Overthinking issues, events or problems is a common method of dealing with a worrying or stressful situation or of trying to prepare for upcoming difficulty. Excessive overthinking and rumination are also symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and can cause things to get worse. The power of our mind to make changes to our external situations can be limited, and there reaches a point where overthinking is only serving to cause more damage. Learning to stop overthinking things can help you lead a more relaxing, contented life.
Here’s how to stop overthinking….
Recognise When You’re Overthinking
It can be hard to know when normal thinking and mental preparation becomes problem overthinking. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do people often tell you that you’re overthinking things?
- Do you replay conversations and events over and over in your head?
- Do you spend a long time thinking about other people’s actions, motivations or thoughts?
- Are you consumed with thoughts that offer no real progress or revelations?
- Do you feel unable to react in the moment?
- Do you often punish yourself or think negatively about your natural responses?
Understand Damaging Thoughts
When we overthink or ruminate our rationality tends to dissipate and our thought processes gradually become more and more unhelpful or damaging. Without another perspective to balance our thoughts we can easily descend into the following patterns.
- All or nothing thinking – seeing a situation as absolute
- Over generalisation – blowing things out of proportion
- Filtering – only seeing the positive or negative
- Jumping to conclusions – making assumptions
- Magnifying and minimising – making things seem bigger or smaller than reality
- False reasoning – believing you have reached the only true conclusion
- Should statements – punishing yourself – “I should have known”
- Personalisation – becoming unable to separate a situation with your personal character
Try to identify which of these you lean towards and outline the rational arguments against them. It’s easy for us to become caught up in the moment and convince ourselves of something, so try to take a step back and be mindful of your own thought processes.
What Triggers It?
We are all different and it’s helpful to understand what triggers your damaging thoughts. Is it stress, anxiety, social embarrassment or shyness? Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence or troubling relationship or maybe communication difficulties. Try to make notes of when your overthinking is most prominent and what triggers the behaviours.
Challenge Your Thoughts
Once you know what you’re doing, when and why then it’s time to challenge the thought processes. Question the validity of the statements and conclusions you come up with. Talk to other people about the situation if you can, or a professional who will be able to help you work through each scenario and develop new, more helpful coping mechanisms. By replacing cognitive distortions with real facts and helpful techniques you can stop the damaging cycle of overthinking for good.
For more information on how to stop overthinking or for a free consultation please do get in touch.