Here’s something to think about! The average person has around 50,000 thoughts a day.
Of course, ‘thinking’ as a phenomenon is a quintessential human trait or rather pride. Where would we be without our thoughts? Think of the greatest philosophers, thinkers, inventors and creators? Ideas germinate in thoughts of course.
But here we aren’t talking about ‘constructive’ thoughts but a peculiar predisposition- when the thoughts are mounted on a mental treadmill! Yes, it is often called ‘overthinking’. Haven’t you noticed yourself fixated on a particular thought, emotion, event that has either happened or is about to? We are constantly in the thought-dance, oscillating between the past and the future.
The truth is that everyone overthinks things from time to time. But over time, if it becomes a habit, it tends to affect the mental health. And when that happens, it leads to even more waves of ‘overthinking. It’s like a vicious downward spiral. We have all heard of ‘analysis is paralysis!’ And overthinking has almost become a global pandemic!
So while you may convince yourself that you are just reflecting or ruminating on things, within no time, it changes to ‘worry’ and that avatar is a definite no-no if you want to lead a happy life that is more about solutions than problems! Besides who wants to have fatigue, insomnia, foggy mind, poor decision-making , anxiety and irritability?
So how do you know you are overthinking?
Symptoms of being trapped by overthinking
Awareness is the first step to dealing with ‘overthinking’.
1. Reliving negative moments/experiences
Say someone has said something negative or a tragic event has occurred. Maybe you got fired or you lost money. The events have occurred only once in real time but have repeated many times just in your head. If you find yourself reliving every emotion and nuance of the event, watch out.
2. Asking ‘what if’ questions more than often
Overthinking most often transports you to the ‘future’ and the thoughts are mostly based on fear- as the mind imagines several scenarios about to happen and the anxiety related to them. Basically ‘fear’ of the unknown is the driver here.
3. Difficulty sleeping
The mind feels like a Formula One- with thoughts racing at jet speed. So obviously you are too wired to sleep!
4. Restlessness throughout the day- both in body and mind
Believe it or not, if your body is stiff most of the time , it’s time to take a good look at your mind. Overthinking often leads to aches and pains in the body and an anxious body language- Sweating palms, constantly shaking your leg while sitting, pressing your forehead are some signs of being a mental prison
5. Constant inner dialogue
Have you ever noticed that even after a conversation has ended, it still continues in your head? And from there on, it continues as a monologue, very often on the same thought? It’s called inner chatter that can almost give a radio jockey competition!
Sure God is in the details, but getting into the tiniest details and analyzing every minute aspect of just about everything is surely fatiguing! Say you forgot your sunglasses in a cab while traveling. Long after the situation is resolved and also recovery made, do you find yourself still trying to analyze ‘why’ and ‘how’ it happened? You may just be a chronic overthinker!
Having discovered that you are an overthinker, it’s important to jump straight into how you could control this. Here are a few tips on how to overcome overthinking and unburden the mind.
1. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS.
They say whatever you focus on grows. So take your mind off the ‘worrying thoughts’, instead try doing relaxing activities before bed, such as meditating, yoga, chanting, drawing, writing, reading, or even talking to a loved one. The idea is to do something that takes the shift off of your thoughts and onto something else that allows your creativity and emotions to come to the surface.
Get off the past and future destinations and embrace the present moment. Be mindful of whatever there is. The best way to practice ‘being in the now’ is the practice of mediation that trains the mind to unhook the past and future- the perfect tool to stop overthinking
3. DEEP BREATHING
When you catch yourself overthinking, try to bring yourself back to the present moment through deep breathing technique that slows the mind with every breath. In fact, the breath can actually command the mind- Allow it to be the CEO of your mind.
Resisting events or experiences or being in denial will ensure that you will be trapped in overthinking. Try cultivating acceptance of things you cannot change or control. Being a control freak often lands you on the couch! A greater acceptance of failures, mistakes, plans gone wrong will only prepare you to grow, learn, and reach new heights in your evolution.
5. TRUST YOUR GUT
Even if means going against reason, begin to trust your intuition, and go with it. Decisions will be easier, you will feel lighter and more fulfilled. It’s a great way to send that mind on vacation. A great way to sharpen your intuition is being in ‘silence’ or stillness for few minutes in a day.
6. THINK POSITIVE
This may sound like an irony but cultivating a habit of ‘seeing’ or ‘perceiving’ the positive in every situation often saves one from overthinking and being caught up in the negative loop . So go on, think and share happy, positive thoughts.
Try stretching every night before bed, and getting regular exercise. This will help to promote a healthy body, and therefore, a healthy mind. The mind and body work very closely together; if one is out of balance, the others will fall to the wayside, too.
8. SCHEDULE A ‘WORRY’ TIME
Funny as it may sound, actually setting a time in your day to ‘worry’ saves you during the rest of the day- from being burnt out! Rather than worry all day every day, you can contain your worries to just 15 minutes a day.
9. DEVELOP FAITH
Life is beautiful and full of incredible experiences. Some may not get you on cloud nine , they may not be what you desire but they are certainly what you need- perhaps to learn something and grow. Keeping the faith that the universe has your back, come what may often infuses life with more joy. Sit back and enjoy the ride without worrying about the driver’s skills!
With just a little effort, you can overcome overthinking and replace this with more productive self-reflection that leads to well-being. In doing so, you will reclaim your mindpower, energy, fortitude, time and joie de vivre.
Ultimately you will see it pays to be a ‘warrior’ not a ‘worrier’.
1. Is overthinking a mental disorder?
The ability to think is common to us all humans. However, when the thinking goes beyond ‘normal’ limits, it can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc.
2. Can overthinking be cured?
With lifestyle and attitude modifications, overthinking can be cured. Meditation, pranayama, and other calming exercises can be integrated in one’s daily regime to give the mind some rest. Cultivating a positive attitude can also help reduce overthinking.
3. What happens if we overthink?
Though overthinking is a mental activity, it can affect physical health. The resultant stress from overthinking can lead to a host of physical conditions from blood pressure issues to aches and pains in the body.
Written By: Neera Srivastav