Understanding Why You Overthink
There can be many reasons why one person overthinks things and another lets life blithely happen. Some of the roots to overthinking can come from early life and experiences with your caregivers.
When you reached the developmental stage of learning to exert your own will and autonomy , how your parents handled you could determine your confidence in yourself and your abilities. If a parent mollycoddled you and didnt let you try out new things or have original thoughts, you may begin to doubt your own thinking. Or, if a parent was overly critical and made you feel inadequate whenever you created or did something new, you may begin to doubt your ability to act. Overthinking keeps you trapped in thought without action.
Your sense of identity may not have been mirrored as a child. You may have had to second-guess what your parents wanted, to avoid punishment perhaps, or to secure their attention. Over time you then lose touch with what you really want and need and think. And you may fear shame or humiliation by doing something publicly that may be criticised or condemned. That can lead to paralysis, doubt, and fear of putting anything into action.
Tip : Talk About Your Worries
It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face to face with a trusted friend or family membersomeone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distractedis one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety. When your worries start spiraling, talking them over can make them seem far less threatening.
Keeping worries to yourself only causes them to build up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you to make sense of what youre feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they areneedless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.
Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. Were not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesnt necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Dont underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you dont feel that you have anyone to confide in, its never too late to build new friendships.
Understand What Motivates Your Worry
Have you ever wondered why you overthink and worry so much?
If you take the time to think about it, there might be some underlying causes as to why you struggle so much with excessive worry.
Its not easy to face your fears, but its also not easy to face what might be causing those fears. Find some time and a safe space where you can really look inside yourself to better understand your motivations, so you can take control of them and possibly get the help you need to get rid of them.
Its not always easy to take back your freedom from fear, but its not impossible.
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The More You Try To Stop Them
Numerousscientific studies have shown that trying too hard to “not” think about something may actually cause you to think about it more. That’s because when you focus on avoiding a thought, youre reminding your brain that the thought exists at all, rather than simply forgetting about it and moving on. It’s a strange way that the brain works, making it very hard for someone that wants to end their obsessive thoughts to actually take control.
This represents a serious problem for those that deal with obsessive thoughts from OCD. If they experience too much shame or fear over these thoughts they’ll try not to have them and this will cause them to have the thoughts even more, leaving them trapped in a vicious cycle.
How To Stop Overthinkingand Start Living
Last year, I started experiencing symptoms such as bloating, gas and loss of appetite. It turned out to be an unusually long bout of sickness for a normally healthy person like me. After reading a dozen articles online about the symptoms, I began to wonder if I had cancer or another disease.
I shared my concerns with my father. He is a doctor who treats people with cancer. He asked me to “eat more fiber.” I was disappointed he didn’t take me seriously. After spending a few days obsessing over cancer and death, I finally saw a doctor specializing in disorders of the digestive system. The doctor, an experienced professional well into his 60s, listened intently to my whining. He quickly diagnosed me with acid reflux, a condition in which a muscle that connects the stomach with the food pipe becomes weak. Consequently, the stomach’s acid flows back into the food pipe. The physician did not sound alarmed and asked me to take some basic precautionsâ”avoid coffee and don’t add too many spices to food.” I took the meds he prescribed, and I was back to feeling healthy in a week.
This wasn’t the first time I had succumbed to the trap of overthinking. Determined to understand the problem, I decided to speak to psychologists and learn why we are prone to thinking too much.
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Why Is It So Hard To Stop Worrying
Constant worrying can take a heavy toll. It can keep you up at night and make you tense and edgy during the day. And even though you hate feeling like a nervous wreck, it can still be so difficult to stop. For most chronic worriers, the anxious thoughts are fueled by the beliefsboth negative and positivethat you hold about worrying:
Negative beliefs about worry. You may believe that your constant worrying is harmful, that its going to drive you crazy or affect your physical health. Or you may worry that youre going to lose all control over your worryingthat it will take over and never stop. While negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, adds to your anxiety and keeps worry going, positive beliefs about worrying can be just as damaging.
Positive beliefs about worry. You may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst, or leads to solutions. Maybe you tell yourself that if you keep worrying about a problem long enough, youll eventually be able to figure it out? Or perhaps youre convinced that worrying is a responsible thing to do or the only way to ensure you dont overlook something? Its tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.
Ways To Help You Stop Overthinking
To assist with the self-help process, here are 10 ways to help you stop overthinking:
1. Instead of dwelling on what can go wrong, think about what can go right.
Just because we can imagine something bad can happen doesnt mean it actually can. Imagination is just that: conjuring up the imaginary. But dwelling on the negative does cause instant stress. Chronic stress has been linked to many medical and mental health issues.
Changing the direction of your thinking can illuminate possibilities rather than negatives. Having possibilities fosters hope and determination, which can insulate the body from unnecessary stress.
2. Distract yourself with a hobby, visiting with loved ones and friends, or doing something that makes you happy, etc.
Being distracted with positive influences is a great way to change the channel on overthinking.
3. Take a nap.
Research shows that sleep declutters the mind making way for clearer thinking. Taking a nap is a great way to clear the mind and stop overthinking.
Taking a nap also reduces stress.
4. Sleep on it.
As mentioned previously, sleep clears the mind of clutter. Rather than staying up and trying to come up with a solution, pause your thinking and sleep on it. You might be surprised at how clear a solution is in the morning.
