Whether you’re beating yourself up about a mistake you made yesterday or obsessing about how you will perform tomorrow, you’re stuck in overthinking.
What is overthinking?
…well it’s not having a lot of things on your mind.
While most of us overthink sometimes, some people just can’t ever seem to quiet the constant barrage of thoughts. Their inner monologue is on a constant repeat of two destructive thought patterns—rumination and worry.
Rumination involves thinking about the past. Going over the events of a situation and reflecting on how you could have done it better or what you should not have said.
“I shouldn’t have spoken up at the meeting. Everyone looked at me like I was an idiot.”
“My parents always said that I would never amount to anything. They were right.”
Worry involves creating often catastrophic predictions about the future.
“I’m unattractive. It’s only a matter of time until my spouse cheats.”
“I’ll never get promoted. It doesn’t matter how hard I work, I’ll never get chosen.”
The dangers of overthinking are fundamental: lack of sleep and stress. It’s not good to be constantly overanalyzing the past or thinking about what could possibly happen in the future, because it takes a toll on our health both physically and emotionally. Long term habits around overthinking can lead to the onset of anxiety, physical symptoms of stress and the mental toll of feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts.
So how do we stop these thoughts?
- Recognize you’re doing it. Awareness is the first step in putting an end to overthinking. Pay attention to the way you think and when you notice yourself replaying events in your mind over and over, or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge that your thoughts aren’t serving you.
- Question your thoughts. It’s easy to get carried away with negative thinking. Research has been done to show that it’s just simply easier to think negatively than it is, positive. But noticing when your thoughts are heading in a negative direction and may be even exaggerated, is great awareness. Awareness is the gatekeeper to change.
- Focus on your actions. Taking steps towards proactively changing our lives, even if those steps are small, are the foundation of change. Thinking and worry don’t accomplish anything.
- Reflect and be mindful. Take moments to consider your thoughts and reflect on what serves and what does not. Practice living in the moment with control over your thoughts and focus on the here and now.
- Practice gratitude. Focus on the positive aspects of your life and actively seek out things to be grateful for. Changing your focus will profoundly impact where your thoughts go.
- Get moving. Exercise changes the way your brain processes information on a fundamental level. Not only is a walk outside a great distraction, but you are also modifying your brain in the process.
Above all, be compassionate with yourself. Change takes time and focuses on developing new habits and ways of being and thinking.
For a more proactive daily approach to warding off potential overthinking, you can try doing a brain dump.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.