What does it mean to overthink and how can you stop yourself from doing it, at least for a while?
In the view of having countless thoughts every day we sometimes slip into thinking “in a way that is not useful” *. This negative advanced thinking process can be drawn on the piece of paper as a “spiral”. The reason I call it “advanced” is because we spend a lot of our time on it by creating various options and potential scenarios that may happen. And that’s not necessarily always bad – what makes it negative is creating this abstract reality mostly infused with fear and anxiety which does not bring a lot of good into our lives. In addition if we hardly catch ourselves that we have been thinking negatively for too long that’s when the spiral really takes off. As Brene Brown says; If we do not have facts, our mind creates stories.
And so now you can learn how to overthink less with these 3 simple PRO steps to become a pro at managing your thoughts.
- Plan your days.
If in 20 min I need to make a call, finish cleaning, start yoga, meet my partner or friend, I have less time to get into “spiral” and overthinking. Have those important events scheduled in your calendar and then add the rest. You may remember that you got most done or was more productive during secondary school - at least that was my case - that’s when you worked with timetable and scheduled activities. Too much free time gives you more opportunities to overthink. So plan your months and schedule your weeks and days to be more organised with time and do less of overthinking.
- Refocus. Again and again.
When you do yoga, meditation or any other type of self-care, focus on the present moment. It is not easy but practise it as a muscle, every time your mind wanders off, refocus. Over the course of time you will be more and more aware when you start overthinking and going down the spiral which would be the sign that now it’s time to refocus again. What helps me is the “5 second rule” by Mel Robbins because it is quick and effective and works every time.
- Open up about it.
By “moving” your thoughts from your mind OUT, you will make them more real and easier to catch. What I mean by that is to share your thoughts with someone you can trust, whether it’s your partner, friend, family member, therapist, coach or colleague. If you cannot do it, “share them with paper” or in other words, journal. When we have the 3rd person perspective this helps us from overthinking. It’s even better if we tell them that we work on “overthinking” and so they are even more aware and can stop us quicker.
The reward for learning how to do less overthinking is huge - more joy and fulfilment in your life. Because once we stop the negative advanced thinking process we will have time for more positive and constructive thoughts in our lives or we would just think less negative thoughts. There is no magic pill I am afraid to cure overthinking but by learning how to do PRO better we can definitely be more in charge of our thoughts. Isn't a more happy and purposeful life worth it?
* Cambridge Dictionary describes the term “overthinking” as “the action of thinking about something too much, in a way that is not useful”.