Are you one of those people who tends to overthink and over-analyse things too much? Do you drive friends and family nutty with your indecisiveness and lack of direction?
Take heart, you are not alone.
In this post we will look at this topic a little more in-depth and provide you with some tips to help get you out of your head and start moving in a direction that your excited about.
First, let’s check out the definition.
Overthinking: to think about something/someone too much or too long.
Let’s take a moment to ponder that statement?
Ok, are you ready to move on or do you need some more time?
The art of overthinking, as I like to call it, can become a way of life for some.
We often get hung up on something that is insignificant to others, yet to us, it’s all that’s on our minds.
You’re living it, breathing it, sleeping it and more than likely paralysed by it.
I am a classic overthinker.
I sit and ponder anything from; what someone said, what could that mean, why would someone do that or do I really need it, for far too long.
I can and have been known to drive friends and family around the twist with my constant need to verbally process my thoughts.
If only we had a crystal ball and could see that everything was going to be ok, we probably wouldn’t ruminate about our life and our decisions.
Yet, once I’ve made a decision or literally get sick of being in my own head and act purely on impulsiveness, I generally find that everything works out and that I’m actually ok with my decision.
So, Why Do We Overthink?
For some of us, it is like we are trying to come up with an answer to every possible outcome to a question or situation; why we didn’t do well on that test, or why don’t they like us and a big one for women everywhere, why didn’t he call.
It’s almost as if we are hard-wired to think, or, go looking for a reason for something to be wrong with us.
We think to ourselves, if I keep asking myself questions in a myriad of different ways, then I’m sure to work out what it is.
However as part of this process we can lose sight of the bigger picture and over-analyse something until we have completely deconstructed it, which can make what we are trying to solve into a bigger problem than what it should be.
Gosh, I have known people who have had an amazing day out and then at night began to overthink, over-analyse everything that was said and done right down to the way a stranger looked at them.
This turns into self-sabotage and they manage to come up with a hundred different reasons, all of which are probably untrue, until the point that they have destroyed any happiness that they felt earlier.
Now don’t get me wrong, thinking things through with perspective is a good thing, as we can gain clarity and direction, just don’t get stuck on the brain merry-go-round.
How Do I Stop Overthinking?
1. Be Aware
To change something we firstly need to admit and be aware that a problem or issue exists.
It is only then, that we can work to change whatever it is we don’t like about ourselves.
So, if you find yourself starting to feel stressed, overwhelmed or anxious about a particular thought, stop, take a step back and look at the situation as a larger picture.
2. Get Some Perspective
As previously mentioned, most of the things that we are ruminating about are sometimes small and insignificant.
Ask yourself, will these things matter in 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 weeks or even 3 years from now.
I’ve often found by asking myself this question that I’m able let the thought go which helps to shut down over-thinking.
3. Write it Down
Constantly concentrating on one subject can distract you from paying full attention to what you should be doing.
By keeping a small notebook or a memo app you can write down those thoughts and come back to them at a later point when you can think more clearly and come up with some solutions.
More often than not by ‘banking it for later,’ the original thought loses its significance and is no longer worth our time.
4. Control The Controllable
What does this mean?
It means that you can’t control outcomes, you can’t control people or situations, just like you can’t predict or control the future.
The best thing to do here is to surrender and accept that the only thing you can control is yourself, your thoughts and your reactions.
It’s easier said than done, but with some practice you can learn to accept, surrender and let go.
5. Set Deadlines
Stop overthinking by giving yourself a dedicated time limit.
You could do something like the following:-
For something that requires a small decision ie. running an errand, going to the gym etc then give yourself a 30 second time limit and then take action.
For something that requires a bigger decision ie. going on a holiday, weekend away, changing jobs or anything that would normally take you days or weeks to think about, set a time limit of 30 minutes.
If you still can’t come up with an action plan, then allow yourself to the end of the day and then take action.
If this still doesn’t work, then listen to the saying, ;sleep on it’.
