For many years and even till this present moment, I have thought the world is a daunting place but there’s a place for me in it. A greater place. A place where I’ll be achieving everything I’ve ever wanted. In the midst of this, the voice in my head has other plans. I can have the greatest of ideas, I can be motivated in the most book-ish of ways, Entrepreneurial 101 type of ways – but there’s a voice in my head saying its not enough, its never enough, there’s more to do, there’s not enough time. The voice can make you feel like nothing will work out, but your brain tells you – it will. I give everything to my brain, for pushing me through most things. Overthinking is definitely a phenomenon that I feel is not talked about enough, although it’s not considered a mental illness its affects can be considerably similar. I looked further into multiple studies to understand the psychological factors of overthinking for myself and for others that deal with this regularly and why its so important to find ways to overcome it.
The 2008 journal Rethinking Rumincation explores the response styles theory (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991) which shows a direct relationship between overthinking and depression. To the extent that overthinking develops mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and in additional to this contributes to binge eating, binge drinking, self-harm and so on. The over analysing eventually over a period of time becomes harmful to your mental health, as the cycle continues of overthinking to negative outcomes to further overthinking, a vicious cycle emerges. Many of us over-thinkers can admit, the whole ordeal eventually becomes too debilitating to continue any type of task once you’ve completely spiralled. I, to some extent believe overthinking is something that will always be mentally present, however I believe in finding productive ways to create a thought pattern or brain training to overcome or lessen the troublesome side effects. Below are a few ways I have personally found helpful to overcome the chain of thoughts, once they begin to escalate:
Solve the problem
Whilst we are overthinking, sometimes we fail to see the plan B that’s right in front of us. It could be you’re a logical thinker, but when the thoughts begin to spiral you forget that there’s always a way to move forward. Dwelling on the problem rather than thinking of a way to solve it will only mentally make you feel worse. Talking it out with a friend who can see it from a different point of view is also super helpful when you’re stuck in your own thoughts and can’t see the exit.
Learn to be mindful
Regardless of what the problem is, be kind to yourself and be mindful of what’s around you. Sometimes when I’m in a spiral of self-doubt, I imagine myself looking at an adolescent version of myself and seeing how the overthinking is creating doubt and affecting the younger me. I bring myself back to the current moment in time. You do not want to look back at your life and think all you’ve done is worry about the past or future but never remember yourself enjoying life as it happened. Mindfulness and meditation treats anxiety and overthinking, it gives you a fresh outlook on things once you allow a few thoughts back into your head after you’ve got to your peaceful place. What I have found particularly helpful is a few podcasts that specifically speak on mindfulness, sometimes listening to somebody else brings better clarity.
A few recommended podcasts for mindfulness:
+ Mindfulness in 8 Weeks: 20 Minutes a Day Program
+ Wake Me Up: Morning Meditation & Motivation
Train your brain
Easier said than done, but needs to be done. Start to understand the process of your overthinking, from once it is beginning to happen, try to acknowledge it to cut yourself away from the initial thought. Training your brain to re-direct your thoughts will be one of the most hardest but helpful ways in turning the volume down upstairs. Whether it may be training yourself to stop and replace the bad thoughts with positive affirmations or taking a walk, find a way to switch the voice off for a moment. My favourite way? Taking a nap or doing a facial. Self-care is a great way to put the energy back into yourself and giving yourself grace. Taking a break from things and coming back to them sometimes can make you realise how unimportant the situation was in the first place. Whilst its hard to deter these thoughts, taking that first step in noticing when its happening is helpful in allowing you to change your thought pattern.