“Overthinking is parasitic. It’s viral. It’s deadly, even. Letting yourself fall victim to overthinking doesn’t just kill your happiness, it destroys who you are. The mind is a beautiful and complex thing, and the only person who can hurt it is yourself.”
― Genereux Philip
A sincere thanks to all the awesome experts who shared their best tips, insights and strategies on how to overcome overthinking and live in the moment.
Overthinking can create a lot of stress and anxiety for people.
One of the main issues about overthinking is how difficult it can be to control it. There are specific steps you can take to overcome it because it generally doesn’t go away on its own.
One of my favorite strategies to recommend is using a thought or worry journal.
Having a worry journal creates a space for your worrying to go. It can be seen as a symbolic gesture, as well as a therapeutic one. You want to allow yourself some time to overthink and then you want to tell yourself that the time for overthinking is now over.
Here are some practical steps you can use in order to use a thought/worry journal.
Use a journal that is designed for your overthinking.
This journal is not for keeping a to-do list or to write down your dreams. This is your worries and your worries alone. You want your brain to start to associate this journal with worrying.
Pick a specific time and place for you to write in your worry journal.
It is not generally recommended to do this right before you go to bed because sometimes it takes some time to reduce your anxiety after bringing it up. Set time during the day to write in your journal.
Set a specific amount of time for your overthinking to take control and then let go of it. Tell your brain that this has the time and place to worry and now the worry is over.
Use your journal when worrying starts to come up.
Though it is recommended that you set a time and place, be flexible in your usage of the journal. If you tend to overthink at work, use your lunch break to write down some of your feelings.
Once you fill up your worry journal, decide what you want to do with it.
Many people like to destroy their worry journal as a symbolic gesture that they are destroying their worries. Some people like to keep their journals as a reminder of how far they have come. You get to decide what makes sense for your journal.
As a final note, be gentle with the process.
Allow yourself to use it whenever you need it. And definitely don’t beat yourself up if you are still worrying outside of your designated worry journaling time.
Society often conditions us as early as when we are babies to be smart, to speak, and to achieve. As children, we learn that to get ahead, we must do well academically.
It is no wonder that teens and adults often struggle with overthinking and anxiety.
As a licensed creative arts therapist and registered drama therapist we invite individuals to enter the metaphorical play space and be spontaneous, creative, and to embody various aspects of themselves.
It is essential to incorporate our whole self when working towards overcoming struggles in our lives.
Adults tend to be conditioned to play it safe and to operate from their neck up, essentially becoming a talking head.
We don’t even realize that we often times cut off our bodies and abandon our physical beings.
By developing a practice of spontaneity, we engage our whole selves and activate our senses and intuition.
Dr. Moreno, who was a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and founded psychodrama, believed deeply in the power of spontaneity and bringing people together in order to connect with their own humanity.
When we gain a solid level of spontaneity, we can apply this mindset and approach to all areas of our lives. Everything in life is about movement, change, and transitions.
When we overthink, time and moments pass us by and we remain in a place of stagnation.
Be playful in your everyday moments. Sing and dance. Draw. Play games. Be childlike. Pick up leaves. Smile. Be present.
When we engage in life with childlike wonder, we tend to go with the flow more and not over think.
Creative expression is also an effective way to overcome overthinking because artists are trained to be in the moment, make a choice, commit to their creative choice and to put their creation out into the universe. Tap into the role of the creative-one and watch your overthinking ways dissipate.
Practice embodying the role of the wise and confident one in your life.
Embodiment means moving one’s body in a way where someone feels wise and possess confidence.
When we become more attuned to our body, we start to think more clearly and make choices with conviction and clarity.
Overthinking Causes Sinking. You can rise above this problem with buoyant thought replacement techniques.
The futility of repetitious “what ifs” and “if only” thoughts can drown out optimism, rationality and reality. Do you repeat thought cycles such as, “I could-have, should-have, would-have” and then think things would be different? Do you argue in circles with yourself and others? Do you voice everything that crosses your mind to find relief and so others can understand what you are thinking? Do people tell you that you overthink?
Stop and think about what you are thinking about!
When you overthink or have negative, racing thoughts, your brain is imagining things that will probably never happen. It can cause depression, anxiety and self-fulfilling prophesies that could happen, because you are subconsciously being led to live out your negative thinking. Overthinking may indicate many mental disorders. You may need to seek help of you can’t change.
Overthinking tries to figure out the future. It ruminates over the past and keeps you anchored to it. You get stuck.
These three steps build on each other and move you upward and out of the mire of overthinking.
Thought Stopping with Mindfulness:
Thought stopping was used as a form of therapy. You were told to “just stop” thinking negative thoughts and doing unwanted behaviors. It was punitive and wasn’t thorough. Just stopping, without replacing the negative, caused worsened, rebound overthinking. There is a better way than just stopping.
Recognize the negative thought by being mindful. Neutralize the thought by stopping it and simultaneously challenging it. Energize your mind by focusing on the new, positive thoughts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
This builds on mindfulness. You can stop overthinking by rationality and emotional self-regulation. Pay close attention to your thoughts. Let go of all the excessive “commas” in your thinking.
Use “periods” to end the obsessive thoughts. This will halt paralyzing second-guessing and circular arguing. Notice if you are using the word, “but” a lot. If you are, you’re negating what you said before it with a comma and inserting a negative, opposing thought.
Become aware of anxious thoughts.
Mindfulness keeps you present. Take in every detail of simple things such as breathing, walking, and noting what you see, hear, touch and taste. Then stop and consciously think positive thoughts to override your subconscious negative inner dialogue. This is a core principal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When you change your thoughts, you change your life.
Embrace the negative thought for a brief moment. Erase it by being rational and realistic. Replace it with something positive.
Guided Imagery and Meditation:
This is where you can use your overthinking skills in a way that connects your subconscious to your consciousness. It is through repetition of the negative that makes you overthink.
Worry is like meditation in reverse.
You worry in detail. It is by repetition of the positive, through guided imagery and meditation, that you can rewrite the script of your life on the movie screen of your mind with creative visualization. It takes time and practice, and perhaps a professional to help, but it will expedite your way out of sinking thoughts into buoyant ones.
Visualize. Realize. Rise!
Mary Joye, LMHC – www.winterhavencounseling.com
In life, there is no such think as a "perfect" anything.
No perfect solutions, no perfect outcomes, no perfect wisdom. Yet we tie ourselves into knots in the hope that will come up with the perfect plan to avoid pain and we end up with analysis paralysis. We become stuck, overwhelmed and afraid.
Overcoming the 'stuck' caused by overthinking is not simple but totally doable.
1. Trust yourself.
Give yourself the permission to know be able to see into the future but believe that you can and will take all the facts into consideration and make the best possible for yourself.
2. Sleep on it.
There are very few decisions in life that need to happen instantly, most of the time you can take a beat, weigh your options and then make your choice. The important thing here is to not allow this to turn into putting it off.
For example, a friend does or says something that upsets you. You do not need to yell, call names and instantly react. You can sleep on it and decide how to approach them with respect. Give yourself an hour or a day and then reach out to them and face it.
3. Let go of the need to be perfect.
When is the last time your learned from something that went smoothly? We learn so much more from our failures our challenges and our faults. And the truth is, it doesn't matter what you do, you're gonna mess something up. So you may as well forgive yourself now.
4. Fear can be your friend.
Fear and anger are both healthy human emotions that get a bad rap. But they are just feelings! They don't get us into trouble, the way we treat ourselves and the way we behave when they show up are what get us into trouble. For some, anxiety is an indicator that they are being challenged. GOOD!
Diamonds are formed under pressure. If you are never challenged, you will never grow. Greet your fear like a trusted friend, let it tell you what it wants. Typically, it wants you to stay small and in a predictable place and sometimes that is exactly what you need. Other times, you need to take a leap, to become who you are supposed to be.
Overthinking is a bad habit and one that you can grow out of with some practice and time.
Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT - www.nicolemrichardson.com