5. Put it into perspective.
6. Nothing is perfect, so stop waiting for the perfect decision.
7. Everyone makes mistakes. Thats normal.
8. Accept your best and expect the rest.
Bonus Tip Practice mindfulness
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How To Stop Overthinking And Overcome Anxiety Now
Overthinking is as debilitating as it is common. It can stop you from enjoying social events, disturb your sleep, undermine your job performance, and even ruin your vacations.
Typically, chronic overthinking also comes with all the physical discomforts of anxiety. This means that overthinking leaves you not only mentally distressed but also exhausted.
If this picture sounds familiar, youre probably desperate to work out how to stop overthinking your life and start living. However, you may have already tried to change and found it an insurmountable hurdle.
Its important to know that learning how to overcome anxiety is possible. Whether youre trying to figure out how to stop overthinking in a relationship, how to stop obsessive thinking about your health, or how to enjoy socializing without panicking, there are powerful techniques you can learn.
Lets explore how to stop overthinking, first by defining the problem and then by looking at the most effective solutions.
Identify Your Ruminative Thoughts
When a person ruminates, they chew on the words or experiences playing over in their mind. It is not surprising, therefore, that this label is derived from how cows digest their food: By chewing, swallowing, and chewing again. While it is an effective way for cows to obtain the nutrients they need, it isnt quite as helpful a way for humans to digest their thoughts. Rather, ruminative thoughts are exhausting and can make a person more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
If you are unsure whether you are ruminating over something, consider the examples below for some common overthinking patterns:
- Hesitancy and inability to contribute to conversations because you are thinking about potential responses to your statements before you even speak them
- Constantly comparing yourself to people around you, to see how you stack up
- Fixating on worst-case scenarios involving yourself and/or your loved ones
- Feeling concern over your future goals and ambitions, so much so that it leaves you feeling dismayed over whether they are even possible
- Reliving traumatic experiences over again in your mind particularly in vulnerable moments or situations, such as falling asleep for the night
- Lacking an ability to slow down vague, racing, irrational thoughts
Solutions Are At Hand
Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.
Incorporating any routine in your life when you’re stressed isn’t an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help.
If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, at this website.
The benefits of physical touch
Keep The Focus On Problem
Dwelling on your problems isnt helpfulbut looking for solutions is. If its something you have some control over, consider how you can prevent the problem, or challenge yourself to identify five potential solutions.
If its something you have no control overlike a natural disasterthink about the strategies you can use to cope with it. Focus on the things you can control, like your attitude and effort.
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Ways Anxiety Causes Overthinking
An effect of any type of anxiety is overthinking everything. There are common themes to the way anxiety causes overthinking. Perhaps this generic list will remind you of specific racing thoughts you experience and help you realize that you’re not alone in overthinking everything because of anxiety.
- Obsessing over what we should say/should have said/did say/didn’t say
- Worrying incessantly about who we are and how we are measuring up to the world
- Creating fearful what-if scenarios about things that could go wrong for ourselves, loved ones, and the world
- Wild, imagined results of our own wild, imagined faults and incompetencies
- Fear of having a panic attack in public and possibly thinking that you can’t leave home because of it
- Worrying about a multitude of obsessive thoughts, sometimes scary ones and thinking about them constantly
- Thinking — overthinking — a tumbling chain of worries, vague thoughts, and specific thoughts
Why Does My Brain Do This
A fair question. It is an incredibly frustrating, complex set of evolutionary mechanisms that has served your ancestors very well! 100,000 years ago something moving in the grass was, to your ancestors, likely a life and death scenario. The best thing to do would have been to run away, sit in a tree, and worry about it all night long. Was it tall and big with claws? Or small and venomous? It makes sense really, planning other routes, and piecing together how that threat moved, hid and attacked was what allowed your ancestors to survive and thrive.
Fast Forward to the 21st century, and the chances are low you wont be mauled by a tiger hiding in the long grass. Yet this pesky overwhelming survival mechanism is alive and well. Nowadays instead of that scary animal, its a public speaking event or text message.
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Social Anxiety And Generalised Anxiety
Does your stomach drop when the phone rings, when you are invited out, or a mate does not reply to a text message within that allotted time? Maybe this is as simple as your chest tightening or perhaps you break into a sweat, feel dizzy, and cant sleep at night thinking about it.
Social and generalised anxiety can manifest in many forms, such as:
- An overwhelming sense of worry or fear regarding interacting with others
- Avoiding putting yourself into situations which might trigger horrible feelings that make you want to just run away.
Pick A Grounding Statement
Inevitably when you get into bed at night after doing all of these tasks, your mind is going to spring into action as it usually does.
You havent failed. Youve done nothing wrong. Your mind is in the habit of worrying when you get into bed. You are building a new habit of worrying at a different place and time.
As your mind adjusts to this new routine, its important to have a plan to deal with any thoughts that come up. A grounding statement can be really helpful. Its a single sentence that you can repeat anytime your mind starts to worry or give reasons why this solution wont work.
Ill give a few examples, but its important that the statement is personal to you.
I dont need to have all of the answers, problems are solved one step at a time
Im not going to forget anything. I set aside time to write down all of my concerns
Its OK to rest, I will be able to tackle everything I need to tomorrow
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