Like Issa on Insecure, I tend to overthink everything. I think about things I’ve done, things I’m going to do, and about other people’s reactions to me. Every decision I make is momentous, and yet, that still doesn’t take away the regret I often feel once I’ve made a decision.
My constant brain chatter keeps me up at night and makes me anxious throughout the day. But not only does my overthinking add to my overall stress-level; it’s a waste of energy. According to intuitive healer Wendy De Rosa overthinking can be attributed to anxiety, fear, the feeling of being unsafe, the need to control (possibly stemming from feeling unsafe,) feeling as if one is a fraud, worrying about not meeting the expectations of other people, and/or feelings of not being grounded and therefore not present.
There are times when we overthink because of the way that we perceive the world and our place in it. For many people, not being able to control everything that happens in their life can lead to a fear-spiral. We fear the things we see as threats, and overthinking is a way to try to control the threat and protect ourselves.
“Overthinking individuals are generally rigidly holding onto their absolutistic beliefs as illustrated by their should, musts, ought to’s and have to’s,” says clinical psychologist, Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D. “These words and this demanding language runs on auto-pilot through their minds. Those words ‘instruct’ themselves on what is right/correct. Overthinking is a reply of this language in an attempt to control and protect themselves from the perceived threat.”
If you’re always trying to figure out when some catastrophe is going to happen and how you can prevent it, you may miss out on the good things that are happening at that moment.
10 Tips For How To Stop Overthinking
Change your thought patterns
Modify your negative thoughts into positive ones. Instead of thinking in terms of musts, have to’s and shoulds, focus more on your wants, choices, and preferences. If you make it so that there are dire consequences to any wrong decision, then you may find yourself paralyzed and unable to take action. Aim for positive results and don’t feel as if you need to analyze every detail before you make any kind of move.
Therapist Amanda Stemen defines mindfulness as being able to fully experience the present moment without judgment. “When you’re able to do this [being mindful] you don’t get caught up in your thoughts,” she says. “You will still experience thoughts but in observing them and letting them go you don’t get into the cycle of overthinking.” The more you practice mindfulness, the better you get at it.
Give your brain something else to consider
It’s the brain’s job to think so if you don’t want it to work overtime give it an alternative topic. If you know that the amount of time you spend thinking about your ex is unhealthy, try to shift your focus to what you want in a new partner or come up with some new strategies that will help you advance in your career. This is the bait and switch of overthinking.
Let go of perfectionism
I know that many times I overthink as a way to avoid making a mistake and getting criticized. I believe that if I go over every detail in my mind before I take action, I won’t mess up. Not only does overthinking not guarantee that I won’t make any mistakes, but it also makes me feel bad when I do. Going over the details of my mistakes repeatedly doesn’t usually make me feel any better. The better plan is to do things the best that I can and if they don’t work out, learn from them and then move on.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Sometimes it can feel as if everybody is doing better than you and having a better life. So instead of feeling happy for them, you spend hours trying to come up with ways that you can one-up them. When you compare yourself to others, you tend to fall flat. It’s doesn’t matter how much time you spend thinking about them—it’s not going to enrich your life in any way. You’re on your own journey and the best plan of action is to just do you.
Don’t put so much pressure on end results
Dr. Sultanoff says, “Ask yourself, ‘What is the worst that can happen if…” (e.g. miss the flight, not to do the dishes, forget to pick up the dry cleaning, forget an appointment, forget a birthday, etc.) And accept that the worst that can happen may be inconvenient, but it is not that bad.” The world will continue even if you embarrass yourself at a wedding or you drunk text your ex. Forgive yourself for your past and future mistakes and accept your humanity.
Talk to someone
If you’re going round and round in your head about an issue, it may be time to get someone else’s point of view. They can point out the things you’re missing and help you find closure on a topic.
Have some compassion for yourself
If you’re overthinking everything, then it’s time to step back and focus on some self-care. You’re doing the best you can and it’s time you acknowledged your own worth and took care of yourself without worrying about how it could affect anybody else.
Be more spontaneous
No one is saying that you should be impulsive and fool-hardy, just to give yourself a little more freedom to act on your instincts. Not every action or decision has to have a ton of thought going into it. Listen to your gut and improvise--not everything has to have a plan.
Practice meditation and/or yoga
It’s impossible to overthink when your goal is to clear the mind. When you’re meditating and focusing on your breathing and movement, it’s easier to release those thoughts that are stuck in your brain. When you stop the cycle of overthinking, you’ll feel freer and more at ease in your own life.