Everything you need to know about overthinking

Do you remember the time when you didn’t have a single thought in a day? NO, you don’t and that’s because human beings are perpetual thinkers, having roughly 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day! Having the ability to think for ourselves, is one of mankind’s greatest gifts, allowing us to create, question and solve the problems of an ever changing world but, when these thoughts become negative or obsessive, it can lead to a downwards spiral of being out of control of your own mind.
The Roman philosopher Seneca, put it best:

"We suffer more in imagination, than in reality."

In other words, we constantly overthink!

What is overthinking?

Let’s break the word down. Over, meaning “to much of” and thinking, meaning “processing thoughts and reasoning” So, overthinking is when you think too much, too long or too in depth about something. Put more simply, overthinking is when you obsessively ruminate on insignificant thoughts that don’t require that much attention.

Why do we overthink?

Often, people who overthink do it to try and benefit themselves, either by avoiding uncomfortable situations or to try and reduce risks and understand fear. Think about it, if you were sending a text to someone you’re interested in, the reason why you worry is usually because you don’t want to make yourself look a fool so, everything has to be “perfect” to achieve the best possible outcome. In reality, this thinking pattern allows you to ruminate and play out possible scenarios which are highly unlikely to happen, in turn leaving you stressed out.
Downwards spiral of overthinking

Signs you’re an overthinker.

Just by the fact that you pressed on this post titled “everything you NEED TO KNOW about overthinking” could suggest that you are doing it right now but, let’s look at some other ways on how you can tell you are an overthinker.

1. You’re are too patient.

Whilst everyone is taking action and making progress towards their goals, you’re still planning and waiting for the perfect moment to arise, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You miss out on opportunities and the things you want to do because you’re always waiting for the right moment.

2. You think everything has meaning.

You always think that there is a deeper meaning to the things around you, for example, if someone texts you with a full stop at the end of the sentence but they normally don’t, you assume that they have a problem with you.

3. Embarrassing moments haunt you.

Things that embarrass us all, like walking out of the toilet with tissue paper attached to your foot, seems to stick with you longer than it does with others and you can’t stop thinking about how embarrassing that situation was, long after the event.

4. You’re a perfectionist.  

You are your biggest critic and you expect nothing less than absolute perfection. Being wrong or not at your best is not good enough and you pride yourself on doing things right.

5. You don’t like change.

Changes to any part of your life, big or small, creates a huge amount of fear. You have to weigh up all of your options and consider all of the possible outcomes, before making a final decision.

6. Staying in the present moment is hard for you.

You’re always inside your own head and struggle to actually enjoy yourself because there is always something more daunting going on in your mind so, you find it hard to focus and concentrate.

7. You say “why” a lot.

You’re very curious about everything. You want to know every last detail so, you keep asking questions all of time, why this, why that. Sometimes you don’t even ask other people, you ask these questions over and over again in your head.

8. Your brain doesn’t shut off.

No matter what you seem to do, you just can’t switch off. Whether it’s night time or day time, the nagging thoughts circulate around your head making it hard to function normally.

9. You worry about things you have no control over.

Whether it’s someone else’s opinion of you or whether you are worried about if it will be sunny or cloudy, you don’t like feeling out of control and when something goes unexpected it really affects you.

10. You avoid uncomfortable situations.

Confrontation is something that you avoid at all costs and even if you know you’re right about something the worry and doubt persuade you to apologize and go along with things.

 Why you need to stop overthinking.

People who overthink usually have constant commentary of their thoughts, a stream of negativity which can lead to their mental health to take a sudden decline. When someone’s mental well-being isn’t at its strongest, people often begin to over think, meaning that you are going around in circles on a loop of unhappiness. There are some major effects of overthinking that we will go through now.
Man overthinking

Depression and anxiety.

A 2013 study found that life stressors can lead to rumination and then has an effect on people’s mental health. By allowing your monkey mind to take over your thoughts, you can easily begin to worry about future events and become anxious. You may also become chronically depressed if you can’t stop thinking about something that you have previously done.

Problem solving.

As we explained earlier, overthinkers often think that they are helping themselves by limiting risks and working out plans so nothing goes wrong when in fact, they are limiting their opportunities and damaging their problem solving skills.

This is also known as analysis paralysis, where you spend all of your time focusing on problems instead of solutions and end up tiering yourself out, like when you have decision fatigue because you have so many decisions to make.

Ruins your sleep.

For some, getting a good night’s sleep is hard enough at the best of times, never mind when you’ve got a voice in the back of your head keeping you awake. Have you ever noticed that when you go to bed and try to go to sleep, that is usually when you begin to start over thinking. It’s not surprising really, it’s the perfect environment for your mind to go crazy. It’s quiet so your thoughts can get louder, its dark so you feel alone and you begin to process your day only to be overwhelmed by the paranoia of wondering whether you locked the door!

Studies have shown that overthinking not only makes it harder to get sleep but also, disrupts the quality of sleep that you are getting.

