I received a call a few weeks ago from a delightful client of mine named Angela.
Almost immediately I could tell she was worried. I could almost hear her mind racing as she stacked her words on top of each other, delivering a stream of thoughts, fears and panic.
Angela explained that a few days before, a colleague made a remark about her in front of their team.
The comment, Angela explained, was so upsetting that since then she has spent almost every waking moment going over and over what was said, what others thought and what she should do.
“Go ahead and take the lead Angela, you’ll end up telling us what to do anyway,” was the sentence that had prompted a hurricane of thoughts that left Angela perplexed and more importantly, overthinking.
I knew Angela was overthinking the comment as soon as she shared with me how long ago the comment was made.
My heart broke for her.
I understood where her head was in that moment. I’ve been in that head space many times. Her words were pouring out in between tears, “Why did she say that? I bet everyone thinks I’m such an idiot; they’re probably talking about me. Do I really boss people around like that? I mean, someone has to take the lead, but now I have a reputation of being bossy.”
Like Angela, we sometimes experience off-handed remarks made by other people.
When we are emotionally centered and feel self-confident, unsavory remarks cause little discomfort. However, when we aren’t centered or self-confident, remarks or scenarios can rock us to the core, causing us to examine remarks repeatedly and sometimes obsessively. If you find yourself high-center on the remarks or behaviors of another person, you are probably overthinking.
Overthinking is a thief of happiness and joy and keeps us in a place where we aren’t living the life we want.
When we repeat a thought over and over, we are no longer in the present moment. We are stuck in the past tending to something we have no control over or ability to change.
Like Angela, we all experience situations where we think about what happened and what we should have done. That’s okay until you start overthinking.
Below are some tips that I shared with Angela that you can try when you find yourself overthinking.
1. Get yourself centered.
Step away from the situation if needed. Take a walk and take several deep breaths. You can clear your thoughts by speaking out loud everything you see. For example, “trees, grass, house, birds.” When you speak out loud what you see, you slow down your brain, curb overthinking and obsessive thoughts.
2. Once you have centered, remove all the emotion out of what just happened.
If we strip out all the emotions and only the facts (or what was said) remain, we go from “She said I always take the lead and now everyone is talking about me,” to “She said I always take the lead.”
3. Now that you have the facts of what was said, what value are you adding?
“She said I always take the lead,” is a fact because that is what was said, Angela added the value, “now everyone is talking about me.” Stop adding value. It’s not your job or responsibility to assume what others are thinking or doing.
4. Is it true?
“She said I always take the lead.” Yes or no? No “yeah, buts” or any caveats before your answer.
5. Now, examine your behavior.
Does your behavior needs some adjusting? Because you want to be your best, when you aren’t emotionally charged, ask people you trust if they notice that behavior and how you can improve.
6. So what? Is a wonderful way to break overthinking.
“She said I always take the lead. So, what?” Have you caused pain, hurt, or discomfort? If you have, then fix it and do better next time. If someone is talking about you, so what? You don’t have to worry about it if you are doing your best.
By slowing things down, removing the emotion and conducting some self-inquiry, Angela could take a more objective look at what her colleague said.
What she concluded was she does take the lead a lot. She is a go-getter and motivator and she doesn’t apologize for that (awesome!).
Our call ended with Angela deciding she would talk to her colleague about the statement and report back the outcome.
I received an email yesterday from Angela that detailed the incredible outcome. With her permission, below is an excerpt from her email.
“I’m so glad I talked to my co-worker Beth about what she said. I was completely wrong about almost everything! Beth said that because I do take the lead and the responsibility seems to always land on my lap and it wasn’t fair. Beth said that she and the rest of the team should take ownership and learn how to lead, but she wasn’t sure how to start. I told her how I thought I had done something wrong and she assured me I hadn’t.
We came up with a plan for every team member to take turns being the lead on projects. We took the idea to our boss. She loved it! Starting next month team members will take turns leading projects. I almost made this worse by worrying about it so much.”
Angela was right. Overthinking usually doesn’t fix a problem and often can make things worse.
