Overthinking is rampant, but it can seriously limit your happiness. Learn how to stop.
I’m a perpetual over-thinker. I overthink almost everything. I’m efficient at overthinking, too! Observers are oblivious. When my wife asks, “Do you want to go out to eat?” So many questions run through my head. Am I hungry? How hungry? How thirsty? What’s my energy level? How drained am I emotionally? How many people will I have to interact with? How long will it be before we eat? How long will it be before we get home? How much will it cost? How long will it take to get there? How social will my wife want to be? Have we been out recently? Is she exhausted? Did she just get paid? Who’s driving? How much gas is in the car? Do we need to run other errands while we’re out? Is there a locally owned or black-owned option? After all the thinking, my response is usually, “sure, what did you have in mind?” Sound familiar? It’s exhausting.
Why do people overthink?
Overthinking can be self-deprecating. It's a defense mechanism of avoidance.
Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the intentions of others. Fear about the meaning behind the words or actions of others. We all agonize over fear.
About 18% of the population copes with anxiety disorders. But just over ⅓ of those people are being treated. Approximately 10% of the population suffers from mood disorders, including depression. Symptoms of either include being easily irritated, sleeplessness, decreased ability to concentrate, or hyperactivity. Please seek professional help if your symptoms are severe or difficult to control.
I’m guilty of overplanning. I convince myself I’m problem-solving, but I’m attempting to decrease my fear. I can go overboard. In the name of efficiency, I will waste time thinking. How ironic is that?
Lack of self-confidence
Overplanning conceals discomfort and low confidence. By thinking through all the possibilities we’re able to prepare our responses. This allows us to appear to be very capable and comfortable. Unfortunately, it is a facade.
Overthinking occurs for some because we have fluctuating emotions. We use overthinking as a defense mechanism. It helps us prepare for a nerve-racking event or cope with an awkward event. I have tried to think through various ways a situation can go. Sending my mind through all those hoops allows me to cope with my emotions as they arise. It makes me calm and cool in real-time.
Getting burned in the past
We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all suffered the consequences of someone else’s missteps. We’ve been manipulated. We’ve been deceived. Worrying may be an attempt to protect yourself against these things.
What can you do?
Set up time and opportunity to be free within limits. On days off be free with your time. Efficiency isn’t necessary. Detach yourself from it. As an alternative, after bills and savings are taken care of, be a bit freer with money. Have some fun!
2. Replace the thought loop
Instead of focusing on a problem, whether in the past or the future, replace the rumination with a positive outlook. Focus on the outcome coming to a favorable end. Imagine the best intentions in others. Flip the negatives into positives. Assume the best in people and visualize your successes.
3. Time Out
When you notice yourself overthinking, take a time out. Break the cycle. Observe your surroundings. Appreciate the moment. Give yourself a few minutes to practice mindfulness of your body and mind at that moment. Focus on your breathing, on your body, your meal, your company, your current task, etc. Stop thinking about the past or the future. Focus on the now.
Let it go. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Fight back the demons of the past. Forgive yourself for the faults. You’re smarter now. And wiser, with keener senses. Trust yourself.
Schedule time daily to journal. What during the day induced fear or anxiety? What is the root of your overreaction or over-preparation? Acknowledge personal weaknesses. Write it all down. Dump all the worries out on the page. Then, set plans to work on them.
6. Exercise, Meditation, Stress Relief
Challenging physical activity will force you to focus on your body in the present time. Find a regular practice to improve your physical health. It will relieve stress and wash the worry away.
Break out of the thought loop! Move forward and prosper.
Until next time my people.
What causes overthinking? How to stop overthinking. Why do I overthink?
Ruminate, brainstorm, brood, contemplate, agonize, fret, worry, stew