Is Overthinking Causing You Stress and Anxiety? Learn How to Stop It!
Do you spend a lot of time in your head overthinking and overanalysing? Maybe you replay past events in your head while you lay in bed at night? Maybe you rehearse future events in your head before they’ve even happened? You find yourself consumed trying to find answers and wanting to know why and you get a lot of satisfaction and relief when you figure things out.
In this post I will share why we do this, the gifts and the problems it brings and how you can get out of your head and reduce stress and anxiety.
What is Overthinking?
Overthinking is simply thinking or ruminating too much or for too long. It's normal to think through things in order to make decisions but overthinking is where we're stuck dwelling and obsessing so much so that it becomes unproductive and unhealthy. We become unable to take action to achieve positive outcomes.
Why Do We Overthink?
We overthink because it gives us clarity which gives us certainty and that gives us control.
The Hidden Gift...
Being a thinker has also given you a great gift! You’ve trained yourself to be an amazing problem solver.
The Hidden Problem...
Unfortunately, being a problem solver comes with its own problems. It slows your progress because you strive for perfection, you have high standards which means you can be critical of yourself and others, and you’re often left feeling frustrated, hopeless and confused.
Why can’t I lose these last few kilos…
Why do I comfort eat…
Why do I lose control around food and other times I’m really good...
Why do I care so much about other people’s opinion…
Why do I feel guilty saying no?
If I could find the answer and understand why then I could do something different. I won't feel frustrated, annoyed and angry with myself anymore.
I would feel amazing. I would be happy. I would have more confidence, I would feel so free!
I totally get it. I hear you. I was like that too. I would lay in bed at night and think about my day. Most of the time I was thinking about what I could have done differently so I could do better tomorrow. I would mentally rehearse future scenarios, so I was prepared and ready.
All this did was create pressure, stress, anxiety and fear. I was either worrying about the past or feeling anxious about the future. If it didn’t go well, I would beat myself up and feel guilty. There seemed to be this constant pressure to be a certain way, to get it “right”.
Don’t get me wrong, thinking through things is important when making decisions. Getting answers and knowing why can be very helpful for the healing process. It also allows you to understand a bad habit or behaviour you’re doing that’s keeping you stuck.
A Change In Mindset
BUT…What if your quest and your “need to know why”, your need to “get it right” was the very problem that’s keeping you stuck?
What if you were unknowingly using this strategy to stay stuck because you’re afraid of the unknown?
Afraid of getting what you want?
Afraid of how your life will change if you actually get what you want?
What if I said you could be procrastinating, self-sabotaging, staying small unconsciously because what you want requires that you do something you’ve never done before?
As Tony Robbins says, “change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change”.
What that means is that you’ll endure suffering, dissatisfaction and unhappiness for a period of weeks, months, even years until eventually you move and do something different. How crazy is that?
We are more comfortable with living in our comfort zone because the fear of the unknown is much bigger than discomfort you’re feeling in your comfort zone.
One such strategy we use to stay in our comfort zone is to spend way too much time in our head. Overthinking, overanalysing, trying to figure everything out before we take a step forward.
We’ve lost trust in ourselves that we can handle whatever challenge may arise AND we’ve lost faith that we’re always being taken care of by a greater power. Some may call it god, some may call it the universe, source, the angels…
You’ve lost touch with your inner guidance system, your inner voice that sits deep within you that has all the answers. The quiet voice that says, “you’ve got this”, “you can do this”, “you are good enough”!
What Can I do?
So how do you get out of your head and build that trust and confidence in yourself?
By doing the very thing you’re afraid of!
Maybe you need to start saying no? Maybe you need to be honest with yourself? Hold yourself accountable and stop making excuses? Open your heart and be more vulnerable, share your feelings? Use your voice, express yourself, speak your truth? Feel your feelings?
When you do something new it’s normal to feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but repetition builds confidence, resilience and self-belief. You also discover that you’re more capable than you realise, and you learn to trust yourself.
I love this quote from Henry David Thoreau “Most [people] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Will you sing your song?
A Technique To Overcome Overthinking...
How do you overcome overthinking? Get into the present moment.
While you’re taking that leap of faith and doing the things outside your comfort zone you can practice a technique that I use to get out of my head and into the present moment.
The key to changing this pattern is through building awareness. That means noticing, catching yourself and becoming aware when you’re stuck in a loop in your head.
It can be challenging in the beginning because you’re busy and doing it unconsciously so take a few moments during the day, sit in a quiet place, or do it lying in bed before you go to sleep. If you practice daily meditation that is a great place to do it.
As you build awareness you will be able to transfer it to anytime or place.
Practice the following technique...
Lay in a quiet place for a few minutes.
Count from 1-8. Breath in through your nose and count to 4 then breath out of your mouth 5-6-7-8. Start again at 1 and repeat 3 times.
Take notice of the sounds around you. Don’t think about what the sounds are, just notice them.
Then take notice of your body. Notice your chest and tummy as it moves up and down, notice any sensations in your body. Notice the sensations you can feel throughout your body. Is there tightness, warmth, tingles, pressure…Just notice as you place your attention on the different areas of your body.
It is normal for your mind to drift and wander away. The moment you notice your mind has drifted, come back to your breath. Breath in and out as you count up to 8. Every time your mind drifts come back to your breath.
As you practice this daily you will start to become aware of when you mind drifts into overthinking. As soon as you catch yourself, bring yourself back into the present moment and focus on your breath.