow because your friends or family hold you back.
Incessant worrying on the other hand involves negative predictions about the future. Examples are:
- Worry about the future of a project or new tasks you were assigned.
- Or worry about your own growth.
It’s these destructive patterns that create a vicious cycle and create a lot of negativity, self-doubt and in some extreme cases depression.
This behaviour is likely a contributing factor to my own depression. In the past, I viewed myself in a negative way and I felt paralyzed to do anything. Not to mention dragging myself into a more depressing state every day.
Be Aware Of When You’re Overthinking
The first step is being aware of the behaviour in the first place. Refer back to the two thought patterns and how those ways of thinking would be put into proper phrases.
- Other people always get promoted before I do.
- I can’t move up in the world because of my manager.
- This project is dead on arrival, there is no way I’m going to work on it.
- All my problems would be solved if I spoke up more. I’m such a coward!
Regardless of what thoughts are crossing your mind, the goal is the same: to give yourself doubt. To trip you up or make you worry about something that you have no control over. Whenever those emotions spring up, it’s key to take a step back and be aware that you are doing this.
From there, you can begin to use all kinds of strategies to help you address the issue.
Set Up Distractions
Normally the first piece of advice most would give is to have a sunny, positive and optimistic perspective. The reality is that it’s easy to say on paper but not so much in practice.
People can’t flip a switch and instantly be in a different mood.
There needs to be some kind of catalyst outside of mere thought. It’s this reason why I prefer the idea of setting up distractions that move you away from destructive thoughts.
I can speak well of the actions due to my own personal experience. When I was going through depression I also was fortunate to have my own paper route which meant a lot of walking. While I was certainly overthinking a lot, the exercise and the fresh air certainly played some role in my recovery.
Anyway, the activities that I’ll mention are things that get you moving. Not always as extensive as walking but things like walking or dancing work. You can also take up painting, drawing, or even meditation to help with distractions.
Why these are effective is that in order for us to focus on a task, our brains need to focus extensively on that particular task. While our brains are incredibly powerful, they still have a one-track mind. It’s why people still say multi-tasking is bad (which it honestly is).
The idea with moving around is that this takes up brainpower and it can allow us to take that step back that we need to look at our problems and assess them.
Put Things In Perspective
Once you’ve distracted yourself sufficiently, you want to be going back to the problem. As much as distractions are good, they can’t solve your problems. While it’s certainly depressing – and sometimes painful – to deal with thoughts, the only way to grow and heal is to handle them.
After all, if you can’t curb a habit, it’ll keep coming back.
One suggestion I’ll make is using logic and putting things into perspective. I like this mainly because I’m a logic type of thinker. I need to have reasons behind my actions and they’re typically deeper-rooted.
Putting things into perspective will help because more often than not we realize that we’re making a huge deal over something small. This method is a way of catching yourself and helping you to realize there is a pattern.
Because like I said, overthinking is a habit. And once you catch yourself enough, your brain will start to catch on.
These patterns are good practice because it allows you to reinforce tactics to ease the recovery process. For example, during times of stress or worry, I reassure myself and remind myself of one thing:
“I wouldn’t be doing this unless I have a logical explanation for going ahead with this.”
This shuts down my overthinking because I know things will be alright. And if for some chance I make a mistake or fail, I usually learn something from the experience.
Accepting And Appreciating You
Overthinking usually gravitates towards negative self-talk. It’s a line of thinking where you think you aren’t good enough or smart enough to achieve something. This way of thinking is all too common and causes all kinds of problems but there is a way to overcome it.
In some cases, I put things into perspective and remind myself of my accomplishments in my life. But on the off chance that there aren’t any, I encourage you to show appreciation in various other ways.
One story I often pull up is the decision to pursue writing as my career. How I got here stemmed from a negative thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer or an entrepreneur. The thing is though at the time I knew I had a good work ethic based on previous experiences.
Furthermore, I wasn’t even running my business properly. I was a massive procrastinator.
Because I was so lazy, it didn’t make sense for me to give up. It’s akin to me giving up walking before even trying for the first time.
So I accepted myself and started to put effort into trying to write better. I worked on my writing skills for years and still do today.
Look At Your Routine
Another strategy to consider is looking at your morning routine.
First thing in the morning what is the first thing that you do?
For the vast majority of people, it’s normally checking their phone and scrolling through social media. In there is a cesspool of all kinds of stuff. Stuff that’ll get you to feel stressed, overthinking, and worried.
But the thing is all of that is unnecessary and can be easily avoided.
All that you need to work on is changing your routine up.
How you start your day sets the tonne for the rest of your day. With that in mind, consider doing something you love to do or something that energizes you.
Work out, write, put together a gratitude list.
These are examples of great starts to your morning and can lead to many other happy and great things.
Focus On Action Rather Than Reaction
Overthinking problems is solely a reaction to everything around you. This is important to know because we know now that in order to overthink, something else needs to happen first.
Not only that but how we react and act afterwards is entirely within our control.
So how can you be taking more action in your life? There are all kinds of ways to set actions into motion. Here are some ideas:
- Setting deadlines a few days prior to when something is expected to be complete.
- Take small steps forward and recognize those small steps is still progress.
- Focus on one task at a time.
All of these things make a difference because they pull you away from that paralyzed stance that overthinking puts you in.
Recognize You Can’t Control Everything
In some cases, people have managed to find their own sort of balance with overthinking. For some people, they recognize some of the issues and have been able to buffer them. At the same time though they are still thinking of all kinds of different scenarios that could happen.
The problem with that sort of stage is that while thinking of all kinds of scenarios and thinking of solutions is great, there’s always one other fact. That fact is that there is going to be another scenario that you did not expect would happen.
You see trying to think of every angle or possibility is impossible and a waste of time. Instead of thinking about every angle, consider moving forward.
That’s not to say to walk blindly into problems, but give yourself a couple of possible scenarios and see how things play out. Consider being assertive and try to solve problems in a cordial manner.
Worst-case scenario is you fail in some fashion and you learn from the experience.
Deal With Overthinking
Overthinking is a problem in our own head but it can be dealt with in a wide variety of situations. How I overcame overthinking was getting deep into my head and recognizing what’s wrong and finding ways to deal with it.
It was a slow process to the point now where I hardly overthink scenarios. I have the confidence in myself to comfort myself and to address overthinking in a healthy manner.
All I do is make plans and take action and I know you can do that too.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon