As busy adults living in our modern culture of overwork, we shoulder a lot of responsibilities, and we feel under a tremendous amount of pressure to attend to all of them properly on a day-in, day-out basis. But, those of us who are prone to overthinking also have to deal with an additional stressor – ourselves.
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If you find your mind running away with itself before you even open your eyes in the morning, or if your downtime (think morning and afternoon commutes) is spent thinking about what you need to do, could’ve done, or would’ve done if you’d known better – you might have a problem with overthinking.
The time that you’re spending wrapped up in your worries would be better spent living in the present and enjoying your life more, and the overthinking isn’t actually doing you much good at all anyway. But, it can be hard to reverse these habits, so consider these ideas to help you start to establish a better pattern.
1. Understand the value of letting go of overthinking.
As anyone who wrestles with the tendency knows, overthinking can take a serious toll on your overall well-being. Research has found that it heightens one’s risk for mental health problems and abuse of substances like drugs and alcohol, and it’s also been shown to reduce the quality and quantity of sleep.
Fully understanding and accepting that overthinking is holding back your happiness, and not preparing you for the future or helping you to better yourself in some way, is the first step toward letting it go. Notice how overthinking makes you feel. Ask yourself: does this ever lead to anything good or helpful?
2. Focus on noticing sensations instead.
Overthinking takes us out of the present moment, and being fully present in the here-and-now is what mindfulness is all about. Overthinking takes us away from that goal, instead trapping us in a cycle of regrets about the past or fears about the future.
Practice identifying when you’re starting to overthink. The tip-off might come when you find yourself thinking about the past or the future quite a lot. Once you realize you’re starting to head in that direction, turn your attention instead to the present moment and to the sensations around you.
What are your senses taking in? How does it feel, smell, sound around you? Simply focusing on physical sensations should help you to come back into the present and turn down that analytical part of your brain that tends to overthink.
3. Release the false ideal of perfectionism.
Just like you had to release the idea that overthinking was helpful to you in some way, you also might want to work on letting go of the false notion that perfectionism is good for you. No one is perfect, so the world doesn’t expect you to be either. You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them and then let them go rather than dwell.
Similarly, things will go wrong in the future; accept that and know that you are strong enough to handle anything that comes up. Life is, at least in part, about challenge and growth; it seems there’s no avoiding the roller coaster ride, so why overthink it?
Scheduling your overthinking could help you keep it to a minimum. Actually, spending a few minutes (say, around 20 per day) thinking about the stuff that’s bothering you could be really helpful. Self-reflection definitely has its benefits.
So, set that time aside and then stick to your plan. When you start to find yourself overthinking during another time of the day, remind yourself of the schedule and resolve to focus on it later instead.
5. Lighten the load when it gets too heavy.
If you continue to find that you’re overthinking things too much, and becoming quite stressed or anxious, make sure that you reach out for support. Tell a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling, take some time off, or try some other techniques for reducing tension.
Sometimes, our problems and worries don’t sound nearly as bad once they’re spoken aloud. So, consider sharing some of the things you’ve been overthinking about lately with someone who cares about you. The concerns might feel really different once they’re out in the open rather than locked up inside.
Tell Us What You Think
What strategies have helped you to let go of overthinking? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.