Overthinking: How to Deal with Excessive Thinking?
Overthinking is the tendency to obsessively ruminate, or think about the same thing over and over again. This can lead to worry, anxiety, nervousness, and many doubts.
If you can’t get your mind to think of constructive, action-oriented thoughts and are stuck in a kind of unproductive mental numbness, keep reading. We’ll explain why we think too much (wrongly) and what happens as a result, as well as give you some ways to stop “overthinking.”
Overthinking: Why Does it Occur?
The person who is prone to overthinking spends a lot of his free time and even some of his busy time thinking about things. Most of the time, this unhealthy habit is better at solving “everyday” problems like work, family, partners, friendships, etc.
This kind of thinking is very common, and it can be a review of the past or a prediction of the future. In the first case, there are people who can spend days and days analyzing a past conversation down to the smallest detail. Gestures and words are studied as if there was a way to go back in time and make that conversation “perfect.”
Also, there is a tendency to think too much about what will happen in the future, obsessively planning, for example, every detail of a work meeting that may or may not be important, right down to how to sit in the chair.
People who overthink too much tend to think a lot about the past and future, even if it’s about things that don’t matter. This is mostly because they are afraid of making mistakes and want to be perfect.
Fear of failure, of things going wrong, and, as a result, tormenting us. And the wrong and dangerous idea that we can be perfect in our actions and behavior. As if one day, way in the future, we’ll be able to sit on a sofa and say, “I’ve finally made it, I’m perfect.”
In the same way, fear of failure grips and jumbles our thoughts, making it hard for us to move from thinking to doing.
For its part, perfectionism can hide a lot of egocentrism, but it can also hide feelings of insecurity and victimhood. Since we have high hopes for our abilities but will never be able to fully reach them, we will always be stuck in a cycle of frustrations, regrets, and curses.
Overthinking: Mental and Emotional Exhaustion
The first negative effect of overthinking is frustration, which occurs when excessive thought does not result in behavior that is consistent with the notion.
After all, most of the time we think with the goal of finding a way out of a problem. If our thoughts don’t lead to solutions, we can’t “get rid of” them, and they can keep coming back to us until they become ruminating thoughts, which are like permanent obsessions.
Being obsessed with an idea that doesn’t move forward or backward and doesn’t do anything is, of course, a big waste of energy. When these thoughts keep coming up, they can make us mentally and emotionally tired, which can have effects on our bodies as well.
People who tend to think too much often have trouble focusing on more or less simple tasks, show signs of physical weakness and have trouble falling asleep because they are always worried.
Lastly, if we can’t stop the vicious cycle of overthinking, we could end up with anxiety disorders because of the mental tension that lasts for a long time.
How to Stop Overthinking?
It’s not simple to put a stop to the mental onslaught of repetitive, recurring thoughts. It’s not worth it to find a way to “turn off” our brains, but there are a variety of approaches, some more realistic than others, that can help you manage habitual overthinking.
Redirect your Thinking
We can’t shut off our minds because our brains are always coming up with new ideas. But we can change those thoughts into ones that are less harmful and lead to good things. First, we need to learn how to calm down and shut off.
It’s fine to look for different ways to solve a problem, but if we haven’t “found the key” after a reasonable amount of time, it’s best to give up. At least until further notice. Even if we can’t find a solution in a reasonable amount of time, the “solution” may be to do nothing.
In this way, we should keep in mind that it doesn’t help to try to control everything and step into every situation to prove our worth and skills. On the other hand, giving up and letting someone else do something is a sign of humility and practical intelligence.
In the same way, changing the third in a big way is another way to change the way people think. If you can’t do something about one thing that worries you, do something about something else. You’ll soon see that the first situation doesn’t seem so bad. After all, changing your mind means taking control of your thoughts instead of letting them control you. We said that we can’t stop thinking, but is that true?
There are a lot of different ways to meditate that help clear up the confusion of thoughts and the usual boiling of ideas. With just a few minutes a day, meditation can give you the mental energy you need to face any challenge.
The people who support this formula say that meditation is a kind of mental exercise that is similar to the physical exercises we do. But as with any exercise, you also need time to learn. And the reason is that meditation isn’t really about having a “blank mind.” Instead, it’s about controlling your thoughts, especially your obsessive ones, until you can see their essence and solve them in a simple way.
So, for example, the transcendental meditation of the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or of the filmmaker David Lynch aims for a state of full consciousness but without any mind control. From a scientific point of view, it has been looked at in a number of studies and found to be an activity that can help reduce stress and increase psychological flexibility.
Relativize Past and Future
People often say that if you live with one foot in the past and the other in the future, your present won’t hold up. Living in the present moment is a mantra that has been with us since the beginning of time. It is easy to understand, but hard to put into practice.
But living in the present doesn’t mean forgetting the past and ignoring the future. That would be impossible and irresponsible. We all have a past and a future that define us. But we shouldn’t live with our backs turned to the present, which is common among people who tend to overthink.
If you spend a lot of time trying to solve problems from the past that can’t be solved and getting an umbrella for the troubles of the future, you miss the beauty of the present. How long has it been since you looked closely at the tree in front of your house or the bird that sings every morning outside your window? Too busy solving your (small) problems? Don’t worry, your world will keep going even if you spend some time enjoying the present. Most importantly, your mind and body will thank you.
When Thinking “Too Much” is Positive
To fully understand what it means to “overthink,” we need to tell this kind of thinking apart from quieter reflection. Overthinking is especially bad when it seems to be related to everyday events, small problems, and small setbacks that we usually give more time to than we deserve. For example, a family fight, a bad day at work, a boring conversation on WhatsApp, or the loss of your favorite team are all examples of things that can make you Overthink.
If we do some simple math on how much time we spend thinking about all the things that happen every day, we’ll see that they take up a lot of our time and energy throughout the day, sometimes to the point where we don’t have time to think about “something else.”
And the other kind of reflection is when the mind is in “serene mode” and “great” ideas come to mind, ideas that go beyond the meeting at AMPA and the scratch on your new car.
At the end of the day, the world moves forward because people can think “too much” about the big questions of life. In this way, we shouldn’t forget that doubt, with a capital D, is the foundation of science and philosophy and the engine of knowledge. It’s no doubt about what color shirt to wear to a presentation to look good.
“The beginning of wisdom is doubt,” Peter Abelard said, quoting Aristotle. “By doubting, we get to the question, and by looking for the answer, we can get to the truth.”
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