“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."
Overthinking is a bi-product of trying to control. The “human” part of our being believes that we can think our way to safety and resolution when in fact, it is a combination of our left (thinking) brain and our right (intuitive/creative) brain that we form the best decisions and conclusions for our lives.
In my coaching, I get asked repeatedly how to stop overthinking. My answer is always the same… Meditation. Most often, this is not the answer that the person wants to hear because again, the minds want to “control” and meditation means stepping away from control and quieting the mind through letting go. Meditation allows for stillness and in stillness we hear. This is not to say that we don’t need to think. It simply means we learn how to think more productively and effectively.
When I went through a horrific point on my journey I refer to as, “My Tsunami”, I soon realized that no amount of overthinking was going to bring me through my situation faster or more successfully. If anything, it was only perpetuating the massive anxiety I was already feeling.
Overthinking/obsessing on an issue is not going to help us make better decisions because we are still deciding from the same level of thinking we were at yesterday and the day before that. Factually, human beings repeat 95 % of the same exact thoughts daily. There is virtually no new information coming in.
I began to recognize this and decided that I needed to calm my mind (hence, calm my emotions) so I could find clarity and peace in order to “hear” any new information/guidance that could potentially move me up and out of the quandary I was in. But first, I needed to release the anxiety I was feeling in order to be open.
When our minds are calm and clear, our hearts are open and we can actually see/feel/hear our guidance and messages more readily. We stop trying to manage our lives as an equation that needs to be solved and instead, we open to the natural flow and grace of life.
Being individual aspects of Source, we have a connection to our Higher Selves available to us all day long. However, we cannot hear or reach our Higher Self, when we are scattered and mottled with overthinking and emotion.
Part of teaching ourselves to stop overthinking is understanding and trusting the following principal:
A cluttered mind is too full to receive anything else. We must first remove the clutter in order to allow better serving information to enter by connecting with our creative mind, our inspiration and our intuition.
All decisions made through connection and consciousness, are higher serving for all involved than decisions made through fear and control. Once we start our practice and observe how our lives begin to flow more easily, meditation and spiritual connection oftentimes shifts from a low priority to a high one.
A great way to begin clearing your mind is to implement a daily, morning mediation practice for at least 5 minutes. Do not be concerned with the results or how well you are able to meditate. Learn to trust in the process. As with starting any new practice, it will take time; however, that does not mean you are not benefiting! Any stillness (where there was once clutter, chaos & noise) will benefit you!
Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com
The mind is a most powerful resource but yet it can also be the source of torment and pain. After all, it is the meaning we make of things that causes us distress. And overthinking is a common enough cause of stress and anxiety. Commonly when we are overthinking, the mind just adds fuel to our problems and does not allow us to access other internal resources such as intuition and creative problem solving. So, how to stop this feedback loop of perpetual thoughts that can tie us in knots?
Mindfulness is a well-accepted antidote to the stress and anxiety of too much thinking. It is being used in hospital settings and educational institutions world-wide. Even business has cottoned on to the power of mindfulness. Ironically, the term, although using the word ‘mind’ refers to whole heartedness and embodying breath with our entire being. It offers us the capacity to bring awareness and attention to our experience without being caught up in judgments of our experience.
Cultivating this quality of beingness helps us develop the capacity for presence which includes all of our experience not just our thoughts. We are multi sensorial and when we develop our capacity to tune into our bodies we can be more grounded, more centered and often feel more energy and a greater sense of aliveness. Joy springs up from inside spontaneously. It’s not like our thoughts disappear but rather they lessen their grip and we learn that we are more than the sum total of our thoughts.
Mindfulness is best cultivated with regular practice. There are apps and courses available to assist. The practice of meditation is nearly always the best way to become more mindful. But mindfulness is not only on the cushion. We can use it in our daily life, moment to moment. Just stop right now and notice what is going on around you and take a moment to sense inwards. Pause and notice your breath as it rises and falls. It may be shallow or deep. You may notice your thoughts too, the goal is not to stop thinking, but to sense into the space around your thoughts. We are more than just the sum of our thoughts. Reality offers us a sense of groundedness which we can become attuned to over time. The practice of mindfulness is a powerful way to slow down the mind and is a reminder to come back to the breath again and again. Pause, notice, breathe….
(My book Mindful Relationships is coming out soon, watch this space!)
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
When your mind is churning over and over again on an unwanted thought, commitment to reigning those thoughts in is the key. The following steps will be useful if you consciously choose to gain control.
1. Say ,”Stop,” preferably aloud or at least in your head.
2. Shift your physical position. If you’re sitting, stand. If you’re lying on your stomach turn to your back or side. If you’re in the car, make some sort of movement that does not interfere with driving safely.
3. Focus your visual attention on something around you and begin a detailed narrative about it. Maybe there is a tree or picture you can look at. When you’re driving you can look at the cars, road and signs in front of you. If you are in bed trying to sleep, visualize a scene you enjoy. Notice the details you can see narrating aloud or in your head everything you see. Think like an artist. Notice the nuances of color, the play of light and textures in your landscape.