Not taking action

On a lighter note but, definitely no less important, overthinking stops you from achieving your goals. No amount of planning, practice or preparation, will make everything go right, you’re going to make mistakes, slip up and get things wrong but, it’s so important to break out of your comfort zone. Creating a business and asking out your crush is a risk but, one worth taking!

How to stop overthinking.

1. Awareness.

The first step to being able to not overthink everything, is by becoming aware of when you are overthinking. A lot of the time you don’t even notice that you are doing it and it’s become a daily habit to “question” everything!

We don’t want to sound like a broken record with some of our other posts but, meditation really can help you become more self-aware and allow you to focus on the present to control your thoughts. Ultimately, this allows you to notice when you’re on the slippery slope before it’s too late!

2. You’re not that special.

A lot of the time, overthinkers believe that they have embarrassed themselves and their whole life is over because of one small mistake but, what you need to understand, (in the nicest way possible) is the world doesn’t revolve around you!

Let’s say you was at a dinner party with some new work colleagues and you spill your drink all down yourself. Yes, for a few minutes you might become the butt of the joke and feel slightly embarrassed but, it isn’t going to stick with you for the rest of your life and even if it did it’s not that serious, it’s something to look back on with fond memories. People have too much going on in their life to care what happened a few weeks ago.

3. Put it into perspective.

When overthinking about what could happen in the future, it’s common to take things out of context and scale it up out of proportion because realistically, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill so, you need to put things into perspective.

Ask yourself – “what’s the chances of what I am worried about, actually happening?” and be real with yourself, you’ll often find that it’s nowhere as much of a big deal as you thought it was at the very beginning.

4. Get back on the bike.

Fear is usually the biggest culprit of stopping us from what we are truly capable of and fears grow bigger and bigger, the more that you avoid it. Throughout all stages of your life you are going to face obstacles that are going to challenge you and you seem to become less brave the older you get.

As a kid I’m sure that you had many cuts and bruises from falling off of your bike or learning how to walk and I’m certain that you probably got very upset and said you didn’t want your bike any more, but after a few minutes of crying and persuading from your parents, I bet you got back on to your bike and started pedaling. Well, that’s what you need to do now. If something goes wrong and you feel like giving up, learn from your mistakes and try again!

5. Journaling.

Overthinking usually happens when we are left alone with our thoughts and that’s often the first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. You can help deal with this by processing any negative thoughts or worries that you have by journaling.

As we’ve said before, there’s many different forms of Journaling but, if you’re trying to stop over thinking we would suggest some type of brain dump, which is when you write down everything that is going on in your head! The one that we would choose is the morning pages because the unique thing about it is that once you’ve written 3 pages of streamed consciousness (learn more here) you then walk away from it like you need to do with your negative thoughts.

6. Stay busy.

Most people would see this as a distraction and not actually a “cure” to overthinking because you are keeping yourself busy to avoid what’s really going on in your head, which is partly true. Yes, you can’t do two things at once so, if you’re busy doing something, you won’t be overthinking all of the time, however, we think there is more to it than that.

Having some type of purpose, whether it’s sport or creating your own business does wonders for your mental health, it allows you to be able to enter a state of flow where you feel challenged, but also happy and keeps you engaged.

7. Could of, should of, would of.

A lot of people use these phrases like, “I could of done better”, “I should of thought of that” or “I would have done it differently” but, unless you’re some type of fortune teller, you can’t predict the future. Hindsight 20 20.

Try living in the present and not worrying about what you could of done differently, focus on the here and now because that is the only thing that you have control over. Accept that you are trying your best and that is good enough.

8. Positive mindset.

If you’re going to have a bit of time thinking about something, don’t think about what can go wrong, think about what can go right! See things as a way of improving, instead of “I hate my relationship” think “I want a fulfilling relationship” or “this is what I am going to do to improve my relationship” and do it!

We are by ourselves most of our life and in doing so, you are always in your own head. you are either your own best friend or your own worst enemy, whether you like it or not and that’s why it is so important to create a positive mindset. You can do this with self-talk visualization and surrounding yourself with supportive people.

9. Don’t overthink overthinking.

Let’s do a little experiment but there’s one rule… DON’T THINK ABOUT A FLYING PIG! Did you think of a flying pig? If not congratulations your probably not an overthinker but, if you did (like most people) it’s because your mind likes to play tricks on you.

If you’re trying to stop overthinking about something, don’t tell yourself to stop thinking about it, instead, replace it with a more positive thought like… flying pigs if you want.

10. Progress over perfection.

If you are waiting for the perfect moment to ask out your crush or start that new business you’ve been dreaming about, you’ll be waiting forever because there’s never a perfect moment to do anything apart from yesterday.

Perfection is impossible and trying to achieve it is counterproductive, you should aim for progress by improving every single day and jumping on every opportunity you receive.

If you have any further questions, remarks or requests for what you would like to see more of, you can comment here on the blog, or message us on our social media channels below.
  
The content in this article is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes. If you are struggling with the topic discussed in this article, we advise that you seek the help from a professional.

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