“Overthinking” is a term we’ve all heard and something everyone does from time to time. While it may seem relatively harmless, it can actually do a lot of damage if it’s done too frequently. Overthinking can fuel your existing anxiety, resulting in relationship problems, low self-esteem, and more.
But the tricky part with overthinking it is recognizing when it’s happening… without overthinking it. The good news is, it’s possible. Let’s look more into how overthinking presents and how it can fuel your anxiety.
When Thinking Becomes Too Much
Overthinking occurs when we almost obsessively think about things we could have said or done differently. It’s different from reflecting on those things because overthinking is not about solving a problem, it’s about dwelling on it.
It may seem that the longer you think about something, the more you’re moving toward a solution, but that’s not always the case. It can go from learning from an experience to rumination on the past.
It can also become a future-focused state of worry that only holds you back. This may sound like, “What if I mess up again? What if I say the wrong thing?” Instead of solving anything, it becomes a repetitive habit that reinforces your anxieties, can keep you up at night, and even affect your ability to make decisions.
Let’s say you have a job interview coming up.
A solution focus looks like: Practicing your answers to a variety of questions ahead of time. Preparing your own questions for the interviewer. Reviewing important aspects of the job description.
Overthinking looks like: Wasting too much time deciding on an outfit because you’re worried about how you’ll be perceived. Thinking of every wrong thing you may say. Worrying about all the ways you believe you’re unqualified.
How to Combat Overthinking
Reframe the Situation
Looking at a situation from a positive angle can go a long way in stopping you from overthinking. Don’t get it confused with “toxic positivity”. You’re allowed to feel negative things, but it’s important we don’t sit with those feelings for too long.
Instead of thinking, “My job is so hard. I have to manage all these things and I don’t have time. It’s just too stressful and my job is awful.” Try reframing it as, “I’m feeling challenged and have a lot going on right now. What can I do to change the situation or develop more realistic expectations? How can I ask for help or delegate tasks?”
When you take a step back, you can tackle things one by one rather than all at once. It puts the power of your situation back in your hands.
When we are in a situation that makes us feel anxious, we may immediately react in ways that aren’t helpful. However, you may need some time to gather your thoughts and calm those anxious feelings. Rather than address something immediately, step away and find a distraction. Maybe you work on another task in the meantime.
When you revisit the original situation, you’ll have had the necessary time and space from the trigger so you can now think about it with a solution mindset.
It’s easy to get caught up in the overthinking spiral. One thing that can help is practicing gratitude for all the positive things in your life. But be specific about it.
Writing “I am grateful for my friends.” isn’t bad, but being more specific can help make gratitude feel like less of a chore and give the practice more meaning. Instead, you could write, “I’m grateful for friends who support me unconditionally.”
Overthinking is something we all do. However, it can quickly grow into a problem if you do it too often. If you’re struggling to manage your anxious thoughts, reach out today.
If you need help how to deal with your anxiety and overthinking, contact us and reach out for an appointment.