I’m constantly overthinking.
I like to philosophize and questioning things, which gives me various perspectives and a deeper understanding. It makes me find hidden details and solutions, enriches my learning progress and knowledge by bringing me further to the origins or backgrounds. In this sense, it can be something good to analyze over things, people, aspects, proceedings or whatever. The problem is, when it turns into overthinking. It can still happen easily to me. I could spent an endless amount of time overthinking everything that’s been said or done. Whether depending myself or someone else, or an event that happened recently or years ago, or if it’s something that might could be, I overthink it. It takes me forever to make a decision or to finish something I started with conviction and enthusiasm. I need my time until I’m comfortable with something, someone or somewhere, and my mood can change rapidly depending the energy I get. My restless mind rarely stays in a long-lasting state of calm, influenced and distracted by the things I perceive throughout the day and dream at night.
So, instead of simply doing or being, I entangle myself in overthinking again. I’ve been even overthinking this blog post for a while, although I planned to publish it last week. But I’ve been busy working on what I’m writing about here. I didn’t only get out of overthinking again in recently, I’m also back to habits that are good for me. Anyway, back on topic.
What is overthinking?
It is exactly what it says: thinking too much. Everyone knows it, everybody is doing it more or less. May it be the question of what to wear in the morning or the memories of past mistakes when you want to fall asleep at night. Wondering if someone likes you back or worrying if you get a good grade. Choosing the name of your child or signing an important contract. Our thinking leads our life by making decisions and the way we look at it defines it.
When you think too much instead of acting, that’s when you’re overthinking. When doubt gets louder than motivation, and fear stronger than hope. When you miss possibilities because you’re overanalyzing their non-existent outcomes. When you keep repeating the same thoughts about past or current issues and problems over and over again. When you tell yourself you aren’t ready or good enough, and when you let time pass without doing what you actually intent to do, that’s overthinking. It’s the wingman of depression. It hinders you to live life as you want to, it turns joy into sadness because you’re holding yourself back to reach for it. Overthinking consumes your energy and wastes your time. It disables your ability to take action and prevents you from making progress in life and new experiences. It puts you on a loop of negative patterns from worry, anxiety and disturbed inner peace.
Overthinking happens when you confront yourself with your fears and sorrows, based on a low self-esteem and insecurities, expectations and past experiences, fright of rejection and judgement, but most of all depending your state of mind. As I mentioned before, the way we think affects the way we see life and how we act. Instead of being present in the moment, overthinking makes you either worry about the past or the future. It sets up an image of failure and/or devastating scenarios in your head which makes it seem impossible to achieve or even establish a goal. Tasks are postponed because you have to overanalyze every possible step, circumstances and outcomes, and then the thoughts of „What it?“ and „Why?“ creep in. You get tired, physically and mentally, you cancel plans and ignore what you wanted to implement because you’re lost in the vicious circle of overthinking and all you feel like doing is lying in bed, trying to find some sleep but you’re restless because there is so much to do. The worst is: you know that isn’t any good at all, and it won’t make anything happen. You know it can’t get any better by drowning in doubts and fears, pulling yourself back from your intentions.
But how to start swimming in the storm of an overthinking mind?
It’s a fight against your own mind to get out of overthinking. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, imagine what it would be like to fall out of a ship in the middle of a deep ocean amid an angry storm. The only thing that can keep you afloat is a lifebelt, but it’s drifting away from you. It’s you against the raging waves. You must gather all your strength to save yourself. That’s what it feels like. But what you actually need to do to get out of overthinking is to stop forcing yourself to fight. This only increases your attention to the negative thought patterns of anxiety and depression you want to overcome.
When you’re stuck in overthinking, take your time to recharge your energy and focus on changing your thought patterns step by step. Observe your mind and shift your perspective towards what you want and work for it. Your dreams and goals are your lifebelt. Though take it slow, it’s important to stay aware of getting new energy, so don’t overwhelm yourself by forcing yourself to stop overthinking immediately. That’s not going to happen. But if you focus your mind and become aware of inner and outer influences, soon your mindset will change. Look for the positive, and the more you find, the more will appear. Since positive thinking while being lost in overthinking is quite difficult, you need to remind yourself that every small and slow act of progress and every spark of light brings you closer to the secret of a focused mind.
Becoming mindful means to maintain your focus on the present moment, being aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and your environment. It means to learn to accept without judgement and letting go of pain and past. Growing mindfulness is a long process of daily practices. In the past years I learned many ways to focus my mind and how to get in control over my thoughts, but as soon as I neglect those habits, or I’m having a stressful time, I loose sight of my positive perspective. At the same time, whenever overthinking happens again like last month, it reminds me of everything I need to do to return to mindfulness. It makes it even stronger, and I’m becoming more motivated than before.
So, what do I do to get out of the vicious circle of overthinking?
I start by writing down what I want in life and focus on how to achieve this. I develop plans towards my goals and visualize my dream by surrounding myself with what reminds me of it and inspires me. I also got back to the habit of journal writing and I’m taking care of myself and my creativity. I’m working on practices that will bring progress and I focus on positive thinking. Whenever a thought of overthinking plops in, I tell myself: This is not in your control.
To distract overthinking in short term, I’m watching movies that are inspiring and listen to podcasts. I read books and look for inspiration to draw. I go outside enjoying nature, spend time with encouraging people and take moments to breathe. I pay attention to my passions, and soon the voice of my purpose becomes loud again and I’m aware of getting towards it.
Planning and organization always works best for me to overcome overthinking and start acting. Making lists, taking notes, brainstorming mind maps, whatever helps you to declutter the chaos of thoughts, write it down and implement it into achievable steps of change. Work for it every day. Even if its just for a few minutes, the results will come and they will surprise you in an unexpected, even better way.