Perhaps another solution is to write out the steps you need to take, which leads us to our next point..
6. Break It Down
If there is a larger decision to be made, it may be better to break it down into small more actionable steps.
For example; if you are considering changing jobs, what steps do you need to take to make that happen.
Firstly, you may need to update your Curriculum Vitae, next you may want to start or update your LinkedIn account, you may wish to register with a professional head hunting agency and so forth.
By breaking the overarching task down into smaller steps, may allow you the perspective required to see the big picture and realise that not everything has to be done at once.
7. Perfection Doesn’t Exist
Understand and accept that perfection doesn’t exist.
So, stop putting things off until everything is perfect. Until you have the perfect job, house or until you lose weight.
This is both impractical and unrealistic.
Instead, acknowledge that things may not be perfect, but do it anyway.
8. Feel The Fear
I’ve been guilty of this myself, not making a decision because I’m afraid to fail or even as weird as this sounds, afraid to succeed.
But so far, when I have failed, I’ve also grown and realised that in the long run, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Failing at something, provides new opportunities and just because you’ve been down a road before, doesn’t mean that the next time you go down that similar path, that it’s going to turn out the same way.
I recall an acronym I once heard about FEAR that I still use to break down this thought.
9. Believe in the positive
Many of us get stuck in negative thought patterns, instead what we should be doing is changing our thoughts and looking at what could be, instead of what was.
You can’t move forward in life if you are still looking in the rear view mirror.
This is a big one for all of us, we are constantly being fed by media that we need to be a certain size, have a certain income, live a certain way to be successful.
This is hogwash!
Accept yourself for who you are right now. A beautiful and unique human being that is good enough, smart enough and worthy.
Accept that you have done the best you can in a situation and let it go.
How does exercise stop overthinking I hear you ask?
Exercising provides us with the ability to release our tensions, stressors and anxiety.
A good sweat session, provides the brain with some happy endorphins, a chemical to help fight stress, therefore allowing us to feel more relaxed, calm and clear.
This goes without saying.
It is scientifically proven that lack of sleep doesn’t do us any favours. You feel tired, sluggish and it’s hard to concentrate if you are over-tired.
Getting yourself into a good night-time routine may assist in a better nights sleep, thus making you feel more alert and ready to take on the day when you wake.
You wouldn’t put dirty fuel into a high performance vehicle and expect it to run like a race car would you?
So why is it that some of us live on junk food and expect our bodies and brains to perform in the same way.
Our bodies require good nutrition to perform, so be kind and start incorporating some more brain food into your diet.
At times when I get overly caught up in my head, I find it best to distract myself with something else. Ie. meditation, going to a movie, colouring in, playing with the dog or completing a jigsaw puzzle.
This not only provides me with a fun activity, it helps to change my thoughts and forces you to concentrate on something else.
15. Live In The Moment
Now this one is definitely easier said than done and does require a bit more practice.
I tend to find myself often thinking about things that have happened in the past or things that are potentially going to happen in the future, remember the note above, you can’t predict the future, so why waste time thinking about it.
As you are so busy worried or thinking about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future, you miss what’s happening right now, this current moment.
To bring myself back to the now, I use a question, What’s Important Now?
This often makes me realise that I need to be focussing on the time I’m spending with my friends or family and brings me back to the present moment.
16. Stay Focused
Keeping your focus firmly planted on the original thought and not the off-shoots can help you to stop overthinking.
By maintaining focus allows you the space in your head to work through one thing at a time, instead of trying to work through every other thought that pops into your mind.
17. Be A Person Of Action
It’s great to sit and ponder thoughts but it’s pointless spending hours going around in circles.
Being a person of action means that you need to work towards solving the problem and to taking actionable steps.
Instead of thinking why did something happen, ask yourself, what can I do about it.
I hope that this article has provided you with some practical solutions to help you get out of your head and back living a happy life.
The question is, will you decide to put this to action or just pass it off as another list of great tips and not give it another thought.
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