Are you an over-thinker? While it is very common for people to over-think or self-evaluate once in awhile, there are many that have trouble moving on and getting out of their own heads. And that causes them a lot of distress and an inability to move forward.
If you tend to ruminate over past mistakes, future successes/failures or what other people may think of you all the time, you will benefit from these strategies that will help you to stop the pervasive thoughts and live a less stressful life.
Why do people overthink?
- Because we can. Humans are thinking beings. That is a blessing and a curse at the same time.
- We love to build linkages, a lot of times where none exist. It is amazing how we can connect two completely unrelated events and create cause and effect thoughts.
- We want to know why. We need to know why. And we will think about it until we figure it out. (Which is usually never.)
- We don’t trust our decisions. Just in case we choose wrong.
- Fear. Fear of consequences. Fear of missing out. Fear of what people think of us…
How over-thinking affects your health
Thinking too much can have many adverse affects besides not being able to live in the present or make a decision about the future. It can seriously harm your mental health as well as your physical being.
There are many studies that prove that over-thinking, or rumination, greatly increases your risk for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. And the worst part is, the more you do it, the harder it is to break free of the cycle of over-thinking. And that can be super stressful.
You probably have already experienced how stress can affect you physically and can manifest itself in physical ailments like headaches, upset stomachs and aching muscles.
You may not have realized that you have also adopted very unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as over-eating or drug use, all of which do nothing to pacify your condition, in fact it probably makes it worse.
10 warning signs that you are over-thinking
- You can’t stop worrying about things that may or may not happen.
- You constantly work yourself up over things you can not control.
- You go over and over your past mistakes.
- You relive embarrassing events in your mind ad nauseam.
- You have trouble sleeping because your brain won’t stop thinking.
- You think about things you should have done or said in social situations.
- You play out “what if” scenarios in your head.
- You dig deep into what others have said to you looking for alternative meanings or motives.
- If someone wrongs or mistreats you, you can’t let it go.
- You spend so much time ruminating that you miss what is really going on around you.
How to make decisions when you are stuck over-thinking
- Go for good not best. Trying to figure out the best decision can lead you to making no decision and taking no action. If you aim for good, you will move faster.
- Question worst case scenarios. Will it really be that bad and what is the likeliness they will happen.
- Set a timer. If you allow yourself time to let your thoughts free fall, you can get back to problem solving quickly and not get stuck in the cycle of rumination.
Strategies to help you overcome over-thinking
Notice your over-thinking. Be aware of your thoughts. Only when you recognize that you are over-thinking will you be able to change your thoughts and behaviours. Say to yourself, “I am over-thinking this.”
Challenge your thoughts. Once you have noticed your negative thoughts, you should challenge them. What would you say to a good friend that was thinking the same things?
Focus on solutions and what you can do now. When you change your mindset to one of problem solving, you will be amazed at how your thoughts change too.
Force yourself to practice gratitude. When I first started my gratitude journal, it was really hard and felt very unnatural. You will probably feel like that in the beginning too. But keep at it. It works!
Get busy. Physically busy. Walk. Craft. Knit. Dance. Read. Move. When you do physical movement, it forces your thoughts in a different direction. Even for 5 minutes. That may be all you need to stop the cycle. Give your brain a mini break.
Get professional help. If you have tried everything to stop over-thinking and you just can’t do it on your own, it is time to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed or think of it as another failure. It’s not. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t hesitate to go to the hospital. Your mental health is just as important.
Don’t lose sleep another night from over-thinking. Recognize it and nip it in the bud as soon as you can.