Ok, I’ll admit it. I am an Overthinker. Well, a recovering overthinker I like to think (pardon the pun), but we all have slip-ups from time to time and that has been made no clearer to me than in my own life the last few months.
I care deeply. I love deeply. I think deeply. Combine all of those things together though and it often equates into a nice (but often paralysing) little bundle of rumination and constant deep-dive ‘worm hole’ type thinking that can keep you feeling incredibly stuck at times.
I have been a recovering overthinker for years. So much so that I even wrote an article about it for the Huffington post a few years back.
For many, many years, my overthinking was an unconscious behaviour that I would ritualistically partake in – usually whilst tucked into my cosy bed exhausted from the day, and whilst trying to go to sleep. But, a number of years of soul searching and growth work made me see the impact that this kind of behaviour was having on my life, and ultimately what it was taking away from me. What it was robbing me of.
Things like joy. Self-esteem. Spontaneity. Belief in the importance of my own needs, wants and desires. The need to live my own life on my own path, without constantly having to consider everyone else’s life plans before making my own.
I got a pretty good handle on it over the last 5 years, however I have come to realise that a major life change, or circumstance change (and yes, Covid totally counts in both of these categories for those reading at home), can lead you right back down the worm-hole of overthinking. And that is exactly where I have been the last few months. It can be debilitating, and ultimately it can make it harder to focus on the things that are actually important to you.
I have always, and will always, continue to maintain that there is a beauty to us overthinkers, and we are needed in the world. Why?
Because we care. We care deeply and compassionately about others. We are empathetic and considerate to what others need. Yet, sometimes so much so that we forget to practise what we so often preach. We forget to practise compassion, consideration and empathy for ourselves.
Overthinkers are also often incredibly creative and innovative. Why? Because we think. We think A LOT. About the state of the world. The state of human-kind. The gap between real life and ‘fake life’ that we see online. And we constantly think about HOW we could change it for the better.
Sometimes though as overthinkers, we can get so far down this worm-hole that we can create a problem that isn’t actually there. Our overthinking, overstimulated mind takes control and drags us into a place that can then be hard to get out of. And this is where it becomes a derailer. An unhelpful, non-productive place to be.
Catching yourself in the overthinking spiral can be difficult, but here are 5 things that I like to do when I notice myself falling back into this behaviour.
- Look to the facts to squash the irrational thinking that overthinking often equates to. By this I mean, ask yourself the following questions.
- What fact or evidence do I have that what I am thinking about is true or real?
- Will this be something that in 6 months’ time I will still care about, and therefore is it worth the amount of time and mental energy I am investing into it?
- If it is, what can I do about it and how can I take action to move forward on it now, instead of just thinking about it?
- Schedule time in your calendar to overthink – Studies have shown that purposefully scheduling time in your day to overthink, actually reduces how much you then do it. When you find yourself doing it outside of the allocated overthinking time, stop yourself and remind yourself that you have this time scheduled for later. Then, when you do allow yourself the guilt free time to overthink, you often find you don’t need to. Over time you will reduce the amount of time you invest in overthinking completely.
- Ask yourself in the moment whether you are overthinking about something in the past, or worrying about something in the future. Then, take action accordingly. If you are ruminating over something you did or did not do in the past, ask yourself what you can actually do about it now? If there is really nothing, then leave it alone and move forward. Constantly looking backwards, does not move us forwards. If you are worrying about something that may (or may not!) happen in the future, ask yourself what action you can take now to help ease these worries in your own world. If there are things within your control that you can take action on, then schedule time to do so to alleviate the worry.
- Call yourself out on what is happening – Acknowledge your overthinking for what it is and challenge yourself that unless you are going to take action on it right now (or it is even something that you can take action on), that it is to be let go of. Ask yourself if the overthinking is helpful thinking or hinderance thinking? Is it productive and trying to solve a problem, or just ruminating for ruminating sake?
- Remind yourself that people don’t care as much about you as what you think they might – This may sound harsh, but so often for us overthinkers we get caught up in thinking and worrying about what other people think of us. Have we upset someone, said the wrong thing, done the wrong thing, was our idea stupid, misunderstood etc. The reality is that people are far more caught up in their own lives to worry about us. Meaning – they aren’t lying awake thinking about you and what you did/didn’t say/do/mean the way you think they might be. So, let it go and put a conscious refocus back onto your own life and how you can continue to move forward with it positively and constructively.
Overthinkers have a number of strengths that often include things like compassion, consideration, kindness, empathy and creativity. But, it is critical to have a strong level of self-awareness to help you understand where your overthinking may helping you to take positive and courageous action, or when it may be hindering you or paralysing you.
If you need help in this space and know that your overthinking causes you to shy away from conversations and opportunities, instead of seizing them (in work or in life!), then book yourself in for a free 20 minute coaching consult today. Let’s get you started with managing your thinking more productively.