Remember, you control you and words or circumstances only have power when you place value on them.
If you think something is good, bad, happy or sad, or matters, it does.
Renae Cerquitella, Behavioral Health and Relationship Coach – www.okchypno.com
We have all experienced this at one time or another.
That nagging, annoying voice of the mind in our head; it’s relentless pursuit of narrating every single thing it observes, true or not. The voice of the mind does not discriminate. This voice feels compelled to make judgments, assumptions, and opinions about every single thing it encounters.
Michael Singer describes it best in The Untethered Soul when he likens the voice to an unruly roommate who never leaves the house, talks about everything constantly, and has no filter.
Imagine living with a person who describes, aloud, every single thing they notice or observe! It would be maddening. No one in their right mind would put up with that behavior. They would part ways with the roommate. Yet, some of us continue to put up with this, in the form of an uncontrolled mind in our heads. In other words, we are not in our “right minds”.
Another term for an uncontrolled mind is the “Monkey Mind”.
While some people are adept at quelling that inner voice of the mind, other people struggle. The voice can be intrusive, making it difficult to concentrate on a task at hand. It can keep a person awake at night, unable to quiet enough to create the state of peace required for rest. It harms our relationships by tricking us into believing something is real that simply isn’t.
The thoughts in our mind are often distorted.
We can think something is true enough to cement it into belief. Then we operate, meaning behave, in ways which project those beliefs out. Those projections then have effects on other people and oftentimes serve to reinforce our (mostly negative) beliefs. Let’s say I text someone and they don’t text me back.
In reality, there can be a million reasons why.
But let’s say my mind hones in on one- “She doesn’t like me anymore.” If I think this thought enough, it becomes true for me. Then I start to believe she doesn’t like me. When I believe she doesn’t like me, I adjust my behavior to serve the belief; meaning if she texts me a few days later, maybe I ignore her. When I ignore her, she may make assumptions about me as well, which only perpetuates the discord in our relationship.
There are many ways to overcome and quell the mind.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Understand you are not your mind; as evidenced by the fact the “you” hear the voice.
Therefore, the voice is not “you”. If we can create a subject/object relationship with the mind, it becomes easier to disconnect from negative or unwanted thoughts, before they evolve into beliefs. We can more easily let them go, saying to ourselves, “That thought isn’t serving me,” and allowing it to float out of the mind.
2. Be consciously aware that everything is energy.
Thoughts have energy. You’ve probably heard the saying “What you think about, you bring about.” If you want things in your life to change, that change starts with you. The inner you. Change the way you think and perceive, and you will change what you see and experience. (There are many books available to assist people with changing their perceptions. Some of my favorites include A Course in Miracles, The Untethered Soul, and The Divine Matrix).
3. Challenge your negative thoughts.
Use a method like Socratic Questioning or The Work (Katie Byron) to question the thoughts that are plaguing you. Ask yourself questions like: Is this true? Can I know with 100% certainty that it is true? Is this a fact or an opinion? Most of the time, you will realize your thoughts are untrue and distorted.
4. Learn to meditate and practice it daily.
Meditation allows the mind to disconnect or go “offline” for a while. This time offline, allows for the flow of energy and information to come in. We need times of stillness and silence to balance all of the chaos and stimulation in life.
A simple practice is to imagine the mind being a clear blue sky. When thoughts come in, imagine they are clouds. As the sky fills with clouds, use the breath to blow them away, and again focus on clear blue sky.
5. Learn to let go.
Once the past is over, let it go. Make a promise to yourself and stay committed to this practice. Give yourself permission to let the past rest in the past and be free in the present moment. When we have present moment awareness, we are clear headed, and can make good decisions. We may even feel Divinely inspired.
None of this can come through when we are renting all of our (head) space to the “Monkey Mind”. Let the monkey sleep from time to time and dream a vision for yourself which you can work towards creating. You might find you are far more powerful than you’ve given yourself credit for, or ever even believed imaginable.
Lori Russell-Siemer, LCSW – www.lorirussellsiemer.com