4. After a few minutes, go back to whatever it was you were doing. If you are trying to sleep, allow your thoughts to go to a sweet memory or stay focused on your visualization. If the intrusive thoughts come back (and they likely will), repeat this process. You may need to go through these steps again and again. That’s OK. It’s part of the process necessary to gain control of your brain. Few brain changes occur immediately.
Karen Thacker, LPC – www.journeyforward.net
We overthink something when we’re anxious about it. Paradoxically, it’s that same anxiety that shuts down our ability to think, at the time when we need it most.
But there are a number of ways around this. One of them is to remember that to get out of your head, do something physical. It’s not only a distraction (a necessary respite, at this point), but it also helps to calm your anxiety down.
The following are a few suggestions to help you get out of that rut. They can get you started, and probably start you thinking of some ideas of your own.
If you’re working on a specific project, and overthinking it, take a break by trying some of the examples below, for about 20 – 30 minutes. If you make it much longer, you’ll end up being too distracted, and find it harder to get back to work. If you’re not working on a specific project, but are ruminating all the time, then try the examples below for 20 minutes to an hour. When looking at these ideas, keep in mind that we all have different preferences, so it’s important to try things that feel like a good fit.
1. Go for a quick jog, or workout session, even if it’s a workout session that you’re following on TV. You’ll benefit as well from all those activated endorphins, and the resultant feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, that can help you fight frustration and depression.
2. Organize your closet, bureau drawer, junk drawer, or kitchen shelves. Using your physical senses will help you calm down, feel more productive, and help you put the situation in its proper perspective.
3. Do some doodling. Studies show that doodling activates the creative part (right side) of our brain, helping us to come up with some solutions that we might not have thought of otherwise. Don’t try to create a masterpiece. Just the act of doodling itself will help overcome the ruminating part of the brain, relax your mind, get the creative part going, and help you get where you need to be.
There isn’t one magic bullet. You may want to try more than one suggestion, and prioritize them. It’s always a good idea to have more than one tool in your toolbox. Good luck!
Barbara Ferullo, LMHC – www.TheBostonTherapist.com
When you’re caught in an endless loop of worrying and wondering and “what-iffing,” there are some things to do and some things to stop doing that will definitely help you break free.
1. DO Take Action!
Overthinking is a form of paralyzing procrastination. And like all forms of procrastination, it has its roots in perfectionism and fear. Overthinkers try to find all of the ways something will or won’t work out, how to anticipate every possible problem that could arise so they can prepare for it, then wonder if that’s even possible, so is it really such a good idea to do this thing at all?
One of the best skills for overthinkers to practice and get good at is simply doing something…anything! Taking action, even when there’s some doubt and you’re not 100% certain about the outcome (who is?) is better than staying stuck in the overthinking loop that does nothing but exhaust you.
Try this: Set a time limit for how long you will let yourself worry or think about the decision that must be made, something that is reasonable for the situation. At the end of that time, commit to making the best decision that you can, given the information that you have. That’s the best you can do and you have to move forward. Then go distract yourself by doing something fun or physical, which is also a way of taking action.
2. DON’T Involve Others
You know what it’s like when your friend who is overthinking something comes to you for the fiftieth time, with yet another version of “So what do you think I should do?” You know they’re not going to listen to what you have to say. They are too caught up in worry and fear to even let you in.
Involving other people in overthinking doesn’t ever break the overthinking loop. It mostly just makes it worse…definitely for them, often for you. Resist the urge to share your dilemma with others. They can’t figure out what’s right for you. That’s your job. And you won’t appreciate it if they do tell you what to do. Or if you burn them out as a friend.
3. DO Be Kind to Yourself
Recognize that we are wired to be worriers and to try to find all the ways things can go wrong, rather than to be happy and just go with the flow. It’s what has kept us alive as a species. So, we have to work hard to learn that thoughts are just thoughts and we can actually change them. We have to learn ways to do things imperfectly and be okay with “good enough.” We have to learn how to engage 100% in the process and let go of the outcome, which we don’t have control over. Learning new ways of thinking and being isn’t easy, but it’s all possible and leads to feeling healthier and happier. It’s actually a lot easier than worrying and overthinking all the time. If you need help, get help. Don’t overthink it!
Dr. Anita Sanz – www.sanzplans.com
One of the reasons people overthink is due to the fear of making the wrong decision. You may find yourself thinking through all of the possible outcomes of a decision, only to find yourself back to square one with no solution.
It’s not necessarily the case that spending extra time thinking about something will guarantee the best choice to be made. Sometimes our immediate “gut feelings” help us make the best decisions. The truth is it’s not possible to always be 100% happy with the outcomes of your choices-even if you spend extensive time thinking about them.
If you can feel confident in your ability to deal with various outcomes- both positive and negative- it will reduce the stakes tremendously. If you find yourself overthinking, remind yourself “I can handle whatever happens,” “I have the option to make new choices, ” or “I can tolerate being disappointed.”
