“The more you overthink the less you will understand.”
― Habeeb Akande
If you have never been caught in the spiral of excessive thinking, it can be almost impossible to explain.
Overthinking is all-consuming, keeping you caught up in stories of the future and worries of the past. Only ever focused on the negative, it keeps you locked away from the present and any sense of peace. Stealing hours of your day, your joy and holding you stagnant.
If you find you overthink, then please know you are not alone.
Overthinking isn't just an issue for those who suffer from clinical anxiety disorders. It's also common among healthy individuals. And while it's normal to think things through before making a decision, excessive thinking can lead to stress, worry, indecision and frustration.
The inner dialogue is your friend.
This may feel impossible to believe right now but overthinking develops as a protective mechanism. We are often praised for our ability to problem solve, to intellectualise, to have predicted every alternative, and to consider everyone’s feelings that we create the illusion of being in control. Our mind becomes attuned to safety meaning control and that control is the result of thinking. Therefore it's hardly a surprise that we overthink, it's there to protect us.
This is the paradox of overthinking
The brain’s desire to keep us safe results in a greater number of thoughts, which, with the help of our natural negativity bias triggers our stress response. This leads to a foggy mind incapable of thinking clearly, which then feels unsafe and triggers us more. Keeping us stuck in a loop of excessive thinking.
Stopping the loop
To start we need to reduce the burden of thoughts. Trying to change our brain’s patterns while trapped by overthinking is like trying to fill a bathtub without putting in the plug. Here are 8 ways to help you calm your mind when overthinking.
Set aside 30mins a day to worry – outside of this time, keep note and come back to it during your allocated time.
Rank your decision – using a scale of 1-10 decide how important your decision is for the bigger picture and then allocate a corresponding amount of time e.g. if it ranks low on the scale give yourself a few minutes to decide, if it falls above 7 perhaps you need a day to a week to help formulate your decision.
Create a good enough list – if there is something that keeps triggering your overthinking, write out a list of what good enough looks like, when you get to that standard, move on.
Write out your worries with release writing - before bed spend 5 minutes freeing your mind.
HALT – allow this acronym to help you shift your negative bias and have more positive thoughts.
A handful of stories – let your mind think about 5 different stories from possible to absurd.
Focus on the good – find your way to shift your mind away from fear and into gratitude.
Calming the mind for good
For many the tools above will be sufficient to support their overthinking, giving them peace and clarity of mind, however, others will have the desire to understand their protective mechanism further. If this is you, once you find the tools to help limit your thoughts in the moment, you can look to work with a coach to explore it deeper. This is a uniquely personal process however a few ideas to get you started are:
When did your overthinking first start and what did you make it mean?
What triggers your overthinking the most?
Your limiting beliefs.
Any cognitive distortions you may have.
How your body can guide your decisions.
Build your self-worth
Your relationships with your central nervous system.
How can you be more present each day, each moment?
Get out of your head and into your life.
Overthinking keeps you stuck in your mind and you miss out and the everyday joy of life so make some little changes today and remember you are not alone. Wherever you are in your journey with overthinking I am happy to support you:
~ Explore your patterns together in a free session
~ Go at your own pace with a guided mindfulness practise
~ Sign up for my newsletter with more practical coaching tips
~ Experiment with mindfulness for 30-days