It’s definitely not simple, nor will it take just 3 straightforward steps. The concept of overthinking occurs in almost every individual I know (myself included). Some people experience it a lot more often than others. Some people experience it more intensely. Some people just can’t stop it.
It feels like an ingrained part of our adaptation, how we sometimes escape the present moment. Maybe we started doing it as little kids because we had frantic parents who constantly made us worried. Maybe we trusted people who betrayed us, which then caused us to start doubting ourselves. Maybe it’s a biological/hormonal imbalance, and we’re just naturally unable to sit still and let our minds relax.
Whatever the cause may be, overthinking is stressful, tiring, and emotionally taxing. It also affects our relationships, our ability to trust, and our self-esteem. We often brush it off and tell people to ‘just stop overthinking’. But as with many other psychological dynamics, we should treat it more like a physical behaviour/injury.
So, what can we do to stop overthinking or at least make it a little more bearable? Let’s find out.
- Do not sit still
- Speak about it instead of suppressing it
- Utilize mechanisms to make sense of your thoughts
Do not sit still
From my own experience of overthinking, I found that the best solution is to move. Whether I’m thinking about my self-worth, whether I’m good enough, whether something terrible might happen, whether my trust will be betrayed, whether I’ll end up being embarrassed, or whether my loved ones are okay, sitting still just doesn’t help.
When I would stay in place and let my thoughts run rampant, I found that I would go deeper and deeper into my own rabbit hole. This would then impact more than just myself, as my mood would change and it would affect other people around me as well.
I found that if I moved around physically by going for a walk, changing my location in the house, picking up something to do, focusing on my breath, or deciding to focus deeply on a different thought, it would make a difference. Focusing on my breath is also especially helpful because it’s simple and you can do it anywhere.
Additionally, slowing down my breath and focusing on the sensation of air coming in and out of my lungs, shifts my thought to the present moment and calms me down. This is because when you start getting anxious, you feel a tightness in your chest and your breath becomes shallow; making it worse.
Speak about it instead of suppressing it
Do you know what my favourite thing about praying is? Is that it’s a conversation between me and God. Speaking about your thoughts and what’s on your mind can be incredibly helpful. It can boost your relationship with your Creator, help you connect more deeply with friends, and it allows you to feel less alone with the weight of those thoughts.
When it comes to speaking about it to other people, there’s certainly a limit. You don’t want to feel like you’re burdening them with your worries or make them start stressing about you. You want to be vulnerable enough to show them that you trust them, and give them the space to hear you out and help.
When it comes to praying, there’s practically no limit. You don’t have to worry about overreacting, over-sharing or TMI (too much info). You can vent knowing that you’re being heard. Knowing that there’s a plan in place. Knowing that everything happens for a reason and that:
“What’s meant for you will never miss you. What misses you was never meant for you.”
Make sense of your thoughts
This is arguably the toughest part. You’re always in battle with the emotional side of your brain and the logical side of your brain. So who tends to win the tug of war?
Making sense of your thoughts requires effort. Firstly, you have to actually be conscious of the thought and understand the root cause. A simple way to dissect it is by asking yourself ‘why?’ several times. It’s actually a framework used in businesses to understand the root cause of a problem. Here’s an example of how you can use it in your personal life though:
It can also be tiring doing this in your mind. I find it quite helpful to write in a journal. This helps me for a variety of reasons, including:
- I have to structure my thoughts more clearly when I write
- It allows me to see things from a different perspective
- It clears some of my mental bandwidth, as I’m letting it out
- I can notice trends in my thoughts or habits, which increases my self-awareness
- I can use that self-awareness to make better decisions, which will lead to better results
Lastly, what also helps with making sense of your thoughts is to spend time in nature. We can always be inspired by the natural world around us, especially when it comes to adapting and being resilient. Trees continue to push up to reach for the sunlight. Bees will never give up on their search for nectar. Birds always fly purposefully.
We too, can learn from nature and realize that everything happens for a reason. It’s going to be challenging at times, but that’s part of the journey. We can only go when we’re uncomfortable. Next time you feel like your thoughts are running a bit rampant, remember that it’s helping you understand something about yourself. Use it as fuel for growth. You got this.