This statement can be customized to whatever will be most helpful in giving you a confidence boost. If you can trust your ability to handle any outcome, decision making becomes much more simple and you can kick the habit of over overthinking!
Dr. Sari Fleischman – www.phillypsych.com
There’s a term for overthinking: Analysis Paralysis. Cute, huh? But not quite as charming if you often find yourself in the never ending loop of your anxious thoughts. This hamster wheel of persistent overthinking can surprise us at any time: in the shower, on the freeway on our way to work, and even in the middle of the night, disrupting our much-needed rest.
Finding ourselves stuck in rumination can be frustrating. A small dose of overthinking, however, isn’t all bad. It’s our mind’s attempt at problem-solving, or at preventing an unwelcome outcome. If we keep our worry to this level, it can be effective at helping us find solutions and take needed action. When “grinding the gears” of our thoughts only leads us in circles, however, we need to recognize this and put a stop to it. But how do we distinguish between “good worry” and “bad worry?”
Ask yourself this question: “Will this line of thinking lead me to take concrete action, or am I just going around and around in my loop of anxiety?” If the answer is “concrete action,” great. If not, imagine a stop sign or even stay the word “STOP” aloud. You will likely find your thoughts wanting to drift back into the worry cycle. When you do, just notice this and gently repeat your command to stop. We must remember that we can only control our own choices and behavior, and overthinking won’t solve that which we cannot control.
Marnee Reiley, M.A. LMFT – www.youroctherapist.com
Often times I find myself with the most extreme headaches. I’ve always been a thinker, a planner, someone who analyzes things from every angle. Someone who creates lists, constructs ven diagrams and weighs the pro and cons of EVERYTHING. No decision is made off of a whim, a hunch or irrationally.
Is this you? Do you find that you’re always second, third and fourth guessing your decisions and choices? Do you find that when you make a decision or a choice and you have not dissected it, analyzed it and turned it upside down, that you don’t feel comfortable?
My question to you is, WHY?
Why do you not trust your gut? Your whim? Your instinct? Why do you feel that you have to dissect, analyze, plan and weigh the pros and cons of EVERYTHING? Why do you overthink EVERYTHING?
For me it was about lack of self-confidence. I was always afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and making the wrong choices. I was always afraid that if I didn’t plan, analyze, dissect and weigh the pros and cons; then I couldn’t trust that what I was going to say or do would be RIGHT. In a nutshell I didn’t trust me. And I wasn’t LIVING. I scoffed at spontaneity. I judged those that would throw caution to the wind and follow their gut. AND I mocked those that allowed their intuition to guide them.
When we feel the need to analyze, dissect, plan and weigh the pros and cons in everything that we do, we hinder ourselves from living in the moment. After experiencing so much loss, loss of time due to 4 surgeries on my bladder ( I suffer from a sometimes debilitating chronic condition) two miscarriages AND family and friends deaths due to overdosing and suicide, I have decided to just live in the moment. Now does that mean that I never plan ahead, dissect situations, analyze my options or weigh the pros and cons of a decision? NO, it just means that I have learned that life is short, I have experienced the here today gone tomorrow feelings that sudden deaths and losses bring about and I have witnessed friends and family having it all one minute and it being wiped out the next. So the next time you find yourself OVERTHINKING, Stop, BREATHE and TAKE THE LEAP.
Wendy Whitmore, MS, LMFT – www.truthhealingevolution.com
Feelings of anxiety are a result of fear of the unknown. Anxiety is usually caused by thoughts of the future. “What will I do?”, “What is going to happen?” “What if …” Worry and overthinking can affect us negatively in many ways. Feelings of anxiety, persistent worry and overthinking are a signs that life is out of balance, mind, body and spirit. As we balance our life and become aware of our feelings and apply coping skills, we will be free to continue reaching goals, living healthy and being symptom free! Making adjustments in our day and breaking the worry habit can change our lives. Below are 3 ways to overcome overthinking and worry habits
1. Every problem has a solution. This knowledge will allow us to shift out of the emotional reaction and into problem solving mode. Of course take time to process the feelings and then sit down and think about any solutions. If there is nothing that can be done in the moment focus on what you can do to make it a great day.
2. The only things you can control are your thoughts and your behaviors. Place your efforts on managing your thought life. The wandering mind leads to unhappiness. STOP – Start Thinking Out Problems. Write down everything that you can do to make the problem or situation improve. If there is no action that can be taken then shut down the thought process and focus on what is good, lovely, honest and true in your life in the present moment. Change the channel to more pleasant thoughts.
3. Be aware and mindful. Overthinking and worry keep us stuck in a pattern of thinking that does not allow for happiness. Our mind is focused on a problem instead of the now. Our joy and peace are attainable at any given moment. Make a decision to be happy despite your situation and circumstance. Have the attitude that this too shall pass. Have the desire to be worry free and manage your thought life and it will come to pass with consistent, persistent effort. Do your best one minute at a time.
If you have excessive feelings of anxiety, please seek professional help. It is worth the effort to overcome these difficulties, change your thinking and live a worry free life!
Dr. Susan Pazak – www.askdrsusanp.com