In this article we are going to talk about the How to Overcome Overthinking? Overthinking is indeed one of those universal issues that seems almost impossible to conquer. OH! How many hours we spend pondering and ruminating about issues (personal as well as professional) over and over as if running in circles. We go on lengths unravelling every layer of the issue in hand. We over analyse and think through, and we knit pick each of these layers for we are deeply engrossed in the problem-solving process. When this analysis paralysis operation is adjourned, we are hit with a domino of epiphanies such as; ‘no work is done’, ‘so much time is wasted’ ‘This time could have been invested in actually doing something” so on and so forth. Hence, it comes back to a full circle.
How To Overcome Overthinking?
Now the question arises that can overthinking be controlled? Well, the answer to this is, No and Yes. No, we cannot control thoughts because we are wired to solve problems by engaging in active thinking. Yes, because we can guide overthinking in the correct direction by learning to distinguish between problematic and productive overthinking
The harsh reality however is that this world appreciates doers rather than thinkers.
In this article we will discuss HOW TO OVERCOME OVERTHINKING and steer our train of thought in the direction of productivity to make the most out of our analytical thinking! In this article, we will discuss ways in which these strategies can be used independently or interdependently in order to release ourselves from the shackles of overthinking.
1. Awareness and Acceptance
Being watchful of your thoughts and Practicing mindfulness can go a long way in controlling overthinking. Thoughts can create your mindset which in turn dictates the overall narrative of your life. Therefore, it is very important to be watchful of the thoughts that come to your mind. When one practices mindfulness, it becomes easy to recognize any negative or detrimental thought that comes to the mind. Having recognized this thought early on, it becomes easy to discard it then and therefore it has not planted its roots in the head yet!
This early evaluation can save so much potential wasted time due to overthinking in the long run.
2. Pick a challenge
As humans, we are innate problem solvers. The brain is readily looking for problems to solve as the neurons are active and buzzing with activity but lack direction. This is the potential analytical energy of the brain demanding to be exhausted. When we are not consciously engaged in a problem-solving activity, this potential analytical energy takes over our unconscious mind and starts concocting problems that do not even exist. This can be actively avoided by taking up activities that require you to utilise your analytical thinking abilities. For example, solving sudoku, crossword, jigsaw puzzles.
3. Overcoming Anxiety
Every now and then, we find ourselves overanalysing and scrutinizing because we want to find answers to things such as, ‘what are they thinking of me?’, ‘ did I do something wrong?’, ‘ would I be selected for the interview I appeared for?’.
Now, if we tend to ponder upon the root cause of all this overthinking, it can be primarily attributed to the fear of the unknown popularly called anxiety (yes! That crazy cousin of fear!)
Anxiety being a precursor of overthinking, if controlled effectively can help eliminate overthinking substantially. This can be done by various methods. The most effective of them being Physical exercise (to release endorphins or the ‘feel good’ chemicals) and breathing exercise ( to gather your thoughts and gain mental clarity).
4. When in doubt, write it out
There are times when we tend to lose our mind. Our mind is running so many tabs at once, we are overstimulated and overwhelmed. It is like we have no control over it and our head is going to explode.
While it may seem like you have no control over your mind during this point, you do! The best thing to do when you cannot think straight is to let it out. Write down whatever comes to your head without censoring on a piece of paper. (In Psychotherapy, it is called Free Association).
Now read it and ask yourself, ‘is what I wrote really true?’ More likely than not, the answer will be “No, it is not true.”
These automatic negative thoughts can be overpowering but as soon as they are out, equilibrium is restored, and you can now shift your focus back to what is important!
5. Replacing Negative thoughts with Positive ones
Every time you hear that voice inside your head saying ‘What if?’, replace it with a, “What if not?”.
Think objectively about the things you are feeling (For example, ‘I don’t feel like I am valued in my job”.
Now think about the positive side to this (“I gave an interview and got selected therefore, I am valuable”)
On practising this, you will be surprised to discover how much we underestimate ourselves and how these automatic negative thoughts can be controlled!
6. Bigger picture
We can dwell so much upon tiny details that we lose the vision of the bigger picture. Sometimes, we need to get out of our head and ask ourselves, “Is what I am obsessing over even a point of concern?”
For example, you are about to meet up with a friend and thinking extensively about what you are going to order at the restaurant while you dine with them to the point where you lose focus of the fact that it does not matter what you eat, spending time with the friend is what is going to make it worthwhile and should be of utmost importance.
7. Eat a big breakfast
No, I did not put this here by accident, hear me out on this one! It is very common to be missing out on breakfast. Right?
At the same time, it is rightly said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The reason blew my mind too!
It is because, in the morning, even if we do not feel like we are hungry but regardless, our body needs energy to get started with the day. When the body is deprived of its primary source of fuel in the morning aka breakfast, it takes energy from the other sources which in turn leads to lower blood sugar levels. These lowered blood sugar levels significantly spike up anxiety levels paving the ideal pathway towards anxiety ridden overthinking!
To combat this, eat breakfast that is rich in proteins and fat and low in carbohydrates and see the difference in less than a week!
8. Ditch perfectionism
“Just do it”, this phenomenal saying by Nike is highly applicable here.
All of us want to be good at what we do and to give our best. After all, who does not want to stand out? Ironically, the strive for perfection can prove to be a fatalistic hurdle in the process of executing the idea. We might set up unrealistic standards of performance and get preoccupied with the fear of failure. We might even think of the responsibilities associated with success that after analysing everything, and as a result, we might choose not to do anything at all.
Once the work is done, details can always be worked out later on so it serves in the best interest to get started.
9. Revaluate your fears
As the saying by the philosopher, Slavoj zizek goes, “Maybe how you are perceiving the problem is part of the problem itself.”
This immediately highlights the significance of the need to dive deep and know us through introspection to get an insight into your strengths, weaknesses, interests, passions etc.
For example, asking yourself if you are really scared of cactus or is it that one time when you were 7 and not being careful, you hurt yourself touching it because you didn’t know any better. And now that you have grown up this fear is irrational.
When we check in with ourselves by evaluating and renewing our knowledge, beliefs, goals etc, we develop a deep knowledge of ourselves.
This proves beneficial because now we have a strong sense of self as a result, we would be less unsure of the things happening around us significantly keeping the issue of overthinking at an arm’s length.
10. Set deadlines for decision making
Overthinking sets in when we keep a decision lingering for longer than usual. The relationship between decisiveness and overthinking is inversely proportional. Being decisive not only facilitates self-discipline but also limits our tendency to overthink.
The habit of setting deadlines not only keeps a person disciplined and accountable, but also induces a sense of urgency. This induced sense of urgency in turn eliminates any potential for overthinking and overvaluation as now the focus is on getting the task done optimally with the most practical solution in hand. And even if something is left out, it can be worked later.
While overthinking can prove to be limiting and fatal if done over trivial matters, it can be extremely wondrous if done in the right direction.
As they essay, balance is key!
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