Let’s face it; every one of us indulges in overthinking from time to time. However, it can significantly negatively impact our lives when done in excess and done for too long. This blog outlines overthinking, how it can sabotage us, and tips on stopping it.
What is Overthinking?
Overthinking is the habit of spending too much time thinking about something to the point of rumination; the same thoughts and scenarios are continually replayed in someone’s head. Amid a review, you could feel smothered, anxious, and overwhelmed, as the intensity can leave you in a loop of obsessive thinking. This form of should-ing and would-ing can be damaging, as it gets a person stuck in their thoughts and can have further negative implications.
What Causes Overthinking?
Overthinking can be caused by several things. It can be due to a lack of control in life or become a way of avoiding making decisions or doing uncomfortable things. It can also stem from low esteem or a perfectionist mindset. Too much responsibility can lead to overthinking, as can trauma, such as an adverse life event.
How Overthinking is Self-Sabotage
When overthinking takes control of someone’s mind, it can become a form of self-sabotage that leads to further difficulties. Overthinking not only has an effect on a person’s mental health but also can lead to physical health problems as well.
Mental Health Impacts of Overthinking
When overthinking, people can become overwhelmed by the constant swirl of thoughts, usually focusing on the negative. This can lead to anxiety, resulting in a person having difficulty calming their mind. This can also lead to stress, which occurs when a person feels like they have multiple pressures and tasks and no apparent way out. Overthinking can also result in depression, which can be caused by repeating negative thoughts, leading to feelings of helplessness, sadness and despair.
Physical Health Impacts of Overthinking
Not only does overthinking affect our mental attitude, but it can also take its toll on the physical body. This may include symptoms such as insomnia when a person has difficulties sleeping or staying asleep. Chronic fatigue is another physical symptom usually caused by overthinking, although it can have other causes. Muscle tension is another physical symptom that can be caused by overthinking; this is when the person feels tension and tightness in their muscles due to overthinking, most commonly in their back, neck, and head.
How to Avoid Overthinking
Stopping yourself from overthinking can be difficult; however, it’s possible to do. There are specific steps that you can take to help you break out of the loop of overthinking. There is no one-size-fits-all regarding overthinking, but the following tips can help.
Acknowledge Your Thoughts
You can’t stop overthinking by denying the feelings you’re experiencing; this will only reinforce the negative thought patterns. Recognising and understanding your thoughts is an excellent way to begin overcoming overthinking.
Reframe Negative Thoughts
When you have recognised the feelings you are experiencing, you can try reframing the thoughts and turning them into something more positive. Positive affirmations, such as ‘I can sort this out’, “I am a great problem solver”, and “I’m confident in my ability”, can be used to counter negative thoughts and help break the cycle of overthinking.
Learn to Accept Uncertainty
It’s important to remember that not all problems have clear solutions and that some uncertainty is unavoidable; this is the nature of life. Accepting that some things cannot be known or changed can help you let go of obsessive thoughts and worries.
Rather than getting lost in a loop of thoughts, shifting to a more practical approach can help. If you can take action, then do it. If the activity is impossible, try to reframe the thoughts and focus on the present moment and not on trying to predict what will happen in the future. It helps to concentrate on smaller tasks individually, such as deep breathing, to keep you centred in the present moment.
We have discussed what overthinking is and its mental and physical health impacts. We also discussed ways to avoid overthinking, such as acknowledging your thoughts, reframing negative thoughts, learning to accept uncertainty and taking action. Overthinking can be self-sabotaging and cause further mental and physical issues. However, breaking this cycle and regaining control of your thoughts and life is possible. A simple mantra to remember is “You are not your thoughts”. By objectively observing your negative thoughts, you automatically begin to distance yourself from the thought and repeated practice makes a massive difference.
Campbell Rochford – Turning Good To Great!