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Overthinking — How to Spot it & Helpful Tools to Stop it


From time to time, everyone overthinks. The key is to answer the question, “Do I overthink everything?…and if so, “Why”? We all experience events or big decisions that cause worry or ones that require extra thought when it’s time to evaluate our choices. 

“Overthinking” is when you can’t get out of your own head and then decisions don’t get made. It may feel like you can’t seem to shut off your concerns, or you might feel paralyzed when it’s time to make a decision. 

The good news is that you weren’t born an overthinker. Like many other things in our lives, this habit developed over time based on a multitude of experiences. More good news: new habits can be created at any time; it’s simply a matter of unlearning the old patterns and learning new modes of operating. Classic overthinking symptoms are outlined below, followed by 5 ways to stop overthinking everything (for good!). XO, Nina

Common Symptoms of Overthinking

  • Difficulty making decisions: Overthinkers may struggle to make decisions, whether big or small, because they constantly weigh the pros and cons and fear making the wrong choice.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: The number of thoughts and options can make it difficult to focus on the task at hand.
  • Procrastination: The fear of making a wrong decision can paralyze us and prevent us from taking action.
  • Negative self-talk: This includes self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-blame.
  • Physical symptoms: Overthinking can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

It’s important to note that everyone experiences overthinking differently, and symptoms may vary from person to person.

Spot It By Identifying Triggers

Overthinking is often triggered by specific situations or events. To stop overthinking, it’s essential to identify these triggers. This helps us recognize patterns and behaviors that lead to overthinking and enables us to avoid or manage such situations in a better way. Some common triggers for overthinking include:

  • Making a decision: Big decisions, such as choosing a career path, moving to a new city, or ending a relationship, can trigger overthinking.
  • Relationship issues: Overthinking often arises when we experience problems in our relationships, such as conflicts or breakups.
  • Work-related stress: Work-related stress, such as meeting deadlines, achieving targets, or facing criticism, can trigger overthinking.
  • Health concerns: Health issues, such as chronic pain or illnesses, can lead to overthinking about the future.

By identifying our triggers, we can prepare ourselves to manage overthinking more effectively when we encounter them.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present and non-judgmental in the current moment. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga can help reduce overthinking. It teaches us to focus on the present moment and not get lost in our thoughts. When we practice mindfulness regularly, we become more aware of our thoughts and emotions and learn to accept them without judgment. This helps to reduce anxiety and promote more effective decision-making. Mindfulness can also help us to develop a deeper sense of self-awareness, which can be helpful in identifying triggers for overthinking.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Overthinking may include negative or irrational thoughts. By questioning and challenging these thoughts, we can gain a more realistic and positive perspective on situations. This approach helps to reduce anxiety and promote more effective decision-making. To challenge our thoughts effectively, we need to identify and examine the evidence for and against them. For example, if we are overthinking about a decision we made, we could challenge our negative thoughts by asking ourselves:

  • Is this thought accurate? 
  • What evidence do I have to support it? 
  • What evidence do I have to contradict it? 

This approach helps us to develop a more balanced perspective and avoid catastrophic thinking.

Engage in Distracting Activities

Engaging in activities that distract your mind, such as reading, exercise, or spending time with friends, can be effective in breaking the cycle of overthinking. These activities help to shift our focus away from negative thoughts and promote relaxation. Distracting activities can also help us to gain a fresh perspective on a situation or problem. For example, taking a break and going for a walk can help us to clear our mind and return to the problem with a new perspective.

Seek Professional Help

If overthinking is affecting your daily life, it might be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns and teach you techniques to manage overthinking effectively. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that is particularly effective in treating overthinking. CBT helps clients identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs, replace them with more positive and realistic ones, and develop coping strategies to manage overthinking. A therapist can also help you develop a personalized plan to manage overthinking and offer ongoing support as you work towards your goals.

Remember that overcoming overthinking takes practice and patience. Implementing these strategies consistently can help reduce the frequency and intensity of overthinking, allowing you to live a happier and more fulfilling life!

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