So are you thinking in endless circles? Isn’t that exhausting?
Are you a thinker, a ruminator, or a worrier?
Mostly we do not think of overthinking as a problem but it continually saps our energy. Overthinking is self-perpetuating. Thinking is a tool and we should master the art of using it as and when needed instead of engaging in it all the time we are awake, which is 15-18 hours.
Your thoughts can be about yourself, your past, your future, things to accomplish, pending tasks, making decisions, attempting to read minds, failed relationships, betrayal, successes, failures, health, money, family, friends, business, food to prepare, dishes to be done, the works!
So take a moment and check if you are constantly spiraling into a series of “try”, “should”, “maybe later”, “what if?” and “if only”. These thoughts & questions are like a black hole.
Often people feel overthinking actually prepares them to handle anything that comes their way and hence in a way protects them. However, in reality, overthinking may cause anxiety & may create problems out of nothing.
Whether you are overthinking the problems, overthinking the solutions, or both, it is still a mental trap. We get addicted to thinking and without any awareness begin to create scenarios in our head and often end up feeling annoyed or drained.
Overthinking doesn’t necessarily have to be about negative thoughts; it can even be about the positive ones. Ever experienced your creative energy going wild? This, in turn, causes panic and worry stemming from the need to achieve more and achieve sooner than later.
If you are a ruminator then you keep going over events in your head and most of your thoughts are around: Why did it happen? Why me? What does it really mean? What is the hidden intent/motive behind it all? This becomes an endless loop and it is hard to stop when one is wired to ruminate. It keeps you stuck and impacts your sleep, health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
If you are a worrier then you would often find yourself imagining what can go wrong and staying fearful of the future. You imagine all possible outcomes and what you can do about each of those when they happen. This results in suppressed immune functioning among other issues.
When we remain stuck in the past or future, we never experience joy in the present. Don’t tell me that you can’t help it because you can; it simply takes practice. Get out of your head and train your mind to be mindful in the present moment instead of constantly thinking.
Did you notice the sunlight this morning? Did you notice the smell of your coffee? Did you feel the texture of your clothes while changing? Did you notice the taste of the different ingredients in your breakfast? Did you feel the water on your skin while washing your hands?
Is your answer no? Then, stop thinking. Be in the moment – see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. Start feeling!
How can one vanquish the endless loop of overthinking?
Ask: Is this the Truth?
When you find yourself overthinking about the past or the future, stop and ask yourself if this is the truth. Often these thoughts are assumptions, conclusions, imagination, and judgments, anything but the truth. Directing your attention to the mental state makes it easy to change the state. This awareness helps to generate another interpretation of the situation and hence minimize overthinking.
1. Personify the Inner Critic
The inner critic in you is the one that constantly takes your thoughts to those of shame, blame, guilt, fear, etc. Give the inner critic in you, a name that is funny or light for you like Mickey Mouse, Casper, little monster, etc. Choose the name that immediately helps you acknowledge the thought yet step away from it and focus on the reality/present moment.
2. Brain Dump
Keep a journal handy and put all your thoughts (positive as well as negative, ideas as well as fears) in it every morning and night (or even during the day). With consistency in journaling, you will begin to see a sharp decrease in your overthinking and more clarity in life.
3. Power of Questioning
Right questions empower us. Whenever you find yourself going into a downward spiral of excessive thinking, ask these questions: What steps can I take to change this situation? What else is possible here? This immediately changes the focus from thinking to action by redirecting attention to something else that is productive for you.
4. Meditation & Breath Work
Daily meditation of 10-20 minutes is known to have a profound impact on calming the mind and releasing stress, worry, and anxiety. You may focus on your breath, a mantra, silence, or any other focal point. Make sure you stick to a technique and do not keep hopping from one to another as that may slow the progress and may cause you to stop the practice completely. Deep breathing and other breathing exercises are stellar for mindfulness.
5. Enjoy your Life
Instead of sulking and complaining do things without judgment. It’s okay to dislike some things, people, places, or situations. Not everything in the present may be likable; it is okay. You don’t have to make life about transforming every negative into a positive. Instead, make life about ‘living in the moment. Stay non-judgmental about things you dislike and enjoy the things that you do. Live in the moment and most importantly, LIVE!
Mastering the skill of thinking (and not overthinking) is not rocket science. You simply have to choose awareness. Observe your thoughts – don’t analyze, don’t judge, and don’t get swayed. Break the pattern. You may even personify the inner critic to see the thought for what it is and then get back to the present moment.
Our brain is the most potent tool we possess. It is capable of ideation, creation, and even conquering nations. And this same brain is also capable of subjugation as well as self-sabotage. Use it for and not against yourself.
Maybe overthinking for you won’t change overnight but what you can certainly keep a tab on is the time you spend overthinking and gradually see a decrease in the same using mindfulness techniques.
And remember, the present moment is all that you have. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I won’t tell you to make the most of it. I won’t tell you to make it last. However, I will tell you what I have experienced is far more profound and that is, LIVE the present moment!
Our panel of advisors, led by Dr. Chandni Tugnait, would love to work with you!